Removing Barriers to volunteering

By Chris Trevorrow. June 2022.

Our Volunteering for All project, supported by Cambridge City Council, works to reduce the barriers many people experience in accessing volunteering.  At a recent workshop we shared some of what we have learned from this work and pulled in best practice from providers from around the world[1]

  • A significant proportion of the population experience barriers to volunteering; we tend to think of barriers relating to those with physical impairments, but others affected include people with mental ill health, neurodivergent individuals, people from different cultures, people with criminal records, people with caring responsibilities and those unable to afford the time or the associated expense of volunteering.
  • In addition to physical barriers people can face psychological and organisational barriers.  People might have a fear of taking on something new in a different environment, they might fear rejection.  They might come up against unhelpful attitudes from existing staff and volunteers or a rigid inflexible approach to how things are done.
  • There are compelling reasons organisations should seek to be inclusive.  To meet their statutory responsibilities and deliver on their equality policies but also to widen the pool of talent, embrace the expertise of volunteers with lived experience and improve their own future sustainability.
  • Inclusive organisations have:
    • a welcoming and open culture
    • a clearly communicated equality policy
    • volunteer roles that offer flexibility and work with individual need
    • fair and open recruitment and management procedures
    • a zero tolerance of discrimination
    • a demographic that reflects the community they serve.
  • To be more inclusive here are a few things to think about:
    • How and where you advertise roles – could you extend your reach to where different groups of people will see your information?
    • Think about the language you use – is it plain English, would other languages be appropriate. could you offer information in another format such as video or an audio file?
    • Review your recruitment process and only include what is essential.  Think about creating entry level roles that allow people to develop.  If you need references can you ask for character references rather than from an employer, can you just ask for one reference rather that two?
    • Can you more flexible, review the length of shifts, can some tasks be undertaken at home, can people volunteer as a group or as a family?
    • Can you do more to communicate the environment people will volunteer in taking away the anxiety some may feel in going somewhere new, you might invite them on a visit or send a video or some photographs?
    • Can you provide information on transport or arrange lift shares?
    • Think about flexible ways to share information with volunteers, can you set up a system where people share information on the phone not just via email? Can you offer training or handbooks in different formats?

To find out more or discuss how to be more inclusive contact us on volunteer@cambridgecvs.org.uk and check out our Volunteering for All pages on our website.


[1] This includes Time well spent Diversity and Volunteering(NCVO 2020)

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