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Discount schemes for volunteers

Discount schemes for volunteers

I know someone asked about this a while ago, but I’m trying to find out more about the type of discounts that are currently offered to volunteers by the organisation they volunteer with and how easy this/or complex it is to administer.


A lot of museums offer volunteers a discount in their cafe and shop, and will usually give them free/discounted entry to events and exhibitions. Entry into events and exhibitions could be seen as part of the volunteer’s ongoing training, but cafe and shop discounts are obviously a bit harder to justify, and could be seen as a consideration.

The general feeling though is that the benefits of giving the discount outweigh the risks. Volunteers really appreciate it, and actually I suspect it makes them more likely to buy cards and presents from the museum shop, and probably ends up making museums more money in the long run. Usually volunteers will have some kind of ID card, and will just present it to get their discount.

Sorry, this may be too late for the original enquiry but two places outside the home organisation that have been known to give discounts to volunteers are Fired Earth and for conservation volunteers there’s Hi-Tech. For specialist groups the best people to approach are companies related to their specialisation, whilst local groups should approach local suppliers.

Would be interested to hear of any other national companies giving discounts.

Volunteer ‘Team Leaders’

Volunteer ‘Team Leaders’

team leadersHello,

Our volunteer program has recently reached a fairly positive situation in that our organization is working with a large number of volunteers for our size and the capacity we have.

In looking to be able to continue to expand and develop the program, as well as the volunteers that we have I am wanting to establish some of our existing volunteers as ‘team leaders’ to help manage and support other existing volunteers.

The leaders would be working across specific areas that they are involved in such as office / administration, complementary therapies and counseling.

Does anyone have a similar system in place? What training has been provided to help the leaders ‘step up’ to the roles and how productive have people found similar arrangements?

Any help or suggestions gratefully received.

Non attendance

Non attendance


Does anyone have a template for a letter I could send to volunteers who have been absent for a long period of time? We cannot keep their details on our database any longer so I would like to inform them that despite repeated attempts to contact them, they have not responded and thus will be removed from the volunteer database.

I’m hoping it will serve as a reminder to some of them to get them to come back!


I Said

How to fire a volunteer

How to fire a volunteer

how-toOne of the things I like about volunteer groups is the level of discussion – it’s not “What should the table centerpieces for our volunteer thank you luncheon be?” or “How do you recruit volunteers” but, rather, “How are we going to respond to this new government policy/practice” or “What are your success stories re: working with online volunteers.” I so appreciate that!

With that in mind… I saw this question on an online discussion group that shall remain nameless, and wanted to pass it on. I’m wondering not only how you would answer, but also, what this question might say about how many people view volunteers and the role of managers of volunteers.

Here is the question:

I have a really super awkward situation where I need to “fire” a volunteer – I’ve tried everything, such as finding non-people related tasks (work on this at home! You Don’t have to come in!!) and even referring to other agencies (sorry fellow nonprofits!) but the volunteer keeps coming back, wanting to work with us. I feel bad, because I realize that this person is really passionate about our work, but internally, is referred to as the Rain Cloud (RC) – we are just too small of a staff working long hard hours with very high needs clients to extend that to a volunteer.

HELP! Has anyone had to do this? Ideally I’d still like RC to champion our work and leave feeling ok – 5 years here and this is definitely a first! Tips, suggestions and/or personal experiences would be greatly appreciated!

————- end of question ———–

Again – I’m wondering not only how you would answer, but even more, I’d love to hear what you think when you read this question about how so many people view volunteers and the role of volunteer managers.

I was gobsmacked when I read that role description

I was gobsmacked when I read that role description

I was gobsmacked when I read that role description.

And that’s for an ASSISTANT Volunteer Coordinator, which suggests there is actually a Volunteer Coordinator post already in existence at the online financial organization MtpLoans which is offering an innovative product – installment loans with almost instant approval. It would be interesting to see THAT job description.

There is always the possibility that the volunteer would be supporting these activities rather than taking charge of them all, but that is certainly not what the advert suggests.

While I believe that many volunteers are capable of carrying out these sort of roles, I totally agree with Kate that it would be more appropriate to break the role down into several volunteering opportunities alone.

To be honest I think it may even be too much for someone in a paid position. Supervising a Mentoring Programme for 40 people alone sounds like a full-time job.

Just wanted to back up the ‘call to action’ to feed in to AVM and perhaps more importantly to let others in the field know about AVM, UKVPMs and i-volunteer, just as three (but by no means all) key resources and voice pieces we have to help raise the profile of the profession.

I have just returned from a local volunteer coordinators meeting in the northwest where so many in the room didn’t know about any of this support, so it’s up to us to make sure we are spreading the word as much as possible – for one thing, it encourages a much wider view for individual volunteer managers and their organizations and this is something that needs to continue to develop.

am I playing devil’s advocate today? has anyone contacted that organisation and the person advertising the role to signpost them to this site and the comments on this site so that they may be able to explain it all away to us. It may be a learning point for them and a start from us all to say we are not standing for this?

Wearing my trustee’s hat I have to say I would be fairly peeved if someone took it upon themselves to look at the volunteer opportunities on my website and told me they weren’t acceptable (assuming the opportunities were all legal, safe etc.)

I wonder whether the organisation in fact has someone lined up to fill the opportunity and they are simply trying to follow their equal opportunities policy by advertising it openly.

If this isn’t the case, it would be interesting to know if they do succeed in recruiting such a paragon of volunteers. I would be surprised if someone could come in “cold” and do it. Lots of volunteers in the animal welfare field have comparable workloads, but mostly they’ll have started on a small scale and worked up to the “entirely takes over your life” state.

Firstly As a response to RSPCA Cambridge, as a trustee I would welcome it. it would inform me that perhaps I am expecting too much from a volunteer and then would then review it, learn from it and then not be disappointed that as soon as a volunteer starts the role they then leave after a few weeks only to have to go through the process again. I would welcome someone pointing this out and so would many other organisation.

As part of a national project looking at improving the role of volunteer managers, I personally feel this does this role a dis-service, the role is important and should be highly regarded and treated professionally.

Do I know what I am talking about? YES been a trustee and successful volunteer manager plus I also oversee a county of them.

To all,Perhaps this organisation is new and has not had much guidance in the development of this role so lets help them develop a better role and serve themselves better.

I think we could at least begin collecting these examples

I think we could at least begin collecting these examples

I think we could at least begin collecting these examples. Also, low paid volunteer management posts.

In this recent case, it was advertised alongside a fundraising post which (from memory) was $30k+. Not very tactful.

The issue feeds into various debates about what volunteering is, where’s the divide between paid work/volunteering, potential job substitution etc. It’s an interesting one, since we would want to champion having a variety of roles on offer, and promote the capability of volunteers to undertake responsible and skilled roles.

So why precisely do roles like this provoke dissatisfaction and irritation?

I know what I think – how about others?

Leaving aside all the arguments about job substitution etc. I think this organisation is putting itself at enormous risk by expecting one volunteer to take on this role. Looking at the ‘job description’ it is a complex and skilled role with a lot of responsibility, and most of the work is ongoing. In the current climate there possibly are people who would be willing to take that on as a volunteer to keep their CV and skills up to date, but I suspect there would be an extremely high risk of losing them if a paid opportunity came up, and given the role they’re being asked to do, it looks (on the face of it) like the organization would be well and truly stuffed if they left. Volunteers, some of whom seem to be service users and may well be vulnerable, would be left without supervision, and their relationship with the ‘key London firm’ may well be put at risk.

I’m not saying this work couldn’t be done by volunteers, just that expecting one person to do it carries an enormous risk. I suspect that the role could be made a lot less risky by splitting it into a number of smaller roles, and there is definitely enough work there to create four or five roles meaty enough to still be really interesting. However it is very evident from the application form, and the fact that they have a ‘job description’ for the role, that this really is something that they are thinking of as an unpaid ‘paid’ role and not really as a volunteering opportunity. In their minds the person will be working in exactly the same way as a paid staff member, and they have not considered that for lots of reasons volunteering tends to work differently (even if you call it an internship!).

What a job for someone not getting paid. And it’s only at the bottom of the JD that it says – expenses paid.

I am sure there are rules somewhere about not paying minimum wage for jobs that this would fall foul of? This might be the worst example I’ve seen, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Is anyone clear on the legislation around this kind of thing? I am sure as the job market is so depressed that this kind of thing (as well as profit making public service delivery by private companies increasing) will become more common.

Social media policy

Social media policy


Whilst updating guidance for managers who involve volunteers we looked at the potential issue of volunteers using social media to comment negatively about factors including their role, their organization, beneficiaries etc.

Do people feel that these are covered sufficiently by existing confidentiality/data protection policies or do people feel a separate social media policy or guidelines on social media usage would be a better way to address the issues around privacy/personal v organizational views?

social mediaIt’s not just volunteers who do this – I notice, for example, people twittering what are evidently their personal views rather than their organizational view. Not usually very negative or serious. Maybe it’s something to do with the ease and immediacy of posting, and assumptions about what one’s organizational view would be, especially on politics, for example. An issue that springs to mind is tweets about the Dorries/abortion counseling goings on from organizations that I don’t think include this area in their remit. But I digress.

Surely the issue of negative postings or publicity by staff or volunteers is covered by one’s Code of Conduct, a breach of which could trigger a disciplinary/resolving difficulties procedure. It would come under a clause about actions that bring the organization into disrepute – reputation is priceless and charities need to be seen to be squeaky clean.

And, of course, better to minimize the incidence of disaffected volunteers by good volunteer management practice, and, just in case, creating a climate in which volunteers will feel OK about expressing concerns internally first. But you know that!

First response: What are you doing with paid staff around the same area? Are you worried that they will use social media to comment negatively about factors including their role, their organization, beneficiaries etc. ?

In terms of confidentiality, its the same wherever they are talking.

Whether on or off line, letter, Facebook or Twitter what is confidential is confidential. Your confidentiality policy needs to include that.

The confidentiality policy does not cover other matters though and a Social media policy needs to cover:

  1. what they post as a volunteer or employee about Scope on Scope related social media sites
  2. what they post about Scope on their own social media sites (and you want them posting positively about their experiences. They are very powerful brand ambassadors)
Olympic Volunteering

Olympic Volunteering

Dear All

We have been working over the last year to establish an ‘Olympics-inspired’ volunteering blog-site that we were to use to showcase opportunities that, whilst maybe without the official tag, were inspired by the principles and values of the Olympics.

This work has been a slow grind. In particular we’ve struggled to source opportunities from local organizations and clubs that meet this criteria. Without any distinct resourcing to develop this further we’ve hit a bit of a brick wall.

However the biggest wall was reading the VE release recently with regards to the use of the Olympics logo, name, related-words, etc. In the end, we took the option to de-publish our site in response to this email.

I really thought that the Olympic spirit was about getting on board, doing something, engagement, etc. And yet, the red tape has been enough to put us off!

Are other people coming up against this / made a similar decision?

olympicsI’m beginning to wonder whether we ought to advertise our annual dog show as “RSPCA Cambridge Dog Show for the year following 2015” in order to avoid being sued for using the number 2016.

I suppose it would be a talking point.

Certainly the advice from our HQ has been that we should be ultra-cautious about anything that appears to be combining the year and something vaguely sport-related.

Through other people I have come across exactly the same thing regarding London 2012 and the Olympics generally. I am not able to name the organisation but they were creating content for the so-called learning legacy website and were told in no uncertain terms that any mention of who did this work for them would not be tolerated and they were not able to benefit from reciprocal publicity about having contributed to it.

It’s dreadful that on the one hand the organising committee is saying this is the ‘People’s Ol*mpics’ and the one with the biggest cultural input but on the other hand corporatism is king. I don’t even understand how it is legal to ‘own’ a term such as Olympics in such a way that precludes other people from using it.

My current role, until December, is to use the Olympics to increase sports volunteering in the west midlands. To be honest its only now that a lot of local authorities are really getting serious about it, although your local authority (whoever is reading this) will have a designated 2012 officer. Possibly not at a local county level but certainly at county level. If you have a scheme like this you should run it by them and they will hav a good ‘in’ into a variety of networks that can help.

For my sins, I actually took a post with the Olympics team at Hackney Council right back when it set up, what, 6 years ago? As Olympics and Paralympics Volunteering and Community Engagement Officer. The best bit of the job was running community meetings in Hackney Wick (for those that don’t know it, a partly wonderful but also very deprived and sometimes scary bit of London). The worst was trying to actually be allowed to DO anything. Seemed like 20 layers of approvals needed. And that was pretty much internally. Most frustrating job I ever had, and not ashamed to say I left after 6 mind-bending months there, with no regrets. Just very grateful I don’t have to play the 2012 PR game any more. I’d say run, run, run for the hills, and go out there on your own strengths.

Just my view of course, but couldn’t resist joining in!

Does international aid erode sustainable community volunteering?

Does international aid erode sustainable community volunteering?

Dear all
A live discussion that may be of interest to you – with interesting reflections possible on the the impact of funding on volunteer groups in non-development contexts. Please add your thoughts!

If you are interested, tune into our meeting 3 – 4pm this Friday 16th September.

Does international aid erode sustainable community volunteering?

Mukesh Kapila in conversation with Masooda Bano

The negative impact of aid on development has been a recurring and controversial subject in recent years. Drawing on her extensive research in this field, Masooda Bano asserts that there is a strong negative correlation between foreign aid, and voluntary organizations’ ability to mobilise communities. The audience will be invited to discuss the possible implications this has for voluntary organisations and the international donor community.

Masooda Bano is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Department of International Development & Wolfson College, University of Oxford, with a DPhil from Oxford and MPhil from Cambridge. Her work focuses on real life development puzzles with a focus on mapping the micro-level behaviour and incentive structures drawing on rich empirical data especially ethnographic studies.

Mukesh Kapila is Under Secretary General for National Society and Knowledge Development at the IFRC.

Best wishes.

Volunteer Drivers

Volunteer Drivers

Hi, I wondered if I could seek your advice/thoughts on training for volunteer drivers and safety checks. I have recently had a complaint about the standard of driving of one of our volunteers. The drivers use their own vehicles. We have decided to request the volunteer to undertake a drive-check, carried out by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). This is not a test or an assessment, merely observed driving with a report to the driver on safety. We need to show we have carried out a risk assessment on this driver and this seemed an ideal way. I have been out with the driver myself and felt comfortable, but I am not qualified, besides being a driver myself, to make a judgment on safe driving (I could be an appalling driver, who knows!)

I wondered if anyone else carries out driving assessments on new drivers or just if a concern is raised? This has also now raised the issue of roadworthiness of the drivers own cars and whether we should make it part of our policy that in order to become a volunteer with us the drivers have to agree to have their cars serviced regularly. We could pay for the service for those drivers who do a lot of mileage during the course of their volunteering. At the moment new drivers sign an agreement stating that their car is in a roadworthy condition and they agree to keep it roadworthy. I also see all documents relating to their vehicle and this is checked annually.

Just curious what other good practice there is out there and whether we can apply it. I would like to strike a balance over safety and risk without setting up to many barriers (or perceived barriers) for the volunteers.

When I was a VC Manager we ran a very active transport scheme and this was something we debated at one time and felt it would be a difficult thing to do.

We didn’t actually require volunteer drivers to be ‘tested’, either no driver underwent one or they all did. We run information / safety sessions provided by the Council’s Road Safety dept. We called it ‘Mature Drivers Seminar/ workshop’ or something like it and we also did one for women drivers only. The safety aspects of driving in varying conditions and analyses of accidents made road safety come to the fore.

The trainers also provided an eye test which showed up people who needed referral to their optician.

In addition we required all drivers to have comprehensive insurance – and you may need to specify business use- and we did an annual check on their licence (for any points appearing) ensuring that they had a valid British driving licence, their current insurance and MOT (if applicable) and there were no exceptions.

To try and do as much as we could we had them fill out a monthly expenses form, every one of which had the words: “I confirm that the vehicle used is covered by the recommended level of insurance, has current road tax, a valid MOT certificate (if applicable) and is in a road worthy condition. I have not received any recommendation not to drive for any medical or health reason.”

As the volunteer driver filled the form in and signed it each month we went as far as we felt we could without resorting to an actual driving test. In our volunteer policy we did refer to things like seatbelts; mobile telephones; appropriate behaviour; not drinking and driving etc.

RoSPA do a very useful general information leaflet for volunteer drivers too.

European Year of Volunteering – Health and Social Care

European Year of Volunteering – Health and Social Care

Hi All,

Age US is one of the delivery partners working with the Office for Civil Society as part of the European Year of Volunteering 2016. We are working on the themed months of November and December, which are focused on volunteering in health and social care, and active ageing. This is just a heads-up about what we are doing. We’re finalizing the details in the next few days when I’ll be able to let you know how to get involved.

Age US will be delivering three activities based on policy, practice and celebration.

Policy – Enabling older people to volunteer

We’re running two one-day conferences to identify the key issues affecting the involvement of older volunteers and provide recommendations on increasing their engagement. The first conference will be held on the 1st November in London so save that date in your diary

Practice – Delivering health and social care support to older people

We will be producing a practical and comprehensive guide that examines what volunteers can do to support the health and social care needs of older people. Its aim is to provide a practical, in-depth, illustration of the diversity of volunteer roles within health and social that can be implemented whether it be by a voluntary organization, a statutory service or other service provider.

Celebration – Health and Social Care Volunteering Awards

The Celebration Event will recognize and celebrate the invaluable contribution that volunteers make to the health and social care of older people. The Health and Social Care Volunteering Awards are a one-off awards scheme to celebrate the European Year of Volunteering 2016.

Watch this space!

Sad to hear that is common elsewhere

Sad to hear that is common elsewhere

But also have to respond to the comment re funders. I worked for several years as a grants (distribution/development) officer in the UK, for local, London and national funding bodies, and then later as a trust/statutory fundraiser for groups. So I got to know a lots of the UK funders very well (although we do have literally thousands of funding trusts here, let alone statutory, individual etc!) and I would say the majority of independent funders apart from perhaps some very small local ones, plus many of the larger bodies such as Big Lottery in the UK, Capcitybuilders etc, have a very strong awareness of the positive ADDITIONAL value of involving volunteers and would be horrified at any suggestion of replacing paid staff with them.

In my honest experience from the other side of the fence as an “evil” funder (?!?!) it actually tends to be the charities themselves applying for the funding who undervalue both staff and volunteers, and decide to squeeze the budgets they put forward towards unrealistic or unethical use of job replacement by volunteers.

I do of course understand that specific funder’s application limits sometimes push groups in that direction, but honestly, I don’t feel it is at all fair to blame most independent (ie non-statutory)funders for that here, as they also have a very hard job (can already hear some booing and hissing at that stattement, but just try it! Having to turn down often 70% of even good applications because you haven’t got enough to give or they are just putting forward crazy ideas is an incredibly heartbreaking and frustrating job! Hence my move away from it!!!). Statutory funding, particularly local councils, are however another matter – most are as you said, useless on this, especially with all the Big Society idiocy.

Hey ho, maybe this’ll set off a whole new branch of discussion – but maybe we should be more grateful for what we do have in the UK despite the massive hardships of the current recession if Jayne’s description is right?

I’ve been catching up on some reading recently and came across this comment piece from Third Sector which I think has relevance to this thread. I love the comment that “Yes, there is an easier way to produce results-based performance. It means tackling problems that are solvable, focusing on outcomes that are achievable and outputs or indicators that can be measured.” The idea that we should temper our vision by only doing those things that are easy to measure is a worrying one and sums up well the danger of not facing the challenges of measuring impact more usefully because it is too hard to do so.

That’s why I love the final paragraph as well “the sector’s role has always been to address precisely those issues that society has found difficult to resolve – issues that require inputs at individual, community, and political levels, where the sector’s input is only one in a multi-agency effort (for example, beating heart disease), where attitudinal or behavioural change involves improvisation, trial and error, and where the best outcome might be three steps forward, two steps back.”

All best wishes