A volunteer is for life … not just Volunteers Week!

The importance of saying thank you to your volunteers

What better way to introduce an article about celebrating and recognising volunteers than to talk about our fabulous main award and highly commended awardees from #dva17? These wonderful volunteers were nominated and recognised for their outstanding commitment, and desire to make a real difference in local communities.  We recently had two wonderful celebrations when the Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr Dave Tyler and Barbara, welcomed these exceptional volunteers to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber.  These lucky guests enjoyed a special behind the scenes tour, where they learnt lots of fascinating facts and enjoyed tea with the Mayor and Mayoress.

Volunteers Week a national celebration of all things volunteering

1st to 7th June is an annual celebration of volunteers and volunteering. It’s a great opportunity to do something special for your volunteers to say thank you and take the opportunity to maybe recruit some new volunteers too! So let’s get you thinking about how you will say thanks, celebrating and recognising your volunteers’ contributions.

I think this quote from NCVO’s Quick Guide to Thanking Volunteers will hopefully get you thinking … Saying thank you isn’t just for Volunteers Week, it should be an integral part of your volunteer programme…

 “On the surface, saying thanks is easy – we all do it every day without thought, but saying thanks in an organisational context can be a very different prospect. Firstly, it can be easy just to forget if, like many charities, your trustees and leadership team have an ambitious vision, then the pressure is on to always look forward, at the expense of reflection.

Or your charity may be characterised by a rigid hierarchy that doesn’t always encourage positive feedback to be filtered down. Because volunteers don’t get paid, you might think that we should naturally be more inclined to thank them, but it might be just as easy to take their generosity for granted, especially if they have been with you for some time. Perhaps worst of all, though, is the ill-judged thank you – too fleeting, insincere, or undeserved. At best it may fall flat; at worst it can anger and linger. So how, how often, and to whom you demonstrate gratitude should be as integral to your volunteer management strategy as their recruitment, training and retention.”

Why not get thinking about how YOU are going to celebrate your Volunteers

Why say thank you?

There are lots of tools you can use to retain your volunteers once you’ve found them and one of the best is simply saying thank you. These are probably the most important two words in any volunteer manager’s vocabulary! You should be saying thank you regularly, rather than once a year during Volunteers Week, so why not start thinking now about how you could do this more often?

Say thank you to your volunteers as they leave at the end of the session they are helping with and encourage staff who work with volunteers in your organisation to do the same. After all a thank you doesn’t cost anything and will help the volunteer feel appreciated, and know you value the time they give to help.  Some volunteers don’t like a lot of fuss and would be embarrassed, whereas others like to be the centre of attention. You know your volunteers best but if you don’t, ask the person who looks after them when they are there and see what they think. A little research really helps to make the thank you more personal and genuine.

When you read surveys of why volunteers leave, one popular reason is not feeling valued or appreciated. You can easily rectify this with two little words, so get planning and say thank you more often!

Who should say thank you?

We’ve talked about the value of showing appreciation and saying thank you to volunteers, and I think another important thing to consider is who should be saying it!  This probably seems an odd thing to say but it’s something you need to think about isn’t it?

  • The person who supervises the volunteer on their regular volunteering slots could be saying thank you at the end of the session. If you train other people in how to support and manage volunteers, it would be a good idea to include a short section on how to recognise volunteers’ contributions and the importance of those two little words!
  • You as the Volunteer Co-ordinator could be holding an event to recognise the contribution of a group of volunteers.
  • For a more formal event what about the Chair or Chief Executive saying thank you? This would add a certain formality to a gathering, but would also hopefully make the volunteer feel important.
  • If you are holding a formal event, you could have a V.I.P. taking on the role – maybe a local MP, the Mayor or some local dignitary who supports your project. In Dudley borough, the Mayor takes on the Volunteering Champion role each year as part of their duties and is usually delighted to support and events involving volunteers.
  • If the person speaking at an event isn’t you or the person who supervises the volunteers, make sure you give them some background information about what the volunteers do, not just a list of names. This will help to make the whole thing more personal.

Just remember!

Try to tailor the way you say thank you to the volunteer[s]. If they don’t like a fuss, don’t arrange a formal red carpet event or they may well not turn up! You may have to downscale it to coffee and cake to make them feel more comfortable!

How to value volunteers

When you are planning how to recognise and celebrate your volunteers you may have a number of things to consider:

  • How many volunteers you have
  • When you need to hold the event to ensure as many as possible can attend – there’s no point choosing a Wednesday evening if half the volunteers are at their Zumba class! Checking availability is a sensible step.
  • Is it an informal gathering or a more formal occasion?
  • Where you will be holding it? Don’t just think about the geographical location, but also about things like parking, access for those who may be less mobile and how big a venue you need.
  • Who to invite – if you need someone key to attend such as your Chair, Chief Exec, the Mayor or a local MP, you may need to work the event around their availability.
  • Plan a programme for the event – a rough plan of who’s doing what and when is always reassuring and if it’s a more formal event, you may wish to have a printed programme for guests.
  • Budget – this is probably the most important thing to consider! If you are a small organisation and don’t have a budget for volunteer recognition and celebration, this may restrict your plans a little. You can do a great event on a shoestring, if you can find a free venue, free certificates from your local Volunteer Centre [we produce them every year for our local groups], get people to bring a contribution towards refreshments/buffet etc.

Just remember!

It’s quality that’s important and a genuine wish to make volunteers feel valued.

How to tell the world [well at least the local area how much you value your volunteers?]

 There are lots of ways you can do this and most of them are free!

  • Newsletters – have you got an organisational newsletter? This is a great place to tell other staff, volunteers and clients, just how wonderful your volunteers are. Add a photo and you are onto a winner!
  • Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/other social media – a popular way to share what you think of your volunteers with the world [literally via the World Wide Web] is via your website or social media streams. A winsome photo is a sure fire way to get your good news shared. When I published the photos from Dudley Volunteer Awards in October 2017, I had over 6000 views of the photos in 48 hours on the dva17.wordpress.com blog! If you aren’t au-fait with social media, why not attend a free local ‘Write here, write now’ session run by friendly staff from Dudley CVS, who will be able to support you to tell your story and get to grips with a variety of media platforms.
  • Local media – newspapers, radio and TV – are a great way to show your pride in your volunteer[s]. Don’t forget to tell them why your volunteer[s] deserve recognition and hopefully this will also help raise the profile of your project or organisation. Black Country Radio is a local community radio station and always looking for guests for their shows, so why not get in touch?
  • Awards – Dudley Volunteer Awards are an annual event held alongside Dudley CVS’s Annual General Meeting. Local volunteers [both individuals and groups] can be nominated and recognised at this high profile celebration. The winners are chosen by a panel made up of the Mayor, local decision makers, voluntary sector reps and our Chairman. Nominations for Dudley Volunteer Awards open in June each year and everyone nominated for the awards is invited along to the Dudley Volunteer Awards celebration in October. You can nominate now by visiting this year’s Awards blog https://dva2018.wordpress.com/ and clicking on the Nominate There are also the Mayor’s Civic Awards, which are another annual award scheme.
  • Queens Award – if you want to nominate a group of volunteers, why not consider this award? It’s a prestigious award and equivalent to an MBE for voluntary groups and charities. You can find out more by visiting the Queens Award website or by contacting Eileen at Dudley CVS Volunteer Centre on eileen@dudleycvs.org.uk

Having a Blast! Making an Impact!

As the Children, Young People and Families in Communities team enters its sixth month together we are taking the time to celebrate the progress we have made during this time. It’s been a blast and we are loving every minute, we wanted to share some of our highlights and achievements with you!

What an honour!
The team attended Dudley’s Centre for Professional Practice’s staff recognition awards at Himley Hall. It was a wonderful event which celebrated the achievements of staff and recognised those that go the extra mile. CYIC award
What was really special and humbling was that the Centre for Professional Practice gave an award to recognise people who work with children and young people in the community and…WE WON!!!!! It was really an honour to be recognised by partners and the award takes pride of place on the fireplace in our office at Dudley CVS. Read more about the award on our blog: https://dudleycypfnetwork.net/2018/02/05/what-an-honour/

Spill your beans over coffee and cake

Smile change
Dudley Parent Carer Forum has been getting out and about in a bid to meet new parent carers and share the great work they have been involved in. The Forum is an independent organisation that is facilitated and supported by the team at Dudley CVS.

Members work together to ensure that the voices of parent carers are heard.
We now have termly carer’s coffee morning slots run by parent carers which we support at Penn’s Meadow & Old Park Special School and we are delighted to be invited to join The Sutton Schools parent’s forum. We hope to ensure that everyone in Dudley borough knows about the forum and all parent carers know that information, support and an opportunity to have their say is available.

We are also working hard to ensure that professionals know that we are here and we now have a professional e-bulletin distribution list that sends information to over 103 professionals including those within Dudley CCG, Local Authority, Schools, Colleges and Voluntary Sector organisations, which has been really well received.

“What a fabulous, uplifting email! Thanks so much for passing this on, it really shows how well things are working and I really value the hard work that people are putting in, to help and support others.” Councillor Anne Millward – Lead Cabinet Member for Children’s Services

For more information about the Dudley Parent Carer Forum or to get in touch visit https://dudleyparentcarerforum.com/

Young people take up the challenge!Morgan take over

The Takeover Challenge puts children and young people into decision-making positions and encourages organisations to hear their views. In Dudley borough we are committed to building an infrastructure for all young people to have opportunities to participate, share their views and influence decisions that affect their lives regardless of their backgrounds, experiences or abilities.

During November and December 2017 the number of organisations involved and the number of opportunities offered increased by 400%, thanks to the 36 professionals who agreed to be taken over! A variety of CVS staff got involved including the Chief Officer Andy Gray who supported Molly to take over the Children’s Alliance Board meeting.

Partners from Dudley MBC, Dudley CCG, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, political figures, Members of Parliament, schools, colleges and Lunch on the Run all provided a variety of opportunities for young people to get involved and takeover.

Over 5lunch on the run takeover0 young people between the age of 13-19 from a third of secondary schools across the borough, three colleges and a university student participated. Young people with different backgrounds and abilities took part, including young people involved in Dudley Care Council, Dudley Youth Council, Care Leavers Forum, Young Health Champions and Police Week Students. Children looked after, young people with disabilities and additional needs and mental health illnesses participated fully.

pc paul takeoverIt was incredible to see the young people in our borough being given the opportunity to shine, even though a few did say that they were exhausted by the world of work and left with a headache at the end of the day! We asked people what they enjoyed most about the Takeover Challenge. Professionals enjoyed being able to offer opportunities for young people, hearing about the excellent things young people are involved in and the difference they are making, giving young people a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity such as being Mayor for a day, and learning directly from young people. Young people enjoyed learning about different roles, meeting different people and how welcoming the professionals were.

A massive thanks to all those professionals and young people that made it happen. We can’t wait to do it all again bigger and better in November 2018!

We are sure you will agree that we have been keeping busy, staying out of trouble, getting involved in lots of exciting projects and working with some incredible people. We are so proud of the work we do and that it plays a part in improving the lives of the children, young people and their families.