Volunteers are the lifeblood of the charitable sector. Here are 5 top tips from Ann Watkin the Volunteer Coordinator at Smile Community.

Know Why You Want Volunteers

Firstly, you need to know why you want volunteers, if they are appropriate in your work and if you have the resources to support them.  You need to do the ground work, in order to achieve an excellent volunteer programme.

Know What Your Volunteers Will Need From You

 You need to make sure you have a well-resourced volunteer programme. Volunteers aren’t just a ‘free resource’. To look after them you need to be able to offer appropriate training, an allocated staff member, out of pocket expenses, appropriate safety clothing, the tools to do the job e.g. a laptop for office-based work and ongoing support. Ideally, add these expenses in to funding bids to help get things right from the start.

Know How You Will Work With Your Volunteers

Have a well thought out volunteer programme. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s a wealth of experience for you to tap into.  Make sure you have your policies and procedures in place, and understand that these are there to help you work with your volunteers in the best possible way.

Use As Many Ways As Possible To Find Your Volunteers

You need to find volunteers, which are appropriate to the roles you need to fill. Not all who want to volunteer with you will fit your needs (and you may not fit theirs) so be really clear about what you need, but be open to new types of volunteers as they will bring new ideas and can broaden your way of thinking as an organisation. You can recruit through word of mouth, online platforms such as the Do-it website (www.do-it.org), Smile’s VC Connect system, Facebook, Twitter, local information sites, a poster in your local shop etc. There are plenty of ways to get word out. If you always use the same methods of recruitment you’re likely to attract the same types of volunteers, so be creative!

Look After Your Volunteers

Once you’ve got good volunteers, have them trained and they’re working well, you want to hang on to them. Never take them for granted. Value their contribution – ask their opinions – include them in discussions – make them feel like valuable team members.  Remember to reward your volunteers and Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June) is the perfect time to do this.  You can find certificates to hand out and a wealth of free resources on the Volunteers’ Week website (www.volunteersweek.org).

For help with all of the above, contact us here at The HEY Smile Foundation where we’ll be happy to make sure you have everything you need to succeed.