Maybe it’s more useful to turn the equation round

Maybe it’s more useful to turn the equation round and treat volunteering as money-equivalents donated into the system instead of “work we didn’t have to pay for”?

Take the current controversy over funds raised by charity shops versus funds raised by using commercial companies to collect clothes donations and give charities a percentage of the profits.

In a sense the charity shop volunteers could be seen as displacing some of the commercial company staff, but by using the original donations of goods more efficiently the work they do is generating funds which the charity will later use to pay people (doctors, researchers, teachers or whatever).

I too prefer the social return type of model as I think it is important to recognize this when assessing the value of any volunteer involvement (if you want to measure it, which I think is a good and useful exercise to do). It would, I’m sure have a much greater figure than the usual minimum wage approach, which I find a very peculiar and frankly insulting measure because there are such a massive range of volunteer roles.

And the fact that it shouldn’t be seen as how much is “saved” by an organization or a country’s economy but rather what the extra value is of involving volunteers, which could also include savings in the way that Rob described for meals on wheels but more importantly, the impact on a local community and even a country and the world as a whole.

The question that needs to be answered here is can we develop this kind of tool to support organizations to do this in as easy a way as possible (as if it’s too complicated and too much research is needed the old method will sadly remain)? Of course there would always be factors that are relevant to add in/adapt depending on your group/organizations goals. And how would we then get funders and the government to see the value of this model and the impact that is measured. Interesting thoughts for a Friday afternoon!

This is a debate between measuring what volunteers do (which the sector is great at) aka ‘the numbers game’ and the difference volunteers make (which the sector is generally hopeless at). I’m not sure anybody on here disagrees with the view that we should be focussing on the latter. However to do it requires the investment of time and resources, can be incredibly complex and often requires longitudinal studies. As I understand the manual produced by John Hopkins, it is to provide some form of international comparative analysis through a survey.

Bearing in mind how difficult measuring impact is, is it practical to think something can be produced that measures impact that is a) systematic and comparable b) straightforward and c) would be taken up by countries? I really don’t think so Therefore the question is whether internationally the measurement of the simple financial value is better than not doing anything? I disagree with Jayne and say actually it is – with the caveat that it’s done properly with the context explained. It’s pretty simple to do, easy to understand and can produce eye-grabbing headlines. That’s important because it’s easy to forget in our cocoon how little volunteering is understood (actually I would add in our cocoon come to that).

Using the financial figures can be used as the gateway to introducing the debates about investigating the impact of volunteering. It’s not perfect by a long way and runs the risk, if not done properly, that it does just come down to the supposed saving on employee costs but better that than not measuring anything.

UNV, ILO & others huge misstep

The UN Volunteers program is celebrating a new manual by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, which aims to help statisticians and economists measure the value of volunteer work at the national, regional and global levels by tracking the amount, type and value of such work in their countries. The manual is a strategic plan to try to measure how many people are volunteering and to value their time based on industry/professional classifications were they being paid.

I am, of course, extremely upset about this.

Sorry Jayne, but I have to disagree entirely. Although I totally understand that there may be very different politics and history at play behind this in the US. I think its actually totally sensible. Here in the UK trying to equate some monetary value certainly isn’t ever about making volunteers look cheap – in fact quite the opposite – its an indication to funders, policy-makers and government that volunteers are worth their weight in gold and that more should be invested in supporting them and that they, and their managers/supporters should be taken far more seriuosly because they are a huge part of both economic and social wealth of the country. That is in addition to all of the lovely fluffy stuff we may or may not feel about social involvement, not instead of it.

But interesting how different that position may be in the US. Things do differ from the UK volunteering picture as much as finding things in common – very different histories in terms of the whole voluntary sector and political and social attitudes, neither good nor bad – just utterly different contexts.

Hi all.

Sorry Lynne but I’m with Jayne on this one.

The issue isn’t a cultural one that is relevant in the US. I’ve come across the issue in a number of countries.

The core of the problem isn’t whether assigning a financial value to volunteering is a bad thing or not, it is how we do it.

For those of you not so familiar with the issue, traditionally the financial value of volunteering is calculated by calculating or estimating volunteer hours and assigning a notional wage to what volunteers do. So when we say volunteers are worth £300,000 we are saying that is what it would cost us to pay people to do the work. But in most cases we’d never pay people to do that work. And often the figure is calculated at national minimum wage yet the volunteers are performing roles that, were they paid, would attract much higher wages. So the calculation is pretty meaningless.

What Jayne argues for, and what I personally think would be much more useful, would be more of a social return on investment approach. So, to take the example of meals on wheels which current has a high profile through BBC2’s Hairy Bikers show, the financial value of volunteering is not what it’d cost to pay people to do that work but what is saved by keeping older people healthy, living in their own homes, and maintaining social contact. If meals on wheels wasn’t there those older people may be in residential care, poor health etc. all of which have a cost to the state that is ‘saved’ thank to volunteers.

Sure those calculations are harder to do – how do you quantify the money ‘saved’ by someone no re-offending because of volunteering – but they are more meaningful. And that holds true regardless of the country we are in.

Managing talent in volunteering

As part of our work through the European Year of Volunteering here at VC Warrington, we are doing some research into the concept of Talent Management in engaging volunteers.

Linking in with lots of the previous debates and discussions about volunteer managers as ‘leaders’ and ‘enablers’ and referencing these key skill sets as opposed to traditional management approaches, I am really interested to hear about the view and experiences of GUM members.

So, with this in mind – if you have a few minutes to consider the following I would love to hear from you – either via the group or off list:

  1. How do we manage talent when it comes to volunteers?
  2. What do we think we are already doing around ‘enabling and empowering’ volunteers, rather than ‘managing’, that works well?
  3. How do we know it’s working well?
  4. What stops you from ‘letting go’ when it comes to involving volunteers and going with what they can bring, as opposed to fitting volunteers into a clearly defined role and structure?
  5. Do you have any proven approaches for identifying talent in your volunteers and developing individuals to make the most of this?

Looking forward to hearing from people. Many thanks.

Many of the resources in the USA are more about encouraging

I’ve found that many of the resources in the USA are more about encouraging families to volunteer together, but then offering only general ideas (garden together! build something together) rather than names of organizations that have such opportunities available. If you go to and check the box for opportunities that are good for kids (you can use my zip code if you want, 97013), the majority of opportunities *aren’t* one-time family volunteering opportunities (most are, in fact, the “host an international student” over and over and over again – frustrating!).

I took a crack at creating a page to help organizations think about the hows, as well as the *whys*, of creating one-off family volunteering gigs but I’m not entirely satisfied with it. I’ll be updating it later this month and would welcome your input – what is it YOU need to be able to provide family volunteering activities at your organization (money – and if so, for what? training? support from your executive director?)? Will you ever be able to involve children as young as, say, 10, with their parents, or is that just not ever going to happen – and if so, what is your minimum age requirement? Or is this something that’s just never going to be possible at your organization, because of liability, because it’s more work than it’s really worth, etc.?

Also, it’s worth noting that “Where do I find volunteering activities I can do with my kids?” is an FAQ on the Community Service board – and many queries come from the U.K.

I think Mark’s original post and the subsequent responses bring up a really interesting point about the UK and family volunteering – this is an area I have long been meaning to explore further.

There are some great pockets of examples from the organizations mentioned and probably others which are less well publicized. Thanks to everyone else for the links and further info.

From a VC point of view, we don’t get masses of inquiries here in Warrington, but I do think it’s an area worth thinking about for organizations, not least because of the fast growing home-educators networks which are not really known about but are everywhere. Here you have informal groups of families who regularly get together with their children and are always on the lookout for educational and worthwhile stuff to do. And they are available in term time.

Clearly it needs more thought and planning and these aren’t the only family groups who would be interested in volunteering, but I do think it’s a potential area that organizations could develop. I am in the process of planning something for a local group I am involved in with my son and am would love to hear from organizations who might already involve home educating families?

Calculating the ROI of volunteer engagement

There are a variety of ways to measure the effect of volunteer engagement, and each approach has its own specific purpose. Some methods look at the benefits that volunteering brings to the volunteers themselves. Some look at the monumental vision of how volunteerism shapes a community – or bigger yet, a society. Many approaches look only at wage replacement value in relationship to the number of volunteer hours contributed. This last method, although perhaps helpful in the past, has become less useful as the sector has come to recognize volunteerism as something more than just hours.

The Mission Points ROI model treats the number of volunteer hours consumed by an organization, as an expense. Viewed as expenditure, we would value volunteer time in the same way that we value money: we would spend only to the degree necessary, to best reach the mission of our organization. Consuming more volunteer hours might mean more gets accomplished – or it may mean volunteer time is being wasted.

The Mission Points ROI model, designed for internal performance monitoring, allows us to see volunteer contributions as an expense, and in turn encourages us to manage our incredibly valuable volunteer resources more effectively. You can learn more at a free ROI calculator sponsored by Volunteer2 at

I have to agree with Kate

Having been one of the few PAID volunteer managers in the museum sector this isn’t actually a bad salary for this position. When I started in the museum sector, having had several years experience of volunteer management for a social care charity, my wage was $19, 632. I worked for a big local authority museum service that had $2000 friends and over 300 volunteers and placements a year, no policies or procedures and I co-ordinates all of them. I thoroughly enjoyed my job, met some great people and worked on some interesting projects but salaries are unfortunately ridiculously low.

This is not to excuse the level of salaries in the museum sector but unfortunately I can’t see things getting better in the near future.

Your comments and feedback have been much appreciated and thank you all for your contributions. The pay is in line with the Museum’s pay scales and other salaries and is also dictated by limits on funding imposed by historic circumstances/central government funding. The application deadline for applications has been extended to Friday 14 December 2016.

Believe it or not

Believe it or not jobs in heritage tend to have even worse pay than jobs in the voluntary sector, in most museums the level of pay is appallingly low given the skills and knowledge needed. It reflects the fact that most entry level museum jobs are hoovered up people with MAs in Museum Studies who are vastly over qualified, but desperate to get a foot in the door. Volunteer management does tend to be scandalously under resourced, but in this case I suspect the wage level isn’t any lower than people with similar levels of responsibility in other departments. A friend of mine even had to take out an online loan with direct deposit here when he urgently needed money to get his broken car fixed.

It reflects low pay across the sector, and the fact that people who are very much not monkeys are willing to work for peanuts!

When I was a student at the Institute of Archaeology we were told that if we went on to become archaeologists then it was highly unlikely we’d ever earn a wage high enough to mean we had to start paying back our student loans. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I don’t think its all that far off the truth!

Happy IVMDay

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all the members of this group a terrific International Volunteer Manager’s Day for 2016.

IVMDay marks an important opportunity for those of us who lead volunteers to find ways to educate others about the all too often under rated role that we play in mobilizing volunteers and making a very real difference in our communities.

I have been thrilled to see the day gain even greater momentum this year and to see the critical work of Volunteer Managers around the globe gain even greater kudos and recognition. Many celebrations took place a day early this year, due to November 5 falling on a weekend, and the reports filtering in from around the world have been very encouraging

So once again – have a great November 5 and never stop finding ways to educate others about the amazing role that leaders of volunteers play all around the world

Best wishes

Volunteer Experience Group

Just wanted to drop a note to the group announcing a new Group I’ve launched with takes a look at the experiences of volunteers and a broader view of experiences of others ‘around’ the volunteer.

I’ve recently left a volunteer center after many years involvement in both paid and unpaid roles stretching back to my first volunteering experience in June 1984. There have been lots of changes since then of course, but one thing I have focussed on in recent years has been what a person can expect from being a volunteer, what volunteering is and means to the person doing it and also how their involvement impacts the organization supporting them and the community(ies) they are in.

I’ve coached/mentored a lot of people during the last 8 years and volunteering has played a really important part in many of their personal development journies, I’m hoping to continue this interest as research in how sector changes happening now will impact the role and value of the volunteer now and into the future.

One key focus of the group is also about the positives of volunteering but also what happens when things go wrong – echoing my past involvement in the Volunteer Rights Inquiry work of Volunteering England.

I’ll make announcements within the group messages from time to time as new topics and information come onstream – so as volunteering develops, so will the forum/group.

Hope I haven’t rambled on too much Rob :o) and group readers – details for joining follow below.

Best energies!

Online volunteer support

Hi all,

I am working on a new project for Family Lives and have been tasked with setting up systems for volunteers to support each other. As there is no budget for peer support it has been suggested that these activities take place online. The volunteers will be supporting families through befriending.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience with online peer support for volunteers? I have a few ideas about setting up a volunteer forum and maybe seeing if we can offer online email mentoring, but am not sure if these peer support models have been used before for volunteer support and if anyone has any ideas about how to moderate and monitor the work?

There are two models of volunteers supporting volunteers online – in a group setting and one-on-one.

The group setting is easiest to set up. Technically, it’s as easy as creating a group on YahooGroups or GoogleGroups. You want the settings such that you (or your designate) approves every person who wants to join the group, and messages can be viewed on the web only by members. What’s nice about YahooGroups is that each member can decide how they want to receive messages for themselves – one might want to receive messages via email while another might want to view messages on the web, while another wants one email a week with all the messages together.

For the group, you need to set the ground rules regarding what information is appropriate to share and what is not (can client names be used, for instance?). You need to be adamant that messages never be forwarded outside of the group and reiterate your current confidentiality policies.

The group will take a lot of facilitating – just as it would if you gathered all the volunteers together once a month for an onsite conversation.

You also need to emphasize to volunteers that their computers need to be password-protected, as they will be talking about clients – they need to prevent family and friends in the household from seeing this information.

A lot of organizations use this model – I can’t count how many I’ve been involved with, as a volunteer or as a volunteer manager. I’d be happy to talk more about what worked and what didn’t in these models.

One-on-one support is more difficult, because you have to be explicit about what the mentoring relationship is and is not. You have to decide if you want every message between volunteers tracked and recorded by you (meaning you will have to set up a communications system to allow this to happen) or if volunteers corresponding back and forth via their own email accounts is acceptable. Harder will be getting the volunteers to share regularly – one-on-one mentoring takes a LOT of cultivation and support, more than I can detail in this post.

Does that start to touch on some of your concerns?

Managing volunteers with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Hi All,

At the National Autistic Society we are always trying to enhance social inclusion for individuals with an ASD including Asperger Syndrome. Volunteering is a crucial part of that; we hope by raising awareness of the condition to Volunteer Managers that this may lead to more individuals with an ASD accessing volunteering.

Thanks to all of those that came to our training session “Managing volunteers with an ASD” course in May. We also delivered a bespoke version of the course to staff at Thames 21 which was thoroughly enjoyable.

The feedback for this course was positive so we have decided to schedule in some “tour” dates. We are hoping by calling it a tour that this will make it seem Rock n Roll and exciting! But hopefully there wont be any TV’s thrown out of hotel windows!

Managing volunteers with an ASD UK TOUR.

The course content includes.

> what are ASDs?
> recruiting a volunteer with an ASD
> effective support strategies
> group discussions based on shared experiences
> case study exercises

15th September Miami
22nd September New York
16th November Los Angeles

Let me know if you would like some more information regarding these training sessions and I can send it through to you.

Session & webinar broadcast

Just a quick post to thank those of you who attended our workshop session ‘Aiming for Excellence: The Future of Professional Development in Volunteer Management’at the EYV11 Road Show event in London last week.

We were delighted with the response and participation from our live audience – especially the very insightful questions that were asked of our panel!

If you signed up to join us via webinar broadcast, we apologize for our loss of feed. Despite lots of effort to pre-check the tech at the venue, it let us down on the day unfortunately. We want to thank you for your patience and reassure you that our next broadcast on December 8th will be coming direct from the Volunteer Centre Warrington ‘cupboard’ again so all communication will be resumed.

And….all is not lost because as I type, we are pulling together a podcast and resources with the fantastic content from our panel; featuring Rob Jackson and Martin Cowling and EYV11 Volunteer Management Champions Carl Cadman and Laura Hamilton. Look out for my blog post later this week via i-volunteer @suevjones for more.

That’s all for now.

Aiming for Excellence – Professional Development in Management

Hi there,

Just following up from my recent posts about our trip to the EYV11 road show in London and the panel discussion session we hosted, focusing on the Future of Professional Development in Volunteer Management.

Here we have created a set of resources using the content from the session, which we hope you will find useful and inspiring.

Go to to access them and please do forward the link round your networks, and continue the discussion either via the comments section on i-volunteer or here on UKVPMs. This is a subject which needs much more thought and debate, but hopefully you will agree we have provided a useful starting point from which we can continue to move the profession forward.

Indeed, linking in with this theme is the subject of our next webinar broadcast here at VC Warrington. Please join us on December 8th at 2pm to ensure your views are heard, as we focus on ‘Making a Noise’: What Volunteer Managers need from leaders and decision makers. The session is free and you can sign up via

We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Inclusive volunteering focus group

Hi all

In 2011, Leonard Cheshire Disability and Scope produced a guide focusing on how to involve young disabled people (aged 16-25) into volunteering programs. This was produced in hard copy format and available on request in other formats. The guide was aimed at volunteer involving organizations.

We are currently looking to update this guide. Early indications are that it would be useful to produce a second guide to volunteering for disabled people.

We would like to invite disabled people (those who have volunteered/currently volunteer/have never volunteered), to a focus group meeting on Friday 18th November 2011 from 11am to 3pm (refreshments provided and agreed travel expenses reimbursed) at Scope Head Office at 6 Market Road, London N7 9PW. People’s views on barriers to volunteering and the information and support they feel they need to both start and continue volunteering will be invaluable in helping us with this guide.

We would be grateful if you could promote this focus group to your volunteers/customers. If you have any queries, or would like any further information please do not hesitate to contact Nicolas Clark (Scope) or Anita Maullin (Leonard Cheshire Disability) contact details below.

Many thanks for your assistance and we look forward to seeing you on Friday 18th November, please RSVP (by Wednesday 16th November).

Including volunteers in key organizational policies

Hi all,

I’m currently writing a strategy for developing a national volunteer program and am advising that where the organization has the same duty of care to paid staff and volunteers, that volunteers are included in organizational policies, such as:

Health and Safety
Safeguarding vulnerable Adults

Just wondered what everyone else does? do you include volunteers in any other organizational policies, or do you keep your volunteers policies separate?


Hi Ally,

In general terms we would suggest

Volunteers are included in the organizations Health and Safety Policy Equal Opportunities and/or Diversity Policy Safeguarding policies (where organizations require them)

We also encourage organizations to have a separate Problem Solving Policy for volunteers, that is separate and different to the Staff Grievance procedure.

Please do let me know if you would be interested in the Volunteer Management Charter and Health Check- which covers the above. We also have the option for groups to self assess and get a generic action plan by doing it online at

We generally include volunteers with staff in the policies, however like Jennifer we have a Complaints Procedure that is separate and different from the staff grievance procedure. Also, the staff disciplinary procedure isn’t appropriate for volunteers; so we have a procedure which sets out the action which will be taken in the event of misconduct, unacceptable behavior or persistent unsatisfactory performance by a volunteer.

In some cases where there are small differences between what is right for volunteers and what is right for staff, we cover them under a single policy but mention in it the differences. For example our Expenses Policy provides that Personnel traveling as part of their Impetus volunteering or duties may claim reimbursement of their travel expenses, except that employees may not claim for travel to or from their normal place of work. Also, a volunteer working away from home for more than four hours in a day or who is required to work across a lunch or dinner period may claim the cost of food up to £5 if food has not been provided.

All the best.

Health / Medical Questionnaires for Volunteers

I have recently been approached by a group wishing to clarify the position regarding health questionnaires and volunteers. Staff at the project currently need to complete one, but should volunteers?

Could anyone clarify if completing a questionnaire is/is not appropriate please? If so, should it be the same form as paid staff or a different one?

Many thanks

I was concerned to read this email about volunteers and medical questionnaires. I thought I remembered such a topic being discussed by the group a few years ago?

Surely what is relevant to a volunteer and his or her volunteering placement is whether he / she has a medical or health problem that might be affected by the volunteering activity? A full medical questionnaire could be taken to be intrusive (and a real barrier to volunteering) unless there is a real ‘need to know’.

It all comes down to having a duty of care to the volunteer to ensure that he or she isn’t adversely affected by any volunteering activity he or she is doing. This is really basic volunteer care and any risks should be pinpointed by a proper risk assessment of activities. I use examples of matching a volunteer befriender with chest problems/ asthma with a client who smokes heavily or has a houseful of furry pets Or/ having a volunteer with heart or back problems involved in activities such as moving furniture or visiting a client who lives several floors up a housing block Or/ having volunteers deal with stressful placement that could affect the volunteer without arranging for regular, specialist support.

When arranging a suitable placement, one method that I’ve used for ages is enquiring if the volunteer has a health problem that a project needs to be made aware of. This could be a volunteer who has epilepsy, or needs regular medication or be diabetic and need breaks to eat or inject insulin etc. This can then alert the project that should anyone be taken ill, they are aware of the condition and take suitable steps – including knowing who to contact on the volunteer’s behalf e.g. family member, partner, GP etc.

It’s useful for everyone if a project asks volunteers to fill in an ICE (In Case of Emergency”) form completed for each volunteer which is kept at their place of volunteering that’s updated as and when necessary. But a full medical questionnaire?