Published 12 September 2014
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were involved in the initial pilot of Investing in Volunteers (IiV), having first achieved the standard back in 2005.
Sally Knights, the Volunteer Services Manager at the Trust, recently answered a number of questions about the organisation's experience of engaging with IiV and how the trust's volunteering programme has changed over the last 10 years.
Briefly describe what your organisation does and how it involves volunteers?
The Trust provides acute care and clinical services to a catchment area of around 822,000 people. Specialist services include oncology and radiotherapy, neonatology, orthopaedics, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, rheumatology, paediatric medicine and surgery.
There are approximately 6000 staff in the Trust, and around 675 volunteers who are involved in lots of different things. Our volunteers are based all over, they’re in wards, clinics, in administrative posts and more specialised posts, such as helping to feed elderly patients, working with dementia patients and conducting patient surveys and getting feedback.
The IiV award has given us kudos and the Trust recognises that we have some very professional people among our volunteers who are able to take on some very useful roles.
Why did your organisation first engage with Investing in Volunteers (IiV)?
We first achieved Investing in Volunteers (IiV) in March 2005, having been approached by Volunteering England and invited to be involved as part of a pilot.
We were delighted to be involved, as we felt that it was quite unique as the only standard to focus solely on volunteering. There was nothing else like it, so it was a real opportunity to take part in something new and making people realise we offer a reputable service. We had actually looked at the Investors in People award, however we didn’t feel it was tailored enough. We know we have lots of professional medical roles within the hospital, but it was about trying to give volunteering the same kudos really – and having a dedicated award was a good way of recognising volunteering and showing people what we can do.
We had hard look at our own protocols and it encouraged us to improve joined-up thinking across the Trust. We worked with 45 external voluntary groups on the accreditation and one important factor for us was to adopt a common standard for all volunteers, giving us an opportunity to really pull the service together and create a good accredited service.
How has IiV helped make a difference to what your organisation does?
It’s around good governance and standards setting really, and it has heightened our profile. It has certainly helped us where recruitment is concerned as I think people naturally want to apply to a creditable and well-managed service. The fact that we can demonstrate this by saying we have achieved this accreditation has been amazing, as certainly the calibre of volunteer that we have coming through the system is completely different now to what it was say ten years ago - so that has made a big difference.
I feel we owe a huge debt to our volunteers, they provide such a valuable service and we feel that maintaining the IiV standard demonstrates that we appreciate them and that we do invest in our volunteer programme.
Why has it been important to maintain the IiV Standard?
The Trust is currently accredited and achieved the standard for the third time in April this year. In these days of governance and standards setting, the IiV award offers a very strong discipline around volunteering and our board are delighted that we have the accreditation. It has heightened our profile both internally and externally throughout the county. Other hospitals have approached us as an example of best practice, we have worked with one particular trust in Norfolk to set-up and create an identical service – I’ve spent the last year and a half mentoring their voluntary services manager. Many of the volunteers who were engaged with the process were equally delighted to be part of the award and feel that the accreditation demonstrates that they belong to a professional service, so from the volunteers’ point of view it’s really important that we keep achieving this.
I wouldn’t want to be without the logo now as when people see it on a letterhead, an email or on our brochures they think this is an organisation that takes volunteering seriously and we’ll apply to them because they clearly invest in their programme. Being able to go out to recruitment fairs and various events and actually show them that we have an independently accredited service really helps.
Has your organisation’s volunteering programme changed since you were first accredited?
Definitely, it’s changed from the point of view that it is taken far more seriously than it was initially. The roles have grown immensely over the last ten years. When I joined we had 76 volunteers, they did very basic tea and coffee making duties, whereas now we demonstrate to volunteers that they can come to us with skills that can be utilised without crossing the borders of job substitution. We can now put volunteers in roles that are of far more use than the basic roles of the past, and the organisation itself appreciates that and looks at volunteering as a professional undertaking – with proper recruitment, a comprehensive policy and stringent governance guidelines. I think the organisation feels happier and safer about involving people because of that.
Any additional comments to add?
We are aware that more employers in Universities are regarding volunteering as a very important part of students’ CVs and people going forward into new job roles, and I feel that they are looking for those volunteer experiences to come from professionally-run bodies. From the perspective of where employment is going in the future, demonstrating a good volunteer programme and having an accreditation for that is invaluable.