Charities should respond to volunteer enquiries within hours, report says

The study by sector consultancy nfpSynergy also says that people want to find volunteering activities that fit in with their interests and skills

Volunteers play a crucial role in the work of charities
Volunteers play a crucial role in the work of charities

Charities that want to recruit volunteers should respond to enquiries about volunteering within two hours and focus on what the volunteer wants, rather than just on what the organisation requires, according to a report from the sector consultancy nfpSynergy.

The first part of the seven-part report, The New Alchemy: the political and social landscape for volunteering, to be published tomorrow, says that people approaching charities about volunteering now expect a response in less than 24 hours, or the next day. It also says that if people are expected to give up their free time to do something in the community, they want activities that fit in with their interests and skills.

"Volunteers want to receive a response, even if it’s just a holding response, within a couple of hours, not three weeks," says the report. "People’s expectations are changing and we are getting more demanding, but that’s because we are doing so as a society."

The report, based on a literature review and interviews with volunteering experts and volunteer managers, quotes one volunteer manager who says: "This sector, traditionally, has never really focused on what the volunteer wants – it was primarily focused on what it wants and has just expected people to fit in with that."

Joe Saxton, founder of nfpSynergy, told Third Sector that it should not take charities three weeks to get back to a volunteer; those that take this amount of time to respond should not be surprised if they struggle to enlist helpers.

He said that in order to focus on volunteers’ needs, charities should use sign-up forms to ask people about their motivations for volunteering, and hold regular team meetings to monitor a volunteer’s progress and satisfaction in their role. Committed volunteers should be given review sessions, like paid members of staff, where they receive tips on how they can improve.

"Charities need to remember that people have lots of other choices," he said. "So giving committed volunteers a sense of what they do, giving them a sense that they’re part of it, and asking them what they want out of it or what the charity could do better, is critical."

The further six parts of the report will be released over the coming months.

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