Cajoled vs. Coerced. Cajoled Wins.

Coerced volunteering, or mandatory work placements under threat of sanctions – which do so much to erode strong supportive volunteering cultures – have been making the news again with a study showing that sanctions do nothing to get people into better work, or better health. (It’s already been proved that good, unsanctioned volunteering placements DO have a positive impact, I wrote about this a few years ago when I looked at how different a healthy cajoling someone into getting involved is to outright, money-related sanctions that leave individuals in dire poverty.) Continue reading “Cajoled vs. Coerced. Cajoled Wins.”

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Yes NCVO! Let’s Be Bold!

This is ‘being bold for volunteering’:  Free resources for volunteer coordinators. Finding out what we need to know.  Fighting for the services that rely on the added value of volunteering.

Stuart Etherington' New Year Letter To the SectorDear Stuart,

Thank you for your New Year letter:  thoughts on the current situation for the voluntary sector.

It’s long!  It took me a while to read it and I had to look up solipsis but here I am with a response!

You say that you – and we – need to ‘be bold for volunteering.’   I see volunteers and coordinators being bold every day; I read your letter several times and really wasn’t clear exactly how NCVO will be being bold in 2017.

…So I have some thoughts to share! Continue reading “Yes NCVO! Let’s Be Bold!”

Community through Volunteering: Waltham Forest

I’m happy to be heading to Community Waltham Forest’s Spring into Volunteering event on 22nd March.  community waltham forest

I’ll be talking through some online training ideas, signposting to resources and hopefully meeting other people (like you?!) who coordinate community action in my area. Continue reading “Community through Volunteering: Waltham Forest”

Spare Time or Spare Rooms

A sprawling monologue in which lots of us do a little bit.

Yesterday I was really anxious and preocupied with work.  I do insist on having ideas (this time it’s interactive online training) and I find following them through quite anxiety-inducing.

Starters-and-Info-768x768Then I got to the Stories and Supper project, where we are planning a supper club that challenges some media narratives on refugees and also supports the refugees themselves. Continue reading “Spare Time or Spare Rooms”

A Freebie for Volunteer Coordinators…

vst-logo
Voluntary Sector Training

Want to try out some live interactive learning on Monday in your lunch hour?

My online interactive classroom opens its doors in a few weeks…! Eeeek! With a course of eight workshops supporting Volunteer Cordinators and Managers.  I’m delivering in partnership with Voluntary Sector Training

If you’re managing, coordinating, involving volunteers – maybe you’re doing it as a volunteer yourself – you won’t have much time for training.  My courses are one hour at a time, and you can join us from anywhere.   Where will you join us from?!

Questions?  These FAQs might help

The Taster Session:  Monday 13th March 1pm

Interested?  Register your interest here…

After the session, I’ll be asking everyone to share the details of the course with volunteer coordinators and managers they know.

If you’re excited about this and interested in the topics we’ll be covering, please book on the course!

I’ve researched many different ways of delivering online, and the most cost effective and easy-to manage seems to be Cisco Webex.  If you’re into bits of software, more info about that here.

…And this guy has actually made a song about good training online – so i’ve obviously been learning from him!

Covering our bases…Best Practice Basics

Very engaging and informative… with a positive, inclusive ethos” Natalie, Forest Farm Peace Garden

Volunteer Management has found its way back into the news recently for reasons we’d all rather avoid – no volunteer co-ordinator wants to end up in the High Court proving their volunteer is not an employee, or settling an employment tribunal discrimination case out of court… Whilst these situations are rare, it seems a good time to remind ourselves of the basics of getting involved and keeping people involved, whatever our project and however many of us there are doing it, voluntarily or as a paid co-ordinator.

Motivations Retention and Roles is an interactive and fun half-day session, part of a course of four, for those co-ordinating or supporting volunteers as part of their role. If getting people involved and/or supporting them in their voluntee055ring is what you do – or part of it – this is for you. The session reinforces the basics of best practice in keeping people involved, in particular creating roles that best suit your organisation.

The content includes:

  • Why do people volunteer and what do they bring?
  • Reimbursing volunteer expenses
  • Working out what you want as an organisation
  • Writing killer task descriptions!

By the end of the morning session you will:

  • Understand what motivates volunteers, and how organisations benefit
  • Assess their organisation’s needs and write a task description to fill the need
  • Understand the process of recruiting volunteers and how it relates to volunteer retention
  • Be able to explain appropriate expenses and why reimbursement is necessary

You can browse other course titles here.

To book, just call Happy on 020 7375 7300. Details of the courses are online here but it’s best to call to book. The price of each half day is from £50. I look forward to seeing you there!

Work. Fair. Volunteer.

Mandatory work placements weaken our community sector.  Volunteer managers should keep sight of our definition of volunteering, and be honest about what it’s not.

In the training I do, discussion can arise when we’re looking at volunteer motivations.  “Why DO people get involved in the first place…?”  is a question I ask a lot.  We play bingo with volunteer motivations, we look at research, we tell stories of ours and others’ experiences, we unpick what it is that makes people get involved and we look at how understanding this is the key to getting the best for everyone out of volunteering.

VMT SlidesMore often than I’d hope, people’s responses include… “because they’ve been sent… because they’ve been told to”.  This is tricky.  A big reason why people get involved in something is because they’ve been asked, or even had their arm twisted into it by a persuasive friend.

How is this different to being told to volunteer by a stranger? punishing povertyPossibly a stranger threatening that you’ll also lose the state benefit you’re entitled to?

Volunteering. Spending time, “unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone…other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment.”  This definition is from a national survey in 1997 and is very similar to both the Police Act and Jobseekers’ Regulations’ definitions.  Many would go further, adding that it needs to be independently chosen and mutually beneficial (Greater London Volunteering).  Voluntary.

P1020067croppedWe sometimes lose sight of the reasons people find themselves at the door of an organisation.  Maybe because we need their help, maybe because we know that the experience once through the door is a brilliant one and we think it’s worth the coercion.  (Read YMCA’s compelling argument  here.)   But whatever we call it, defining voluntary activity and how people choose to get involved is important so as not to lose sight of what it achieves.

It is the act of choosing to get involved and sticking to it that is the transformative thing, not the simple turning up.  Cajoling, motivating, nudging you to go, hearing about your first experience, encouraging you into the second visit, you getting round to it in your own time… all of these things happen from persuasive and well-meaning colleagues, support workers, friends but the choice is ultimately yours – and that’s how unemployed volunteers might build confidence, skills and attitudes that lead to employability and work.  Either this, or maintain these attributes instead of feeling gradually more useless and unemployable.LVSC Intro VOls

Mandatory work activity is not volunteering.  Volunteers of every flavour built the voluntary organisations we work and volunteer for, and motivations for this were – and remain – many and varied.  They didn’t do it because they were told to.  Plenty of people, unemployed and otherwise, are continuing to build our communities as volunteers – although some are being lost because they are being forced elsewhere to complete unmatched work placements; as well as a loss to the organisation, what loss of experience and skills for the volunteer?

Mandatory work placements in private companies – Asda, McDonalds to name just two – are simply unfair – they make a mockery of competition, and don’t achieve their goal of job creation or getting people into employment.

Mandatory work placements in voluntary organisations shift our mission from community building to disempowerment, and muddle our view as a nation of voluntary activity.

I will continue to work for support and funding to persuade, cajole, motivate, and encourage as many people as possible into volunteering: this experience has an amazing effect on individuals and communities.  Volunteering – Getting Involved – Participating – changes lives, and there are projects up and down the country providing these opportunities and getting people into them every day.

Support them. Not Workfare.

Other links:

Find out private, public and voluntary organisations participating in mandatory work activity programmes. Avoid them!

Mental Health Charity Mind’s statement on the workfare scheme and the work programme

IVR’s ‘Gateway to Work’ report: the link between volunteering and employability

Pathways through Participation research: why people get involved and stay involved.

Find your local Volunteer Centre: often the place in your area that knows the most about volunteering projects for harder to reach groups.

http://www.do-it.org.uk/wanttovolunteer/aboutvolunteering/vcfinder

The high profile case of the volunteer forced to work in Poundland in favour of her own freely-chosen volunteering http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1170650/