South Staffordshire Network for Mental Health has held the IiV award for almost three years now. Keith Stanley, former Business Manager, discusses the benefits of external verification for their volunteers, staff, potential funders and for the mental health sector in general: “IiV provides substance to claims about the importance of volunteers”.
What have been the overall benefits of achieving the IiV accreditation?
- Having IiV accreditation raises our credibility with potential funders. It shows that we have a professional approach, as well as the passion that is so common in the Third Sector.
- Having an accredited system helps us recruit and retain volunteers: it shows that we are serious about their place in the organisation.
- SSNMH has worked with volunteers since it was created over 15 years ago. As the numbers have risen, it became more important to put structures in place.
How would you describe the effects of IiV on your organisation?
- We now have a clearly identifiable framework into which volunteers fit.
- The framework for the volunteers is part of the appraisal system for the staff: it is an integral part of who we are and what we do.
In your opinion, what is the relevance of IiV for your sector?
- Almost all charities are heavily dependent on volunteers. At the very least, all of the Trustees are volunteers. Many organisations say all the right things. Words are cheap. IiV provides substance to claims about the importance of volunteers.
- Thinking specifically about the mental health sector, volunteering is an excellent way of maintaining wellbeing. We know that our volunteers are helping to manage their own wellbeing whilst helping others. There is a virtuous circle. (The five ways to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn, give)
Do you have any advice for other organisations on how to work towards and get the most out of the IiV award?
- Embrace the discipline and make it work for you. Many people regard systems such as ISO 9000 (quality management), ISO 14000 (environmental management), OHSAS 18000 (health & safety management) and Investors in People (management of employees) as imposing a burden on an organisation. Assuming that we all want to produce good products and services, have no wish to damage the environment, and want to keep people safe from harm, then systems that deliver these outcomes are an essential part of being in control of the organisation.
- The discipline of writing things down can be revealing. If a process cannot be mapped easily, then there is a good chance that it needs a lot of human intervention to make it work in practice. If you change the person without recognising the skill and experience required, then the outcome is likely to vary. (If you want to make your head spin, read up on implicit, explicit and tacit knowledge!)
- Undertaking a formal process of accreditation is a useful discipline. Whilst it is possible to derive many benefits from simply following the principles of IiV, external verification ensures that systems are robust and obvious errors have been picked up.
Are you considering to renew your IiV accreditation?
We have derived benefits from IiV. We are still benefitting from IiV. Why would we want that to stop? Systems such as IiV evolve. We want to incorporate the latest thinking. There is always so much to learn.