Action for Children Volunteers in Newcastle (pre-Covid!)
‘IiV was like doing a full MOT on our volunteer management practices. The journey enabled us to network with other organisations as well as enhance collaboration internally. IiV gives a stage to the volunteer voice that we are going to champion in years to come.’
In April 2020 Action for Children reached the end of their 12 month development journey and achieved IiV for the first time.
In this case study Amber Churchill, National Volunteering Strategy Assistant, talks us through Action for Children’s motivations for applying for IiV and the benefits of their award. Be sure to check out her top tips, at the end, if you are interested in a IiV journey too.
Why did you sign up for IiV?
We decided to sign up for IiV because it is the industry standard recognised kite mark. 2019 was Action for Children’s 150th birthday; our very first children’s home was run by volunteers, and 150 years later they are still central to our organisation. We valued this award as it puts the volunteer voice at the centre. We wanted to showcase how much we value their involvement.
In the past few years our volunteering offer has grown significantly. We introduced a central team to manage policies and processes, enhance the support available to our volunteer managers and champion volunteering throughout the organisation. All of this has improved the overall volunteer experience.
We are currently producing a long term volunteering strategy, and first wanted to put our current systems, processes, policies and volunteer engagement to the test by going through an IiV journey. We are now in a position to develop further and take our volunteer management to the next level and become the ‘Go To’ place for volunteering.
What have been the overall benefits of achieving IiV?
Achieving the award has given us a lot of confidence in our processes and volunteer offer. One of the biggest benefits has been the internal buy-in from senior leaders and other departments. IiV helped ensure volunteering was on people’s agendas and we had great engagement across all levels. The award encompasses the whole UK which enabled us to shout to the whole organisation about the great work going on with volunteering and volunteer management.
A quote from one of our trustees interviewed for IiV
'This award and the process of achieving it shows we have a whole network of people who value the work we do. Our volunteer network will speak to their families, their own networks and they help spread the word about our work. This network also raises awareness of the problems that children experience in our country. As volunteers they can describe their experiences without bias, and their voices will have an even greater impact.'
What impact has the IIV journey had on your volunteers?
It’s been a great way to bring people together with a shared purpose. All our volunteers are so engaged with the local projects they support and this gave us a real opportunity to link in with their involvement and connect them to Action for Children on a wider level. It was great for the central team to meet more of our volunteer family and build up those relationships. Volunteers saw the organisational commitment and how much we value all the time and energy they put in. They now have a centre stage to feed in the successes and challenges so that we can continue to improve their experience.
Can you share any examples of innovative practice in place as a result of your IiV journey?
Dispelling a common assumption that ‘volunteers are free’ we produced an excel sheet to calculate the ‘cost’ of volunteers. This incorporates staff time, disclosure checks, ID badges etc so that services new to involving volunteers can budget appropriately. We use this to target new services and departments to help increase our volunteer reach throughout the organisation.
We completely revamped our volunteer role profile templates as part of the IiV journey. Being an organisation that works with young and vulnerable people, we are not able to offer “trial shifts” to prospective volunteers as suggested by IiV. To counteract this, we have introduced contact details on all our role adverts so that volunteers can discuss roles further before filling in an application. The template also includes an equality and diversity statement to encourage a more inclusive environment.
What were the main challenges in taking on an IiV journey?
I don't think the work itself was difficult, just extremely reflective. We were confident in our infrastructure and came into the process with ideas already. It challenged us in the sense of our time management and being as innovative as possible.
Being a larger, widespread, and diverse organisation, our biggest challenge was coordinating the interviews and ensuring all voices were heard.
Do you have any advice for other organisations on how to make the most out of their IiV journey?
- Make the most of your introductory workshop: Invite all the key players and give them a voice at the table so they feel personally involved with the journey you’re about to embark on. Make sure you keep hold of all the notes and worksheets from discussions - this will save you a lot of time when you write the self-assessment!
- Network: Have a look for local organisations or those in similar industries who have already achieved IiV and see if you can meet to share experiences. Great way to network and talk through any operational queries you may have.
- Plan plan, plan: This is a long-term piece of work, when you see 12 months you can think there is loads of time but it moves quickly. Put key dates in your diary from the start. Schedule in dedicated time to focus on IiV.
- Communication Strategy: It’s important to engage all your key stakeholders in the entire process; volunteers, trustees, coordinators and senior leaders. Plan communications for the process in advance – include key messaging about your vision for IiV. Keep it regular to maintain the momentum and celebrate all the work you’re doing behind the scenes. Having a communication strategy will keep you accountable and on track.
- Utilise your assessor: They’ve all done this before and are there to work with you. They will have built up a lot of contacts and a wealth of knowledge of volunteer management in the third sector; take advantage of those conversations.