Ignoring the wage bill which applies to paid staff, it costs about the same and sometimes more to support a volunteer as it does to employ someone…
The relationship between the agency and volunteers, like agencies and employees, has to be one in which both sides gain, and it’s important to begin with recognising what the volunteer will gain from the experience. Obviously, for paid staff, much of the motivation is payment. For volunteers, the motivation has to be something else.
Counter-intuitively, volunteering includes selfish motivation. The volunteer’s aspiration to do something for others may include:
- Satisfaction of moral values;
- External regard;or
- Opportunity to meet others;
If the motivation isn’t discussed, there’s a good chance it won’t be satisfied, and the volunteer is likely to cease volunteering…
looking after volunteers
digital inclusion volunteer role
A digital volunteer should understand the role they’ve taken on, which is ordinarily to provide basic support and encouragement to people who’d otherwise be at a disadvantage and excluded from digital life. As well as supporting people to gain the essential skills required to participate, the role is one of customer care.
The Glasgow City Council’s Digital Glasgow programme’s Participation work stream (led by the Wheatley Group) agreed in 2014 a basic role specification (which Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow Life turned into a certification specification) for digital volunteers. While due for review and requiring a tweak here and there to suit mobile access (it was assuming fixed PC learning centres and public libraries, but WiFi-enabled community centres are now also part of the mix), it provides an essential role specification, some or all of which may be useful to apply to the actual setting. The outline role description is available in the Digital Inclusion Volunteer Role section.
volunteer skills, knowledge and other attributes
To support the development of basic skills, a digital inclusion volunteer (or member of staff) should be able to:
- use websites, email and digital technologies at a basic level;
- communicate clearly;
- deal with challenging behaviour and seek support where required;
- commit to the principles of equality of opportunity and access regardless of protected or other characteristics; and
- solve problems as they arise (for themselves and for customer enquiries).
No volunteer comes completely ready to deliver the role they’ve volunteered for – they’ll need to become familiar with:
- health and safety procedures;
- reporting procedures;
- technical systems (e.g. account creation); and
- training opportunities.
- Agreeing milestones in induction will assist in later support and supervision.
support and supervision
Volunteers, like staff, need routine interaction with the service managers and supervisors, and an agreed schedule or method should also be part of the induction.
Given that volunteers have both altruistic (wanting to make a positive difference to others) and personal motivation (they also want to gain something from volunteering), a review date or other arrangement should be made to assess what:
- the volunteer has learnt from their engagement with the digital inclusion service;
- else they’ve gained from their engagement with it; and
- other people have gained as a consequence of their work to support the service.
Where volunteers have made a positive difference, it’s good (for both them and the service) to recognise this. There are several ways of doing this, including:
- written acknowledgement (an email or letter saying thank you and outlining the difference they’ve made provides a powerful motivation for continuing);
- inclusion in service events (being part of the team); and
- more formal recognition in the form of external awards.
External Award opportunities may take the form of:
- recommendation for external recognition such as the Evening Times Community Champion Awards; for young people);
- recognition of voluntary service through Saltire Awards, which confirm the length of time spent volunteering to help others; and
- confirmation of learning and achievement through assessed flexible learning programmes such as the Glasgow Kelvin College Community Achievement Awards programme, which provides a support and supervision framework in which those engaged in voluntary work can plan, record and evaluation the learning involved in community activities and the impact on others.
advertising volunteering opportunities
Recruiting volunteers can often best be done through routine interaction with people in the context of the service, by means of posters, leaflets and (best of all) face to face conversations. However, most people with digital skills who are already motivated to volunteers will go to websites.
The main Scottish website for volunteer recruitments is Volunteer Scotland, and in Glasgow it’s Volunteer Glasgow.
Ethics and Principles of Working with Volunteers
Glasgow's Community Planning Partnership's Strategic Volunteering Governance Framework Group has been working towards a Volunteer Charter for Glasgow. In draft form on the Volunteer Glasgow website is a set of useful, generally agreed principles relating to freedom of choice mutual benefit, expenses etc.