Taking the management of our volunteers to the next level
Many Caritas organisations across Europe work with volunteers, mostly with volunteers from the same country, but sometimes also with international volunteers. For many Caritas organisations, volunteering is at the heart of our action. As my colleague Agnieszka put it: volunteering is a life lesson.
We want to be able to support our volunteers in the best way possible and to do so, we need strong volunteer management systems. We need clear guidelines and a culture in which all those involved, from the volunteers up to the leadership and governance of the organisations, are aware of the added value, and promote the role, of volunteers in the work of Caritas and for the communities we serve.
We are also aware that volunteering is not a freestyle exercise. For this reason and despite the challenges raised by the current lockdown, the ABC-EUAV partners took part in a training for staff involved with volunteer’s programmes. The objective was to strengthen existing volunteer management practices, and to prepare those who have not yet worked with international volunteers to host them in the future. This training covered the many aspects of the volunteer management cycle:
- Do we share the interpretation of the concept on volunteering and its core principles?
- How do we prepare our organisation to work with volunteers? Have we considered all the legal implications and foreseen at least a dedicated small budget? As you know, volunteers do not get paid, but that does not mean that they don’t cost anything. We need to make sure to have a budget available so that our volunteers are given the essential resources to make meaningful contributions.
- Do we have solid recruitment processes? We have to properly assess where we need support from volunteers, and what the volunteer can provide. We need to be able to select the right candidates and give them a good and comprehensive induction on their work and the context they work in before they start.
- How can we enhance the chances of having volunteers stay with us? We should find ways to keep them motivated, recognise their contributions and give them the chance to propose new ideas and be listened to. We also need to have dedicated staff that can monitor, evaluate and support our volunteers individually and our volunteer programme as a whole.
- Did we consider that the requirements for working with international volunteers are a little bit different than working with local volunteers?
This training was initially supposed to take place in Vienna, but because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we held it in an online classroom. Just like when working with volunteers, you need to be ready to be creative and adapt! As a next step, the participants will replicate the training with their colleagues in their respective organisations.