Community Sponsorship groups are made up of active, highly committed volunteers. You may be meeting each other for the first time, or you may have known each other for a long time. Either way, it’s likely that this will be the first time that you will have worked with one another in this way.
We know that building relationships takes time. Constructing an effective and supportive environment in your sponsorship group will take effort – particularly if you are a new group coming together. This guide is designed to give leaders of groups some tips on managing volunteers.
There are lots of free resources on volunteer management available through your local Volunteer Centre or through websites such as:
- Know How Non-Profit
- Wales Council for Voluntary Action (Good Practice Guide)
- Volunteer Scotland
While some groups may find that they quickly attract as many volunteers as they need, others will need to recruit more people. You may be looking for people with general skills, or you may be looking for people with the specific skills and experiences that you consider most useful for delivering your resettlement plan. Drawing on the experiences of other sponsorship groups, we’ve put together some tips to help you to recruit the best volunteers:
- Advertise locally – ask your library, places of worship, local volunteer centres and community centres if you can put up posters. Talk to your friends and family about your group to generate interest via word of mouth.
- Use social media – you can advertise for volunteers across different social media platforms. Make sure to include #CommunitySponsorship so that those working across the sector will be able to help you promote these opportunities.
- Host events and meetings – sponsor groups have held public meetings or events where they explain what their group is doing and what help they are looking for from volunteers.
- Advertise your group on the national volunteering database: www.do-it.org – advertising for volunteers is free and could help you reach out to people who are looking to help!
- Be specific about what skills you are asking for and be clear about what commitments you need – this will make it easier for suitable volunteers to say ‘yes’ to helping the group, but also stop people who don’t actually meet your requirements from applying unnecessarily.
- Be honest when you don’t need help. In the event that you are overwhelmed with offers of help and can’t possibly use all those who have come forward, do be honest and say this. Keep these potential volunteers in mind should you need further support in the future. It may be worth asking people if you can record their names and contact details so that you can get in touch with them at a later date.
As volunteers are not paid staff, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the importance of managing them properly. Managing volunteers is important both for the volunteers themselves and for the group overall; well-managed volunteers will be more likely to reach their full potential in terms of what they can deliver to the group and will be more likely to feel engaged and fulfilled, leading them to stay with the group for longer periods of time. We’ve put together some tips on managing volunteers successfully:
- Ensure that your volunteers are doing something that they find worthwhile – spend time finding out what skills or experiences they would like to use to contribute to your sponsorship group. You can read more about the roles that some groups have introduced for their groups in our Your Group resource
- Regularly review with your volunteers whether they are enjoying their role and feel that their skills are being utilised effectively. This doesn’t need to be a formal review – it could be over a cup of tea or via email. Happy volunteers will be engaged for longer
- Keep track of the availability of volunteers – if someone has said that they are only available in the evening, don’t ask them to do things during the day
- Make sure that volunteers know what is expected of them; you may need to share policies with them such as safeguarding, data protection, cash-handling and confidentiality so that they know how to perform their roles to the standard that you expect.
- Ensure that volunteers know who to contact should they have any concerns or worries about their volunteer role or the family they may be assisting to support
- Consider which volunteers, if any, will be allowed to work on their own and how you will support them if they do end up performing tasks single-handedly
- Finally, celebrate the difference your group is making regularly. What you are doing is amazing – taking the time to reflect on what you have achieved and to say ‘thank you’ will go a long way in building your team
We’ve also identified a few key areas where you’ll need to think particularly carefully about managing your team of volunteers effectively:
As part of your work with managing your volunteer team, you will be holding on to some of their personal data including their email addresses and phone numbers. Some of your volunteers may also want declare health or medical conditions of which you should be aware whilst they volunteer with you. Make sure you keep information about your volunteers confidential and ensure that you ask their permission before sharing their email addresses with other group members. If a volunteer asks to be removed from mailing lists, ensure that their information is deleted and not retained for any other purpose.
Public Liability Insurance
As part of your Community Sponsorship agreement, you will be asked to provide public liability insurance for your group. This will usually provide cover should a volunteer be injured whilst carrying out a duty on behalf of your group. Most insurance providers will cover volunteers, but it’s worth discussing with them the type of activity your volunteers carry out.
Ensuring consistency when delivering your resettlement plan
Managing volunteers is also very important to ensuring consistency across your group when delivering the resettlement plan. There will be times when consistency is crucial. For example, if the family who have been resettled with you ask about family reunification, your group members will need to reply with the same answer. The same may also apply if you decide to set rules like what time of day your group will be available to the family, or how the funds that your group has raised can be spent. Consistency in your delivery of your resettlement plan doesn’t only help your volunteers, but provides a great structure in which resettled families can achieve independence.
The well-being of your volunteers is crucial. Whilst they should take responsibility for their own well-being, you can assist by ensuring that they are not taking on too much work or are not feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. Making sure they know that they can always speak to you or to other members of the team will help, as well as regularly checking in with them, as outlined above.
Once a family is resettled with you, it is important that you make sure that there is not an over-reliance on one group member. It can easily happen that a bond can grow between a resettled refugee and a group member, but maintaining boundaries and ensuring that the volunteer is not shouldering a disproportionate burden – be this emotionally, financially or in terms of time commitment – is key. No single individual can be solely responsible for providing support to an individual or a family; this is a community effort.
Managing Difficult Situations
There may be times when things don’t work out the way you expected and you have to have a difficult conversation with a volunteer. Depending on the severity of the situation, you should be able to address the issue directly with the person involved and ensure that the situation does not happen again. By not shying away from having a difficult conversation, you will make the volunteer concerned feel supported, even if you are telling them things that are hard for them to hear. Making sure that the volunteer knows exactly what is expected of them will help to avoid the same mistakes in future.
In some rare cases, however, you may feel that it is no longer possible for a volunteer to continue to be involved with your work. Letting a volunteer know that their help is no longer required is never something that any manager of volunteers wants to do, but you are perfectly within your rights to do so. This is a last resort and, as letting a group member go could have an impact on the delivery of your resettlement plan or on your reputation as a group, you should carefully consider your actions within the context of the specific issues that have arisen. Ensure that any conversations about this decision remain confidential. This way you offer dignity to the volunteer, who can step back quietly. In serious situations, an amicable and dignified separation may be the best outcome possible.
You may find it useful to read our resources on Managing your group safely.