Connecting, Learning, Sharing: This time it's for Volunteers!

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By suevjones on
learning, networking, ttvolmgrs, volunteer centres and volunteer management 322 views 0 likes 16 comments

I'd like to begin this week's Thoughtful Thursday blog post by thanking you all for your weekly participation and ongoing interest.  Without your contributions  - it simply wouldn't work.  We've plans afoot to develop our approach and format slightly - I guess you could call it taking it to the next stage, so do stay tuned to be part of that later in the summer. 

Placing this weekly tweet chat in the context of what's happening in the wider world of social media, I think it's safe to say that some of us at least have reached a point where we can acknowledge the potential we now have to connect with oneanother; to extend our personal and professional networks and perhaps most interestingly for me - to learn.  Indeed, the benefits are right there for us if we take time to stop and reflect for a moment, and our last webinar broadcast Connecting, Learning, Sharing discussed this very subject.  (Do follow the link through to listen if you're new to all this or if you missed it first time round).

But what I'd like to focus on here is how we extend this connectivity, and this potential for learning and sharing to how we work with volunteers.  And to find out what you're already doing to make the most of these ever-evolving tools.

There's an obvious role here in using some of these tools for getting your messages out to new and existing volunteers and many organisations and volunteering brokers have a key presence via facebook, Twitter and right here on ivo; as well as making the most of their own websites to say more about the organisation, to tell stories and to ask for help in terms of time and funds.  Indeed, we played around with this idea for one of the earliest Thoughtful Thursday tweet chats - challenging participants to create a volunteer recruitment message in less than 140 characters.  (And, we'll definitely be repeating that one again very soon if you missed it first time round.)

But I think that the scope for engaging with these tools and methods goes way beyond developing ways to recruit volunteers.  There's an enormous potential for communicating more effectively, gaining feedback, creating discussions, for sharing, supporting and perhaps most interestingly for me - to learn.

It's much more than saying - we need to 'do' social media and then checking the box - because it will happen naturally, with or without you.  Where volunteers are concerned, we need to be thinking through how we co-ordinate and facilitate it and how we support it to develop.  Clearly, in some settings there needs to be an element of supervision or ground rules and for some great tips and examples of how to approach this check out Jayne Cravens' website. And, you will need to develop policy and reference points around it for volunteers and for paid staff - but to quote @janebozarth of learning technology twitter fame -  "trust is cheaper than control" - and I think we can apply this to more than just the tech when it comes to volunteer involvement.

So how are you making your communications, your messages and your media social?  Do you recognise the amazing potential here for informal learning?  What I believe is happening is that the technology we have available, enables us to do what we've always done - learn informally and socially and connect through our networks - it's just that it's more noticeable, more amplified and we have the potential to reach more and different people.  And I think that's really exciting!

My questions for you to get thoughtful about are these:

  • How do you see technology enabling you to recruit, support and communicate to volunteers?
  • Is this something that your organisation understands and is supportive of?
  • Have your volunteers engaged with this approach - or are they leading and driving it?
  • Do you acknowledge and recognise the potential for facilitating learning in this way, or does that feel like a step too far at this stage?

You can share your thoughts right here using the comments section below, and you can tweet in less than 140 characters using the hash tag #ttvolmgrs

As always, we look forward to hearing from you!

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Top answer

I know this is rather late - but just want to add my piece of though to the topic. Using social media - in our case Twitter and Facebook - has opened up a door to connect to our volunteers in a way we have never been able to before. We have over 5,000 of them spread around the country, and whilst we do have 20 staff looking after all these volunteers we arent really able to chat to each and everyone about their experience - and I am not sure the vols would want that anyway!
But... they tweet, sometimes they know we are there other times they dont, and they share on our FB page their ups, and sometimes downs, of volunteering and we can get straight back to them . We have a great deal of tea party photos, recipes and stories of lovely friendships developing - and mostly our volunteers promote us in a way we can't do.
It simply is priceless!
We need to be there as it is happening even if we are not - and it's always better to know what people say about you - especially when they say something nice :)



Thanks for adding your thoughts Marie - love your examples too :)

We are great fans of using the internet to reach more people, and have high hopes of IVO, but our first volunteer recruitment with IVO simply resulted in a waste of our time and money as the volunteer turned out to be a timewaster/ no show.
We fully agree with the potential for learning, in fact our secretary has just completed a research thesis relating to learning through community theatre (our focus).

Jamie Ward-Smith

Hi, really sorry to hear about your experience. Can I ask did you actually meet the volunteer or was it all done virtually? There is no excuse for people letting you down I know - otherr schemes that have to invest in uniforms or similar tend to make the volunteer pay a deposit which is returnable when the project is completed - that can be a good incentive to make sure people turn up.

I do get your frustration but to be fair I think this can happen on any recruitment site and is not just a feature of ivo. Hope it does not put you off trying again - all the best :0)

And.. here's something a little bit different, created especially for #ttvolmgrs this week by Enjoy!

Thank you for getting brilliantly stuck in to what is a really interesting and emerging topic. Some insightful comment here on ivo as always and definitely worth a read (see below) - plus here's a summary of the tweets which include very useful suggestions and examples of tech tools


As always late to the party but at least got the same day this time. ;)

Answering your Qs before reading the responses:
Technology is absolutely key for us. We do the majority of our communication with volunteers electronically one way or another. Those Branches which are using twitter or facebook get retweets and shares etc when they post. And our recruitment is done either by word of mouth or through the website. Saving paper, all our volunteer resources are online and only given in hard copy when neccessary. We use online surveys for feedback.

We have lots of support centrally. We have a new website coming out in the Autumn and part of the long term plan is to develop access for our volunteers so that they can directly manage their own pages - something they've desired since I started work here nearly 6 years ago. It's been a long time coming but always been in our minds.

Our volunteers vary widely in their response to social media. Some groups have twitter accounts, comprehensive websites, fb presence, all used regularly. Some have none of those things, but we work to nudge in that direction.

Your question about learning is sneakily broad! Our purpose is to engage the public in science so pretty much all of our uses of social media and technology tend to bring about some learning, for the end-user, and often the volunteers too. As an organization we've been engaged in social media in a variety of ways for some years but even so it feels relatively new. We have a policy that is potentially inhibiting to what we say in a personal capacity but we don't have a strategy yet to help staff and volunteers make the most of social media.

And social media can be problematic. I frequently have conflicts of volunteers finding and adding me on fb. I'd love to be friends with them but the things I say relate to my personal life not work. I tend to go middle ground and accept the friendship request but block access to pretty much everything I post. I like to keep my fb hidden so it can be a difficult path to tread when my work pages and groups are public - it makes me disengage more than I would otherwise wish. These days I try to keep out of work related things on fb and do it elsewhere, such as on ivo, the science communicaion networks, LinkedIn etc.

Twitter has a different problem. Too many people to follow to follow any at all! How do you manage it? I have one or two lists (though twitter doesn't like me adding to them). One is a list of all our related accounts and volunteer accounts so that I can easily check and retweet. Following so many people I never actually follow any at all takes away that joyous element of connection that twitter is great for. But it works brilliantly for hashtags.

I think there is yet untapped resource online for voluntary organizations like ours to benefit from.

Great post Sue thank you. I must shout out for ivo here. I know that you guys mainly use it for blogging but it has so much more potential and some organisations are really starting to get a good return for the time they spend posting volunteer opportunities - check out this post from Brighton VC which shows how they are using it , which is now going beyond just posting opportunties:

ivo was built in part because sites like Facebbok and others are not always accessible for people at work, and we've put a lot of effort into getting our site to work really well. As Brighton and many others are now finding, posts on ivo get a good rate of response and it can only get better.

Within the next few weeks we'll be adding an iframe - so you can have your ivo feeds on your own website for free - plus enhanced groups too, so do consider ivo as a viable option for volunteer recruitment, afetr all we are a social network too :0)

Hope the webinar went well btw - I caught up with Susan on Monday, she is so cool!


Absolutely shout out for ivo. I agree it has so much more to offer than the blog spaces and event posting, yet even those aspects can also be made more of by individuals and organisations I think. We are in the midst of so much change and evolvement with the way that people want and need to access information; but even better than that - we have the tools with platforms such as ivo to create conversations, reach more and different people and to develop ideas, share stuff etc. I think we need to go with the flow too and try things out, and this is the bit that some people find a bit strange and scary. We are all contributors here - and this is what we need to realise. (I could go on, but might save it for my own personal blog - shameless plug that does link with this discussion )
The webinar was great fun and we've had a fantastic response - thank you. In fact something Susan said links really well with this topic I think... "Volunteers arrive with their hearts in their hands and their brains in their mouths" - so, what are you going to do to make the most of this?

Jamie Ward-Smith

Thanks Sue, so what we can do to persuade you to post opportunities on here ;o)


Indeed :)

I think technology helps to no end when recruiting and supporting volunteers. Working for a charity that has little-to-no budget for advertising volunteer roles, I relish any opportunities to reach a lot of people for free, so websites like Guardian, CharityJob and Do-it who allow us to place adverts for free are so very welcome. I read somewhere that the vast majority of under 25s do ALL of their job/volunteer position searching online, so getting your positions out there in this way is the key means to engaging this demographic. That said, I think we need to combine using technology with other methods such as posters, newspaper adverts and events to reach the widest range of potential volunteers and truly reflect the diverse communities we work with and for.
My current charity is a bit behind the times when it comes to social media, so advertising this way is a bit novel and you can't access Facebook or Twitter from most computers, which presents a bit of an issue. That said, I have set up pages to support volunteers and found them all joining before I have had chance to finish the creation! They’re constantly adding me on LinkedIn for recommendations too. My dream for social media groups is to continue the support we offer on-site for volunteers so that they can post questions around the clock and seek support from multiple parties simultaneously. It is also a key means to offer peer support that volunteers might be reluctant to seek on a 1:1 basis.
One of the more problematic issues I've encountered with this is on Facebook, where our Social Media Policy (bleurgh) demands we create an alter ego (separate from our personal accounts) in order to administrate groups but Facebook strictly forbids it. Bit of a nightmare! I wonder if others have this problem and how they get around it?
In terms of learning, technology is similarly helpful. We make a lot of use of E-learning in my current organisation and the range of subjects volunteers can access is huge, so they can create a package really tailored to them. What’s better is that theses resources can be accessed from anywhere at any time, so long as there’s an internet connection. I think I’d like to see online, informal learning for volunteers develop within organisations I work for by having articles like this that generate discussion and tackle the issues that volunteers themselves raise.

Jamie Ward-Smith

Here in the NW region we utilise a system called It isa remote access management information system in essence designed for our special constabulary and Police Support Volunteers accessed via a secure weblink. Our volunteers can book duties ahead, update their duty/tasks at the end of their shift, can be invited to major events or operations whereby they can accept or decline at a push of a button - great for the planning teams. They can book a duty via the telephone and with most people having smart phones responses can be immediate. We can also upload announcements with atttachements and it also has an ESV, PDR function (and an emergency call out for the uniformed volunteers) and generates reports on performance. I cannot imagine life without this system now - for me as a regional co-ordinator I get a regional reporting tool too. It was hugely embraced by the special constabulary and I believe 22 police forces have adopted this system across England & Wales. It has been more difficult getting some of our non-uniformed volunteers to embrace the IT but we are getting there. As a communication tool its the best...

Jamie Ward-Smith

Sounds like a good system, we're working on something similar for the end of the year all going well :0)


Sounds fab! Very jealous! :)