Tips for supervising volunteers

By Chris Trevorrow. August 2022.

Our recent workshop on supervision skills for those managing volunteers, shared tips on how best to manage the supervision. 

Prepare

  • What has happened since the last meeting with the volunteer?
  • Are there any current issues involving the volunteer? If you need to give critical feedback do your homework first.
  • Is there any news you wish to share with them?
  • Have you set aside enough time and space?  Don’t take calls or allow interruptions.  Decide how long the supervision should be and arrange the meeting with the volunteer letting them know how long to allow.  Be prepared to manage the time.
  • Make the setting friendly and informal? Don’t use the desk as a barrier, maybe offer a drink, check the volunteer is comfortable, and check if they have any time constraints.

For first time supervision: explain to the volunteer in advance what the meeting is for:

  • For the volunteer to:
  • give their feedback
  • highlight anything they might need to help them with their role
  • For the supervisor to:
  • give feedback on the volunteers performance in the role, recognising and building on strengths and exploring any areas for improvement
  • highlight any organisational issues that might impact on the volunteer
  • Together:
    • Agree any actions to be taken

Start with the volunteer  ASK & LISTEN

  • What has gone well since the last supervision?
  • What have been the challenges/difficulties?
  • What might you do differently to overcome these?
  • What do we need to do differently to support you?
  • Are there any ideas or questions that you would like to raise about your role or the organisation as a whole?

If you have queries on this, or anything else relating to running a voluntary group, get in touch with us on enquiries@cambridgecvs.org.uk

So, what did we all do in the pandemic 2020 – 2021? – The Cambridge City Community Response 

Back in Spring 2020 when Covid-19 first hit representatives from groups involved in delivering emergency support from each of the 14 City wards were invited to participate in the Ward Cluster Network (WCN) by the City Council. The network created a gateway for communication, collaboration, learning and support. It initially met weekly online, and these meetings were supplemented by emailed updates. 

As part of a wider community group recovery plan, CCVS were asked to interview members from each of the 14 City ward groups in the WCN, together with other contributing groups or individuals identified by the ward participants.  The intention was to capture the key lessons that could influence any future emergency response but also to build on the positives such as increased community spirit and partnerships to support communities moving forward into a recovery phase. CCVS undertook structured online interviews with 30 participants from 26 organisations. Most of the interviews took place in June 2021.  The initial report was drafted in July 2021 

This report has been a while coming as partners have grappled with new and ongoing issues. Whilst both CCVS and the City Council have learnt from this research we wanted to release it more widely as a contribution to the understanding of how the voluntary sector played a vital role in helping communities throughout the pandemic. There is a lot for us to learn, a lot to build on, and a lot that needs doing to make sure that communities and community groups are front and centre of how we move forward to make Cambridge a fairer and more pleasant place to live 

So, what did we find out back in 2021? 

  • A diversity of approach -The ward groups were a mix of spontaneous mutual aid style groups, new groups facilitated by local councillors to deliver emergency support and pre-existing groups collaborating with other community stakeholders, particularly faith groups. All the groups were supported by a City Council community officer and were given online guidance and £1000 to help them meet essential costs. 
  • What the groups did – All the ward groups offered to pick up and deliver shopping and prescriptions to people who were shielding or isolating. A number were also involved in running food hubs and other initiatives to support those who were socially isolated. 
  • A wave of volunteers – During the first lockdown most of the ward groups attracted more volunteers than they had tasks to allocate. Volunteering tapped into people’s desire to help their neighbours; people wanted to be part of something momentous. As the pandemic progressed numbers of active volunteers reduced and the needs of the people requesting help became more complex. More recently many people reengaged by offering to help at vaccination centres, but this activity has now mostly wound down. 

For most of the ward groups a combination of volunteer coordinators and paid community/faith group workers provided the necessary support and guidance for the sustained volunteering effort.  Red tape was minimised, and groups operated on mutual trust.  The sense from the ward volunteer coordinators was that many volunteers had not volunteered before, had time to give and were attracted by how easy it was to offer help and the hyperlocal, flexible, and informal opportunities on offer. The direct interactions with beneficiaries meant that volunteers got instant feedback and could readily see the value of what they were doing. 

  • Communication was key – Effective communication within the wards was crucial in both managing the requests for help and the volunteers but also in helping to disseminate key information to the local community.  Several of the wards were able to capitalise on pre-existing lists of data for people already in receipt of community newsletters or emails. 
  • Getting essential guidance in place – Initially there was a lack of focussed information particularly around data protection, pharmacy protocols, risk assessments, money handling and volunteer protocols. The groups also had trouble identifying other sources of help and support for people because of the lack of any up-to-date directory of services. 
  • Exposing inequalities to a wider audience – In most wards, volunteers identified issues around food and fuel poverty, disability, and mental ill-health. It became apparent to the ward groups very early on that whilst the crisis exacerbated these issues many were pre-existing.  There is also concern about how to address the stigma some people feel around seeking help.  Some minority ethnic communities faced disproportionate health risks from Covid with a high percentage in key worker roles facing even great risk.  Ethnic minority groups were also more likely to work in activities badly effected by lockdown and therefore struggled financially.  Cultural and language barriers added to people’s sense of social isolation and difficulties obtaining help and support.  Including difficulties obtaining culturally appropriate food from food banks and food hubs. 

What did we recommend back in 2021? 

Build on local authority investment in social capital  

  • Continue to invest in building partnerships and networks with the local voluntary sector. 
  • Continue to support the work of the food hubs for as long as they are required and support these organisations to source and provide culturally appropriate food for all clients. 
  • Create seed funding pots under local community control to get new ideas underway. 

Build on cross-ward cooperation 

  • Establish a ward group digital forum where groups can share and develop ideas. 
  • Run occasional network meetings around key topics of interest to maintain connections. 

Create a repository of useful guidance for the future 

  • A toolbox of the detailed guidance, protocols, and policies for use in any future emergency. 

Improving signposting to existing services 

  • There is a need to investigate ways to support effective signposting that is sustainable. 

Support for local communications 

  • Develop a community newsletter for each ward.  Some support and funding will be needed to help initiate these new communications.  

Improve the volunteering offer 

  • Develop opportunities that meet volunteer needs. 
  • Create up to date, responsive online brokerage that allows those looking to volunteer a quick and efficient way to find and apply for local opportunities.   
  • Continue to offer support for those who face obstacles in engaging with volunteering. 

Improved engagement with business 

  • Create digital resources including an online brokerage aimed at business to support their understanding of the needs of the sector. For more recommendations around connecting VCS and business, see CCVS report (2019) 

Focus on improving digital inclusion  

  • Issues around digital inequality have highlighted the need for ongoing action to give everyone access to equal access to information, support and opportunity. 

Recognise what has been achieved  

  • Consider creating a broader recognition of what has been experienced and achieved. The purpose of any recognition event would be to demonstrate the continued value placed on neighbourhood support 

Click here to read the full report

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)

Tips for making a good funding application

by Chris Trevorrow. May 2022.

purple background. Jars of coins with plants growing out of them. CCVS logo. Making a Good funding application

1. Are you ready to apply?

Have you got a constitution and a management committee?

Do you have key policies, procedures and insurance in place?

 Are your accounts up to date?

 Have you submitted any outstanding reports to previous funders?

Do you have the permissions needed to undertake your project for example permission from your landlord for alterations to a building.

2. What are you applying for?

What beneficiary need are you meeting?

What outcomes and activities will you deliver?

Who will run things, and do they have the required skills and experience?

What do you want to spend the funders money on?

When will your activity take place?  Will the funder decide in time? Most funders will not fund something that has already happened.

3. Can you make a convincing case for support?:

What is the challenge?

Who is need and why?

What do those in need want?  Are your beneficiaries involved in developing your ideas?

Why is this the solution the one to back and why is your group best placed to do it?

4.    Can you provide evidence of need? For example,

Do you have credible up to date research?

Evidence of unmet need?

Letters of support?

5.    Is your budget realistic and offering value for money?  Does it add up correctly?

6.    Find potential funders

Who might fund your activity? Is it a good match for their stated priorities? Will they fund the items you are asking for? Will the timing of their decisions work for your project?

Search for funders using the Support Cambridgeshire 4 Community online funding portal

Check out funders own data on what and who they have funded via GrantNav

Search the accounts of similar charities to your own to see who funded them, you can find information on the Charity Commission register

Sign up to Support Cambridgeshire funding alerts

Contact CCVS for other ideas enquiries@cambridgecvs.org.uk

Successful fundraising – notes from our workshop

by Chris Trevorrow. April 2022.

‘Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching people the joy of giving’ Hank Rosso

Leading trends[1] in income generation for voluntary groups in 2022 include a continued reliance on digital even with the reintroduction of face to face and the hybrid approaches that accommodate both options.  Alongside this is the growth of peer-to-peer fundraising – think Captain Tom and all those who emulated him but with fewer zeros – and the need to continue to accommodate cashless donations even for face-to-face fundraisers. 

At the same time, we are entering tough economic times making it essential that voluntary groups develop a fundraising strategy, building a case for support which they can communicate and share with all their stakeholders and engage and retaining a strong supporter base.  A fundraising strategy pulls together information about your objectives and identifies what you need and how you’ll achieve it

A fundraising plan helps manage resources often using a calendar to map out key dates and deadlines both internal and external to an organisation.  In developing a plan, a group needs to consider the fundraising channels and tools that will work for them.

  • individual giving might involve an old-fashioned collection but with a cashless option.  There are a wide range of options using smart phones that don’t require a card reader  Pledjar donation app, QR codes eg Bopp, Give Star
  • Utilising donation functions on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram
  • Selecting the right gift giving platform to encourage your supporters to fundraise for you
  • Ensuring face to face events deliver a good return on resources and cost see Cabinet office guide to organising an event
  • Hybrid events can combine the best of in-person and digital by increasing participation, limiting environmental impact and being cost effective.  People might pay a premium for the inperson experience but others can also take part and donate if you live stream the event for example on Facebook

Successful fundraisers seek to build an ongoing dialogue with supporters, encouraging them to give by clearly communicating the difference the group makes to people in an engaging and motivating way.  They look to build the supporter relationship making connections and thanking them properly. 

Key factors in fundraising success:

  • Know your audience and what matters to them
  • Engage and inspire through stories
  • Create a sense of buy in before you make an ask
  • Make donation frictionless
  • Create a time limited campaign
  • Link to external events 
  • Thank supporters and share success
  • Make everyone in your organisation a fundraiser

If you would like to discuss fundraising with us, please get in touch at enquiries@cambridgecvs.org.uk


[1] Top Fundraising trends for 2022 Charity Digital

CIOF research trends