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Investing in Volunteers

by Katie Giles 22/11/2023

ShelterBox is thrilled to have achieved the Investing in Volunteers standard. It’s a recognition of the important part volunteers play in our work. In this blog learn more about the standard, and what it means for the organisation and our volunteers.

What is Investing in Volunteers?

Investing in Volunteers logo (yellow tick with red wording in a circle) on a white background

 

Investing in Volunteers is the UK quality standard for organisations working with volunteers. It is awarded to organisations who have proven that they value their volunteers. It also makes recommendations for improvements.

For organisations that receive the award, it provides feedback on how they are supporting their volunteers. And current and future volunteers know that they will be supported and appreciated.

How was ShelterBox assessed for the award?

ShelterBox volunteer standing at a table with display items
One of our volunteers in action at an event!

 

Volunteers have always been an essential part of ShelterBox’s work. We currently have around 250 supporting us. Our assessment with Investing in Volunteers took two and half days, spread over 6 days to accommodate the variety of time zones of our affiliates.

All types of volunteer role we offer were looked at. This includes Ambassadors (who represent ShelterBox at events and talks) and Brand Ambassadors. There are also ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) volunteers, and HQ volunteers. The final role is Rotary District Coordinators.

In total Investing in Volunteers interviewed 33 volunteers and 11 staff members. Alongside the interviews we also submitted paperwork. This included a self-assessment, organisational policies and our volunteer handbook.

The assessment considered six areas:

  1. Vision for Volunteering – This assessed whether volunteering was embedded and recognised across the whole organisation. ShelterBox was founded by volunteers, and they remain a key part of the organisation. This was recognised during the assessment process. As one staff member said, “During peak times, we would collapse without them.” During the assessment phase we developed action plans for the six volunteering areas. We also made improvements in recording volunteer hours and feedback.
  2. Planning for volunteers – This looked at policies, plans and procedures in place to manage volunteers. Our Volunteer Development Manager (VDM) updated the policies and plans relating to volunteers. Volunteers confirmed they felt that volunteer management had improved.
  3. Volunteer inclusion – This ensures that there is a positive approach to inclusion, equality and diversity. It also checks if there is a proactive approach to making volunteering approachable. The assessment recognised how ShelterBox volunteers have become increasingly diverse over the years. There are plans in place to further widen this. The assessment also encouraged us to look at diversity in the whole organisation. This highlighted areas where we can improve in the future.
  4. Recruiting and welcoming volunteers – An assessment of whether potential volunteers can easily find out about volunteering opportunities. It also looks at how simple it is to approach and join the organisation. In recent years the volunteer recruitment process has been refined and improved. We advertise new roles online with an easy application process. The VDM then oversees and supports the recruitment process. They also check in regularly with new volunteers. The role and training for SRT volunteers, who deploy to locations where we are working, is currently under review. Improvements are planned to the assessment and training for new team members.
  5. Supporting volunteers – A look at whether volunteers feel supported. It also assesses if volunteers feel they belong to the organisation and make a difference. It was recognised that our volunteers all feel a strong sense of working towards a shared cause. One volunteer shared, “It’s like all hands to the deck when there’s been a disaster. The guys get deployed, and we get out there drumming up support. Like we’re all working together towards the same aim. It really makes me feel that I am helping to make a difference.” SRT volunteers were also universally positive about support while on deployment. New ways for supporting volunteers are currently evolving. This includes introducing a new annual questionnaire based on Investing in Volunteers. As such volunteers will be able to regularly give feedback.
  6. Valuing and developing volunteers – This looks at how volunteers are valued by the organisation. It also assesses if they have opportunities to learn through volunteering. All our volunteers expressed how much they enjoyed their role and felt it was valued. One said, “I’m too old to go out there with them now, much as I would love to, but I get a strong sense from HQ that even my small contribution is helping.” Many also mentioned how volunteering has enhanced their skills and boosted their confidence. Many volunteers also expressed how much they appreciate the trust we put in them.

Recommendations moving forward

Man sitting in front of mountains in Ethiopia
ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Ian Neal in Ethiopia

 

The Investing in Volunteers standard recognises the quality of the volunteering we offer. But we know we’re not perfect! Some recommendations made as part of the assessment we’ll be looking at in the future.  

One recommendation was that SRT volunteers feed more into the review of this role. Communication also needed improvement around the progress of the review. Team volunteers were also keen to use their skills more! This is something that will feed into the rest of review and help planning going forward.

It was also suggested that we ensure our Ambassadors are sharing up to date information. Volunteers in remote roles would also like more support. This is something we will look to improve in the future.

Final recommendations were that new staff are trained in the importance of volunteers. They also suggested we assess the impact of our Brand Ambassadors with web statistics.

We’ll be looking to improve in these areas before the next review of our Investing in Volunteers status.

So why is it important?

Group of people in a warehouse in Morocco posing with a Rotary Logo
ShelterBox and Rotary team members and volunteers joined forces to prepare aid arriving in Morocco for distribution following the earthquake there

 

It might be tempting to ask, does Investing in Volunteers status actually matter? For us, the answer is an unequivocal yes!

As mentioned above, ShelterBox was originally started and run by volunteers. And although we have grown and changed a great deal since, volunteers are still a key part of how we work. We simply wouldn’t be able to achieve all that we have without them! As such it’s really important to us that we are giving our volunteers the best experience possible. We want to ensure they feel supported and know that their contributions are valued. Investing in Volunteers encouraged us to look at our volunteering and make improvements. And the recommendations give us areas where we can continue to improve and evolve.

We want our volunteers to enjoy the work they do for us, and to gain new skills along the way. It’s great to have our successes recognised, and to have areas where we can do even better.

A thank you to our volunteers

Man with a projected display speaking to an audience
Our volunteer Ambassadors share information on ShelterBox through talks and events

 

In celebration of our volunteers, we held our first Volunteer Conference in Bristol on the 18th and 19th of November.

It was a weekend filled with up-to-date information and workshops. We aimed to re-engage and re-inspire our ShelterBox Ambassadors and District Coordinators. Here is some of the fantastic feedback on the weekend –

I very much enjoyed the event, and found it to be invaluable in imparting the latest news, views and facts to diffuse. Apart from some well-planned and executed sessions, what struck me (and others with whom I spoke) was the synergy across all volunteers and ShelterBox staff, with a dedicated enthusiasm so evident; not that I needed it, but I felt that the value of my role was affirmed wholeheartedly. I will return to Ireland determined to enact my ‘Stop, Start and Continue’ mantra. Thank you”.

To all our volunteers we want to say a massive thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done. You have made a real difference in the lives of people without shelter.

Enjoy this video as a thank you!

 

 

Volunteer with us!

Woman wearing a ShelterBox shirt holding eyeglasses and lip masks in front of her face
Volunteering with us can be fun, and make a real difference to those without shelter after disaster

 

We are always happy to welcome new volunteers! Visit our Volunteering page to see which roles we are currently recruiting for.

Learn more

 

Read more


Volunteering at ShelterBox

Every volunteer is instrumental in providing shelter to families after disaster, wherever they are in the world. Find out how you can get involved here.

Rotary District Coordinators

Rotarians who connect with Rotary Clubs to strengthen their support for ShelterBox .
(recruiting)

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