What we do
Volunteer Centre West Berkshire provides support to volunteer involving organisations so that the number and diversity of volunteers can be increased. We can also advise on good practice regarding volunteer recruitment, retention and management.
Some of the key services we offer include:
- Brokerage: Matching individuals who are interested in volunteering with local opportunities
- Marketing: Encouraging interest in volunteering and community activity
- Good Practice Development: Promoting good practice and providing information on training
- Developing Volunteer Opportunities: Working in partnership with local organisations to set up new volunteering opportunities
- Policy Response and Campaigning: Promoting any issues that affect volunteers or volunteering
- Strategic Development of Volunteering: We help plan for the long term future of volunteering in West Berkshire
Registering Your Volunteer Opportunity
Promoting volunteering in West Berkshire
Once your volunteer opportunity is registered, it will be promoted via a number of methods, including:
- Regularly featured in the local press including the Newbury Weekly News
- Bulletins circulated to 100s of volunteers who have previously registered with us
- Bulletins circulated to West Berkshire parish councils
- We run special campaigns and events to promote volunteering generally
- We hold an annual recruitment event in the Corn Exchange, Newbury – alongside this there is a large publicity campaign
- We hold an annual recruitment event in Thatcham
- We use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter
And we take many, many more other opportunities to spread the word about volunteering in West Berkshire!
Complete the forms, then post or email them back to us. That’s all there is to it.
Creating volunteer roles
Before you register your volunteer needs with us … spend some time thinking through what roles volunteers are needed to undertake will reap dividends. Being clear about roles makes recruitment easier and means that potential volunteers understand the volunteering opportunity available. A straight-forward role description that sets out clearly the skills, experience and time commitment required means that organisations are more likely to attract volunteers with the most to contribute to each role.
In organisations with paid staff, setting out volunteer roles can also help to reassure staff about what volunteers are being recruited to do and minimise confusion about the different roles of staff and volunteers.
We are able to assist you with the development of your volunteer roles, as well as with the completion of the forms.
For more information on creating roles, visit:
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations: Creating and advertising the volunteer role | NCVO
Other volunteer recruitment methods
Registering your volunteer needs with us will ensure we can promote your requirements to 1,000s of potential volunteers. However, we will be happy to advise you on other methods you may wish to use.
We meet potential volunteers in our office and using our database based registration procedure we are able to learn about their interests, passions, skills, reasons for volunteering and time available. Using this information, we can then establish the best volunteer opportunities for them to consider. We will then either make referrals for them by telephone contact at the point of registration, or they will take information away to consider and may then decide to make their own contact with you, but we do encourage them to tell you they received the information from us.
If potential volunteers enquire online, we receive their registration details and will then send back to them full information, including your contact details – in these cases they will almost always make direct contact with you.
Once you have heard from a potential volunteer or their details have been passed on to you by us, it is crucial you maintain the interest by responding to them quickly. Get them on board as soon as you can -before someone else does! Although the procedure for screening volunteers can take a little time, especially if you require CRB checks, you could maintain their interest by sending an information pack or by inviting them to visit and find out about your organisation. However you do this, though, keep them informed. An application form can help you get the information you need from a volunteer, but try not to make it too daunting or too like a job application, and we advise you not to make completing this the first thing you require from a potential volunteer.
If the role of the volunteer involves working with vulnerable people and/or working unsupervised it might be wise to have procedures for screening potential volunteers. It is important to apply these consistently to all volunteers; most people will understand that such procedures are necessary to safeguard the organisation and the people who use its services.
You may wish to take up references for volunteers, particularly if they will be working unsupervised or will have direct access to people who are vulnerable.
Where the volunteer opportunity involves unsupervised access to children or other vulnerable people, you might also wish to ask if volunteers have any criminal convictions or cautions. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 people working in this field as staff or volunteers are required to declare even spent convictions. You need to have clear guidelines in advance what types of offence would prevent someone from being accepted as a volunteer, and whether or not you will make any exceptions (e.g. length of time since the offence, one-off offences).
The Disclosure and Barring Service has been set up to enable organisations to access criminal record checks for roles that involve unsupervised access with children or vulnerable adults. You need to bear in mind that criminal record checks are fallible and are cannot substitute for good practice procedures by your organisation which minimise the risks.
Meeting with a volunteer can help you clarify what their interests and skills are and what your organisation is offering as a volunteer role. You might want to make clear what time commitment you are hoping for, the duration, and how long it is likely to be before they can start.
Turning a volunteer down
If they are really not suitable for a particular task, try not to turn down an offer of help – can you find them another role within the organisation? If you are going to turn a volunteer down, let them know as soon as possible, thank them for their offer and be as honest as you can about the reasons. It can be very demoralising not to hear anything, or to be told that help is no longer needed when the organisations is still advertising for volunteers. If it is not possible for you to involve a potential volunteer who approaches you please refer them back to us so that we can help them to find something else.
Keeping us informed
We welcome feedback – this helps us ensure the information we keep is accurate and also enables us to keep the statistics we need so that we can keep others aware of the value we give to the local voluntary sector. Therefore, please do let us know the outcome of any volunteers that we have referred to you, and please do tell us if there are any changes to your volunteer requirements or contact details.
Managing volunteers can sometimes throw up difficult situations or leave you wondering what the best approach is. Whether you have queries around legal issues, support needs or other issues, we can offer you support and advice on all issues surrounding volunteering.
Below is a checklist of some of the main points you may wish to consider:
- Write a volunteering strategy
- Write volunteering policies
- Write a role description
- Ensure you have necessary references and DBS checks
- Induct all new volunteers and those taking on a new role
- Provide relevant training
- Provide support, supervision and management
- Ensure volunteer documents do not set out “rights” or “obligations”
- Treat your volunteers in line with Equal Opportunities and Health & Safety Guidelines
- Pay out of pocket expenses such as travel and lunch where possible
A volunteer’s first few visits can be crucial in deciding whether or not they stay, so it is important to make them feel welcome and to introduce them to the layout of the building, other members of the organisation or team, and any procedures they will be expected to follow. Induction or training (formal or informal) at the beginning of volunteering, and the opportunity for ongoing training, can help make sure volunteers are clear about their role and have an understanding of the aims and structure of the organisation. It may be useful to have a simple volunteer information sheet or handbook with a guide to what the organisation does, who’s who in the organisation, dos and don’ts for volunteers, health and safety information, essential telephone numbers etc.
Volunteers need to have a named person in the organisation who acts as their point of contact. For some types of volunteering regular supervision may be appropriate; for others it may just be a case of knowing who they should contact if they need help or support or if they wish to develop or change their role. Some organisations support volunteers in additional ways such as social events to recognise the volunteers’ contribution, or support meetings for volunteers to attend. You may find it helpful to have some organised way of allowing volunteers to have an input into the running or development of the organisation – such as a volunteer representative at meetings or on committees, or an annual questionnaire for volunteer feedback.
As volunteers donate their time and energy to your organisation free of charge, it is important that they are not also financially out of pocket because of their volunteering. This is particularly important if volunteers are on a low income. Expenses should be reimbursed at the actual cost incurred with receipts (bus tickets, till receipts etc.) kept to show that they were genuinely paid for. In the case of mileage, this should be repaid at the Inland Revenue approved rates per mile and a mileage record should be kept of each journey. Never pay a flat rate to volunteers as this will be seen by the Inland Revenue as taxable income and can also result in volunteers being seen as paid employees and therefore subject to employment law (including the minimum wage). It can also jeopardise a volunteer’s state benefits. Acceptable out-of-pocket expenses you can reimburse to volunteers include:
- Travel to and from the place volunteering
- Necessary travel carried out in the course of volunteering
- Meals required while volunteering
- The cost of child or dependant care while volunteering
- Any special equipment or phone calls, postage etc. necessary for the volunteering task
Training and sharing good practice
We are happy to give advice on a one to one basis to organisations on all aspects of your volunteer recruitment, retention and management needs, and can talk to you about how we could work with your organisation on how specific training could be delivered. We also run occasional workshops on topics related to volunteering, and if you are registered with us you will receive details.
If you have any queries about the registration process or about Volunteer Centre West Berkshire generally, please contact our director Garry Poulson on 01635 49004, or send us an email at email@example.com.