Volunteers Voice #11: Reviewing your volunteer programme

Written by Rob Davies, Volunteer Co-ordinator.

As in all aspects of an organisation, it is always a useful exercise to review your volunteer programme. This isn’t a review of the volunteers themselves but an overall review of the entire programme. A review enables you to take a step back from your day to day work, take a look at where you and your programme are heading and what improvements or changes need to be made. It is also useful from a strategic point of view and provides you with all those hard facts and figures needed for reports.

A review should cover everything from documentation, training, staff and of course asking the opinions of the volunteers themselves. We are constantly developing and changing, pushing further, growing organically, and reflecting the world around us. It is important that your documentation is up to date and accurate, reflects changes in your organisation and future goals you aspire to. I go through our four volunteer policies and our volunteer handbook with a fine toothcomb to ensure that details (e.g. phone numbers, members of staff) are still correct. I also change photos in the handbook to freshen it up a little.

Volunteers at Ufton Court
Volunteers and staff on a visit to Ufton Court

Of course, at the heart of any volunteer programme are the volunteers themselves; their welfare and happiness is crucial. Through experience I have found the best way to collate an accurate snapshot of volunteer happiness regarding the programme is an anonymous survey that should take between 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey asks questions about communication, support and training, as well as some open questions. This helps me look at the programme from a volunteer’s perspective and highlights any problems that need to be solved.

Alongside a written review I invite volunteers in for an informal chat. This isn’t mandatory but some like to chat face-to-face. It’s also important to gauge feelings and problems of staff as well as those of the  volunteers. I hold one-to-one chats with members of staff who work with or manage volunteers, where I encourage them to be as open and honest as possible. Again, this provides me with a different opinion of the volunteer programme and highlights any problems that I may not be aware of. It is also important for staff to feel they are supported with managing their volunteers and volunteer projects. Once you have completed the review, don’t sit on your results, act on them!

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