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Effectively Communicating with Volunteers


10 July 2017

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much" the words of Helen Keller almost 100 years ago but they stand just as strong today.

Our second Volunteer Conference, held last month was great testament to this, with over 60 people travelling to Newcastle for the day, engaging in discussions, group work with hand-crafted bunting thrown in for good measure!

This was the second time the Charity had held an event like this; it was a fantastic opportunity to invite contributors to our work and ask them to share their ideas about how the Charity can move forward.

A New Strategy

As part of the new strategy, one of our commitments is to help twice as many people as we already do. With a relatively small amount of staff, we can only achieve this when supported by our team of nearly 300+ volunteers nationwide. This includes those who put on bake sales, run teleconferences, manage charity stands at events but ultimately, all who spread the word and let their colleagues know that the Charity exists to help them. Every single bit of volunteering activity is vital in getting our name out there so that our community knows who we are and how we can help.

But how effectively can charities, such as ours, communicate this…?

For us, the most important method of communication is face-to-face. It may seem obvious, but we’ve consistently found this to be the most effective way for our volunteers to ask questions or raise concern. The return on investment in doing this, always pays dividends.

Most importantly, face-to-face communication also give us the opportunity to ask volunteers how they’re getting on and to say ‘thank you’ for the time they are giving  - something we ensure we do on a regular basis.

Face-to-face communication is also about inspiration. From understanding the practicalities of improving the way we manage our expanding volunteer team to organising networking activities.

It’s also essential we clearly communicate the outcome of the volunteer time as well as our mission: what will be accomplished/who will be impacted?

How we’re doing it…

Facebook and Twitter are proving an effective way of encouraging our volunteers to support our campaigns, events and new projects. Social networks are about engagement - real people having real conversations and exchanges. We actively encourage our volunteers to share their experiences and top tips with each other via these platforms.

We’ve also found regular email newsletters are an effective way of keeping volunteers up-to-date with anything that directly affects them and also, the broader work of the organisation. People tend to feel more motivated when they can see how their work fits in with broader objectives, so we don’t limit communications solely to their area of activity. We keep ours simple, short and to the point, ensuring there is only one ‘call to action’ and that it’s a clear ask that can easily be shared with colleagues by one click of a “forward” button.

It’s this on-going communication with our supporters online that’s making our organisation’s relationship with our volunteers truly interactive, two-way, and enabling us to feel confident in their support as we move forward into an exciting new period.