Everyone can volunteer.  As an organisation, you have a part to play in this.  Who might you currently exclude either consciously or sub consciously?

Ten ideas for overcoming barriers to volunteering:

  1. References
    Make it as easy as possible for volunteers to provide you with references
    Take telephone references as well as written references
    If you need a written reference, provide a tick box style form to be completed
  2. Experience
    Ask for ‘awareness’ rather than experience on advert
    Draw out information at the interview rather than ask in the advert or application form
  3. Skills & Qualifications
    Don’t make skills and qualifications a pre-requisite to volunteering
    Provide training to develop volunteer skills and qualifications
  4. Language
    Steer clear of using jargon and abbreviations in the advert, interview, etc. or provide volunteers with a glossary of terms. Have a look on plainenglish.co.uk for ideas on how to keep your language clear and simple. Consider how to create volunteer opportunities where people don’t have to speak English well & know where to signpost for ESOL
  5. Childcare
    Discuss childcare commitments upfront
    Know about childcare providers so you can signpost
    Consider how you can create flexible volunteering opportunities which fit around childcare
  6. Application Form
    Call it an ‘expression of interest’ form
    Bear in mind literacy issues and keep it short (1 page) and simple (tick boxes)
    Remember not everyone has a printer – post it out
    Sit down with potential volunteers face to face, have a conversation and you fill in the form
  7. Criminal Record Checking
    Before filling in the Disclosure and Barring paperwork, talk with the potential volunteer about what might come back and what that would mean in terms of opportunities available to them
    Welcome applications, for at least some of your opportunities, from people who may have offences and where you can’t signpost back to the Volunteer Centre to help people to find alternative opportunities
  8. Interview
    Try to make as informal as possible by not calling it an ‘interview’; doing it away from the office; not taking notes (fill in the paperwork afterwards)
    Provide expenses for potential volunteers to get to the interview
  9. Location of volunteering
    Offer volunteer opportunities at different locations thinking about accessibility, public transport, etc.
    Be clear from the start about where the volunteering will take place
    Pay transport costs
  10. Set hours/times
    Be clear from the start about what is required in terms of hours and times
    Ask volunteers about any commitments & appointments they have & discuss how they fit around their volunteering
    Be flexible

Questions to make you think about inclusion from different perspectives.  It may be useful if you print it off and record your thoughts in it…..

  • Think of a time you felt included… what was it that made you feel included?
  • What specifically did people do to make you feel included?
  • Think of a time when you didn’t feel included… what was happening to make you feel excluded?
  • Thinking about your current volunteers, what can you do to make them feel more included?

What else?

Suppose you have someone interested in volunteering with your organisation… they are marginalised in some way (because of disability, mental health issues, homelessness, past offences), how can you include them?

How else?

Suppose someone starts to volunteer with your organisation, what behaviours might make them feel excluded?

What can you do about them?

What else?

Improving volunteer roles……



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