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Of the 22 million adults who take part in formal volunteering in the UK each year, thousands are active within the NHS. In 2006, Volunteering England indentified nearly 100 different volunteer roles that were making a contribution to health and social care services.
The fact is, Macmillan relies on many of these volunteers to help it support people affected by cancer. There are lots of exciting ways that Macmillan professionals are involving volunteers to enhance their services and to improve the patient experience. As such, volunteers are becoming an increasingly integral part of many teams.
The volunteer who offered the hearty quote above was part of a very active team supporting Macmillan Information Radiographer Amanda Ford at Ipswich Hospital. Amanda’s head and neck support group volunteers not only provide excellent support to people with cancer (including a 24-hour mobile phone service), but are also involved in making a DVD for recently diagnosed patients. There are many more great examples of what volunteers are able to contribute to a service.
We aim to share some of those ways of working and to highlight not only how volunteers contribute, but how you can support volunteers to ensure both they and your patients get the best experience possible. This is a fantastic opportunity to see how you can best work with those individuals who could potentially assist you by greeting patients, providing transport, running support groups, lending a listening ear, ploughing through the paperwork, providing benefits advice, signposting, training other volunteers – and yes, even possibly making a brew.
Building skills in volunteer management will help you to get the best from existing and new volunteers who will be able to help you meet the needs of everyone affected by cancer. Volunteers in Macmillan services Volunteers are vital to Macmillan’s work – they allow us to help more people living with cancer.
Macmillan was started 100 years ago by a volunteer called Douglas Macmillan, and volunteers are still an integral part of the charity. Volunteering enables Macmillan to extend its reach. Our volunteers speak about Macmillan and donate their time to advance our objectives. We know that the number of people living with and beyond cancer is going to increase from two million to a projected four million by 2030.
To meet the needs of these people, our service provision has to be innovative, cost effective and responsive. Volunteers can play a key part in helping to meet this need by volunteering their time in services such as information centres.
Many of us are happy with the idea of volunteers being involved in fundraising or answering the phones, but may have some reservations about volunteers working directly with people affected by cancer in our services.
Concerns around confidentiality, boundaries and reliability often come up when considering volunteers in a services setting. Macmillan can support you to ensure that processes are in place to provide a quality experience for both volunteers and people affected by cancer.
The enthusiasm volunteers bring to their roles, coupled with the range of skills they offer from a variety of backgrounds, adds immeasurable value to services and helps meet local need. However, the concerns mentioned above still need to be considered, and part of the work of Macmillan’s volunteering advisers is to help colleagues and Macmillan professionals address these issues.
Individual trusts and healthcare rganisations may already have their own policies with regards to the involvement of volunteers.
We recommend that you contact your existing volunteering department, where available. It can help with specific policies regarding CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks, confidentiality forms, and other recruitment and training processes. Your regional volunteering adviser can help you to ensure your volunteers feel part of Macmillan and that they receive a high-quality experience, while meeting any organisational requirements.
Another worry that people sometimes have is that volunteering is about replacing paid roles with voluntary ones. It’s important to recognise that volunteering is about adding to and enhancing services run by experienced professionals.
As the December 2010 government Giving Green Paper states: ‘This is not about providing public services on the cheap. There are significant benefits for those who give their time – in terms of building skills, making new friends and connections, and even for their health. There are benefits for communities too – by including volunteers in service delivery, we can increase the sense of ownership by the communities that access these services, and can improve community cohesion.’
There must always be a clear distinction between volunteers and staff. Care must be taken to avoid implying a contract or agreement with a volunteer by: - avoiding giving volunteers income - reducing perks that can be seen as consideration - reducing obligations on the part of the volunteer - avoiding making the relationship sound contractual - making it clear that you don’t intend to create a contract - creating a distinction between paid workers and volunteers - treating volunteers fairly.
Your regional volunteering adviser can help you with your volunteer programme. We have lots of tools and guidance for you to use, as well as being able to provide one-to-one advice to you on the specific needs of your service.
This is key to successful volunteer management. Take time to think about what the volunteers will be doing. The first question should be: ‘What does the person affected by cancer need?’ Work back to recruit the right volunteer from there. This will inform the role description which will highlight what is expected of the volunteer in their role (and what they are not expected to do). We have sample role descriptions for you to use so you don’t have to start from scratch.
2. Recruitment and 3. Selection
As Teresa says, ’It’s … crucial for both parties to be able to assess whether or not it is the right person for the right role.’ We can help you decide where to recruit, how to target your recruitment, how to shortlist, how to interview and what kind of questions you may want to ask. We also advise on how to sensitively say ‘no’ to volunteers who aren’t right for the role.
All new volunteers should receive an induction. The induction session is the most important training you offer a volunteer because it’s their first impression of Macmillan and your service. It should help the volunteer to understand how the service works. It should explain what is expected of them and what they can expect from the service. It’s important to provide the volunteer with information that will help them identify their own role within the overall function of the service, and better understand how they can contribute to the service’s aims. We have example induction checklists which you can adapt for your service.
You will have invested a lot of time in recruiting and inducting your volunteers. Supporting them is the next stage in developing your relationship and retaining their support. Think about other paid or voluntary work you have done – what made you stay longer or hastened your leaving? Good support is essential to: - enable volunteers to carry out their role effectively - show volunteers that you care - stop problems from arising by creating an opportunity to discuss and address issues - increase what they can do for your service by finding out what interests them and identifying development opportunities.
6. Learning and development
Learning and development is important because it: - prepares volunteers for what they will encounter - passes on skills to enable volunteers to do a task with competence and confidence - equips volunteers to do the task - helps volunteers realise their potential - is a way of sharing information.
7. Thanking and valuing
Once you have recruited and inducted your volunteers, it’s your skill in involving them that will help you retain their support and commitment. There are lots of ways to show your volunteers you value them including:
- making the volunteer feel part of the team
- creating a friendly and supportive environment
- giving the volunteer adequate training to do the task
- giving positive feedback.
Taking time to thank your volunteers appropriately for their contribution to your work will help to keep them enthused and motivated. You can do this by:
- saying thank you
- using the Macmillan award system (see page the back page)
- holding a thank you party
- posting a message at biggestthankyou.org.uk
- inviting volunteers to social events
- inviting volunteers to contribute to consultation forums or be consulted on informal issues.
All things come to an end - it’s a natural, healthy part of the process. The aim is that the experience has been of mutual value. It’s also a good opportunity to evaluate the role and make any changes before you go out to recruit again.
Volunteers aren’t free Volunteers can be very cost effective, but you will need to include their recruitment, training and expenses in your budget. Macmillan’s expenses policy states that ‘reasonable out of pocket expenses’ must be reimbursed, which would include travel to and from the place of volunteering. It’s a good idea to check your organisation’s policy.
Volunteer management is a skill to be learned. Your regional volunteering adviser is available to coach you in volunteer management or discuss any concerns or questions you may have about volunteers.
1. Sheila Hawkins and Mark Restall. Volunteers across the NHS: improving the patient experience and creating a patient-led service|. 2006. Volunteering England. (accessed 9 Mar 2011).
2. Cabinet Office. Giving Green Paper|. December 2010. (accessed 9 Mar 2011).
Zoe, Rebecca and Hannah are volunteering advisers at Macmillan. They support staff and Macmillan professionals by providing guidance on volunteer management and resources to enable teams to involve volunteers in their work.
Between them, they have many years experience of volunteer management, including at Barnardos, Marie Cure Cancer Care, Cancerbackup and the British Lung Foundation. They have first-hand experience of recruiting and managing a range of volunteer roles, including office administration, community fundraising, support group leads, and buddies for disabled children.
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