Ten tips for organisations thinking of accrediting their volunteer management programme

Michael ScottMichael Scott is Investing in Volunteers (IiV) Manager for England at NCVO. He is responsible for overseeing the development and delivery of the IiV Quality Standard in England.

Today, Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

As the UK quality standard for all organisations that involve volunteers in what they do, IiV has provided a framework for almost 800 organisations to benchmark and improve their volunteer management programmes.

The standard was originally conceived in 1995 by Wandsworth Volunteer Bureau, to help them to gauge how well volunteers were being managed within placement organisations.

The programme was trialled as a three-year pilot, independently evaluated and officially launched as a UK-wide standard by the UK Volunteering Forum in 2004.

Ten years on, the standard is as important as ever, especially given the increased demands being placed on volunteering in today’s economic landscape. An independent impact assessment carried out last year supports this, with 95% of achiever organisations seeing it as having a positive impact on volunteering.

As the IiV Manager in England, I have the pleasure of working with a team of volunteer management experts that make up our national assessor network, our local Volunteer Centre advisors and our partners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

I have seen many types of organisations of all sizes work through the process; so to mark the first decade of the IiV standard here are 10 tips for organisations either thinking of or currently working towards accreditation.

Top tips

1. Be honest

The process is designed to help you take a clinical look at how your organisation involves volunteers. Be transparent ­­and open about your main challenges and flaws – this will help you to explore opportunities to improve the volunteering experience.

2. Be open to challenges

An external observer can offer a fresh and critical perspective on how your organisation does things. Don’t be too set in your ways, and be open to making changes to your policies and procedures.

3. Be inclusive

Engage and involve all staff, trustees and volunteers as much as possible throughout the process. Remain focused on achieving outcomes – organise a steering group that can commit to meeting on a regular basis. Use the experience as an opportunity for team building.

4. Be realistic

Make sure that those involved in leading the process have the capacity to do so. Has it been factored into their work plan? Are there adequate support systems in place so that if they are unavailable, others will be able to pick-up the ball and move things forward?

5. Be confident

Make full use of the expertise and knowledge within your organisation, but ask for guidance if you are unsure about anything. You can learn a lot from other organisations, your assessor, and can seek advice from your local Volunteer Centre.

6. Be flexible

Things never go exactly according to plan, so be flexible in your approach and have contingency plans in place. This is especially true of the assessment stage and will help avoid unnecessary delays that could jeopardise the process.

7. Be focused

Stay focused on the journey you want to make and the time you have to do it in. Keep your end goal in mind, but also think about what you want to learn along the way and explore new ways of doing things. There’s at least as much value in the journey as in the accreditation.

8. Be enthusiastic

Keep your staff and volunteers informed and updated about the positive progress being made. Getting people enthused will maintain the momentum and gain buy-in across the organisation.

9. Be proactive

Treat accreditation as the first-step in an ever-evolving process. The standard is a tool you can use to continually assess and develop how you involve volunteers and maintain good practice within your organisation.

10. Don’t be afraid

The assessment process is not as scary as it may seem. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you involve volunteers in the best possible way, and are giving your volunteers a great opportunity to feedback on their experience.

Find out more

You can follow IiV on #IIVUK and read further feedback from achiever organisations on the IiV website.

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