One-Off Team Volunteering

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Like many not-for-profit organisations you will probably be able to identify tasks or projects that would improve your surroundings and benefit both you and your service users. It may be a fresh look for part of your premises or improvements to your grounds. It may even be organising and staging an event or help with another one-off task.

There are also teams of volunteers, usually from corporate organisations who are looking for just such one off opportunities. Offering such a team an opportunity to volunteer with you on a one off basis can be rewarding for both parties. This article will help you to identify suitable projects within your organisation and to guide you when engaging with teams of volunteers.

Identifying the project

The first task is to identify a suitable project. Each team’s needs are different but there are common features that teams look for when trying to find a volunteering challenge. Of course with any project you need to think it through and do some planning. It is important to understand what you want and to be able to articulate your expectations to the team.

The team’s motivations

Generally teams are looking for both an effective team building experience and an opportunity to do something worthwhile in the community, rather than being stuck in the training room. They want something which benefits society. With a bit of planning you can provide them with an opportunity that is interesting and of clear value to you and to them.

Remember there is nothing wrong with the hard sell! Play up what your organisation is about and how by the team helping you –they will enhance the lives of many service users.

Viability

It is important to be realistic about the task you set. It might be nice to have part of your car park dug up and turned into a wild flower meadow but few teams of volunteers will have the skills to start getting stuck in to tarmac with pneumatic drills – and you don’t have the insurance. That doesn’t mean that the whole thing is a write off, it just means that you might have to employ the professionals at the start to do the skilled or dangerous work then advertise for a team of volunteer to do the unskilled, time consuming bit.

Any team opportunity set must be achievable. Most teams of volunteers are not coming to you with construction or decoration skills. They are likely to be enthusiastic amateurs but in our experience more than able to deliver great results.

Safety

Safety is vital and even with simple challenges, such as decorating; you may have to think about providing volunteers with suitable scaffolding platforms to help them reach high ceilings for example.

Size of team

As part of the selection of the project you must consider how many volunteers you need to complete the task. Larger teams can be great for large projects but practicalities may limit them to outdoor tasks. If the team are primarily looking for a team building experience then they may not want to be split into smaller groups, although doing so may help improve competition between groups as they work towards a common goal. Negotiation is essential with the team you recruit to ensure that both of you get what you want.

When you identify a challenge

Skills or Equipment?

Teams generally do not have specific skills. They may have useful DIY skills but it is unrealistic to expect to get teams who can re-wire electrics or other such skilled work. Teams are volunteers and should be viewed and treated as such.

Be clear on what you are asking a team to do

It is important when you are setting your challenge to be specific and exact in what you want a team to do. You might advertise that you want a team to create a wildlife pond but if they turn up only to find out that it’s more like a wild life lake – they are unlikely to be happy.

Time to complete

This is very important. Most teams are looking for challenges which will last one or two days. Teams are realistic and we advise them to be prepared for some advance planning or advance sourcing of materials. If you have a larger project which is likely to need more than two days’ work, why not split the job into different tranches and advertise those?

Materials

You may have access to a small budget to pay for materials. This can be useful but many teams are happy to take on the sourcing of materials as part of the challenge. It will depend on what you need – for example if you are a café and asking for them to paint your kitchen, you may require specialist paint. It might be unrealistic to ask a team to source this by donation from a DIY centre. If equipment such as a platform is required, it may be more appropriate for you to source this and have it available for your team of volunteers.

Insurance

You must check that your volunteer’s insurance covers teams doing one off task. It is vital that they are covered and in most instances you will need to advise you insurance provider that you are engaging a team for a one off task.

Say thank you

Send thank you cards. It is such as small thing but all too often overlooked. More disappointment has been expressed by teams over small details like this than on any other subject. So remember – thank them in person and thank them in writing!

Top tips

Small things matter to volunteers and it is no different when we are talking about a team of volunteers.

  • Is there any way that your service users could be included in the volunteering? As a minimum it would be good practice to introduce the volunteers to the people they are going to help. This aids buy-in from the team. It may not be appropriate for the team to work directly with the people they are working for but it is important that they understand what your service is all about.
  • Take 10 minutes at the start to explain a little about your work to the team. This is your opportunity to spread the word about your service and reach an audience who may never have heard of it before. Team members who leave with a good understanding of the work that you do are more likely to tell others, consider volunteering with you as an individual or encourage their company to continue supporting you through their CSR programme.
  • Don’t let a great event be spoiled by small details. Remember the team may not have been in your type of environment before. If you have a no smoking/no alcohol policy in your project remember to tell people this. If the team are working in a centre which supports people with learning disabilities for example, many of them may never have spent time with people who have disabilities and they might be nervous about it. A few minutes spent introducing people and explaining anything that they need to know can make the whole experience much more enjoyable and be an opportunity to educate.
  • Make sure that the team leader has clear contact details for you, including name, address, e-mail, phone number etc.
  • Make sure you know where the team are from and try and find out about them.
  • Make sure that you feed and or refresh them. They are giving their time and they will appreciate lots of tea and coffee.
  • Even if your project is not open when the team are doing their work – remember that you must be there to greet them and to let them know where stuff is/what to do if etc.

Team Volunteering Checklist

Use this handy checklist to make sure that you have everything in place for your team volunteering opportunity:

  • Contact details for team leader obtained.
  • Your contact details given to team leader.
  • Number of volunteers confirmed and all volunteers given details of organisation’s aims/work.
  • Date for event agreed.
  • Starting time for event agreed.
  • Materials required identified.
  • Agreement on who will provide what materials.
  • Volunteer Insurance cover checked.
  • Refreshments organised.
  • Publicity strategy (if applicable) agreed.
  • Any special information/induction given to team.
  • Thank you letter sent to team.

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