It is safe to say that the voluntary sector needs to work hard to address inclusion and diversity challenges in the workplaces, in their volunteer work force and services. This is typically down to organisations not being as inclusive as they could be when it comes to considering individuals needs, requirements and general accommodations. This means that the many that would greatly benefit from volunteering, just aren’t getting a chance to. Here at vHelp, we are all about supporting the voluntary sector, making it not only easier for organisations to be inclusive but also, to help volunteers achieve their goals in their roles. In this article, we will be looking at our four top recommended ways to make organisations’ volunteering programme more inclusive.
The Recruitment Process
Typically, before volunteers are accepted into a role, no matter what it is, they go through a process of recruitment and screening. To attract people from different backgrounds and walks of life it is important to consider how you recruit volunteers, where and how you communicate/advertise your volunteering roles as well as how you design the roles.
Areas to consider to help make your volunteer recruitment more inclusive:
- Be ready to actively question and challenge ‘the way things are done around here’ and the assumptions your organisations has around their volunteers.
- Create more flexible volunteer roles that fit in with diverse lifestyles and be open to review current roles to fit in with volunteers’ needs.
- Look at the images and language used on current recruitment materials to make sure they are inclusive.
- Consider where you advertise the roles and what groups you are reaching; actively look for places like community support groups or other local groups that attract a more diverse audience and advertise there or attend some of their events to talk to people about your volunteering roles.
- Reduce bureaucracy, make it easy and enjoyable for volunteers to join your team.
How Training & Orientation Can Be Perceived
To truly get the most out of a volunteering position, volunteers will have to go through a training and orientation period. Not only will they learn valuable skills and lessons through this, but they will also be able to get a full understanding of the organisation and where they can fit into the growth of it. Many volunteers sign up to causes and organisations which are close to their hearts, so being able to expand upon their knowledge of the company can often be a very exciting prospect. However, it’s vital to think about diversity in this aspect. Individuals may be from different backgrounds, varying income and inequity. This can affect how training and orientation is perceived.
The first thing to think about is accessibility of all of the materials you will be using to train your volunteers. For example, a lot of training and the early stages of orientation now take place online. Whilst it’s easy to believe that having an internet connection or a computer is very common nowadays, it’s vital to understand that not everyone will readily have access to such things. Ensuring that you have options and extra support readily available for volunteers will make your organisation all the more inclusive.
Another aspect to consider is the way in which people learn. You may find that some of your volunteers are not native English speakers. Ensuring that all the learning materials you have are clear and concise, will allow these individuals to fully understand and digest the information. Also, including both formal and informal learning methods is a great option, so that your training and orientation process will appeal to larger audiences.
The Leadership Role
Leading volunteers can often be challenging. In order to do this effectively, having exceptional leadership skills is a must. The main aspect you have to consider when it comes to being a leader of volunteers is that there is a clear power imbalance between yourself and the volunteer. The individual is offering their time in order to work alongside you, it’s vital that there is a level of reciprocated respect. You may find that the imbalance of power becomes even greater if the volunteer is from an underrepresented group. So, how can you make your organisation more inclusive in this way?
Firstly, you have to make it clear that you support all your volunteers in the same way. Offering recognition across the group at all times, will ensure that everyone feels appreciated in the same way. In a similar vein, ensuring that all of your volunteers have access to the same training materials, which will aid them in achieving their goals at your organisation will help level the playing field as well as making everyone feel like they have what it takes to reach their full potential. To guarantee that all your volunteers are being heard in this way and that you are aware of their goals and needs, having a weekly or even bi-weekly meeting on a one-to-one basis is another way to focus on the individual themselves.
Typically, when volunteering, you are offering to give your time and experience to an organisation for free. Some organisations will offer to pay expenses, such as fuel to get the location or even lunch volunteers may buy whilst working with them but in some cases there is a very clear ‘culture’ of not claiming that may put some volunteers off.
However, expenses are often one of the barriers for sme people to volunteer, which leads to organisations not being inclusive. Being able to work completely for free and cover your expenses can for some, be a privilege. By your organisation offering to reimburse volunteers so they are not out of pocket, could create a more inclusive and diversified team.
However, it’s not just about volunteers being able to ask for their expenses to be reimbursed, it’s also about making it simple to do so. For example, if your organisation was to sign up to vHelp, then not only could you process expenses in a faster, more effective way but it’s also making it easier for your team of volunteers to send claims to you.