Important lessons from our members in Yorkshire

We made our way to a gloriously sunny Bradford last month to hold a Members’ Assembly. We were joined by 75 organisations from various corners of Yorkshire who shared with us their insights on volunteering, collaboration and how they could apply the findings of our recent Time Well Spent volunteering survey. We were pleased to partner with Community Action Bradford and District to deliver the assembly.

Our delegates bore a similitude to the overall demographic of our 1,120 Yorkshire-based members:

  • over 75% small or micro organisations
  • many working with children and youth or the environment
  • most of them delivering their services by providing advice, advocacy or facilities to their community.

More than 75% of our members operate outside London, so it’s really important for us to venture out and be with our members in their local areas as we develop policy and practical tools and resources designed to champion volunteering in England.

Yorkshire members at our members assembly in Bradford

What our members told us

Our members want committed, engaged, supported volunteers

We delivered a bite-sized workshop that dug into the ways our members kept their volunteers engaged and acknowledged their contribution. It was refreshing to gather their perspectives on what good volunteer management looked like:

Helping volunteers to see the impact that their time and contribution has made is an important responsibility of volunteer managers.

 Some said getting to know their volunteers was important; many indicated that the recruitment and induction processes were key; almost all said that they’d found success in diversifying the way they thanked volunteers.

As well as collecting their stories of success, we were eager to understand the challenges they faced. One delegate shared:

Some people don’t volunteer because they don’t feel valued or educated. They worry that they have nothing to give, and that in some way they aren’t ‘qualified’ to contribute and couldn’t possibly be trusted. Sometimes the perception of society disqualifies some potential volunteers.

Others worried that getting their new volunteers going in a new volunteer role was laborious, and some expressed a concern that younger volunteers in particular were more accustomed to one-off micro-volunteering experiences. They worried that their volunteer programmes were not flexible enough to accommodate changing needs of potential volunteers.

Taking observations like these back to our colleagues at NCVO is an important part of the Assembly experience: we’re committed to using this feedback to shape the policy, practical support and research we do for the wider sector.

Our members recognise the need for collaboration

We believe in collaboration over competition

 Our friends at Community Action Bradford and District led us in a discussion on active collaboration in our communities and what that meant for small and large organisations. Some of our delegates wondered if collaborating with local business or other charitable aims would threaten the number of paid roles in the sector, but most of our delegates reflected on empowering relationships they’d participated in in the past. Some delegates reported they’d think more carefully about partnership working in the future, recognising a need to be flexible and reflective in order to be successful.

Our members are mindful of diversity and inclusion

Our delegates wanted to know how they could actively seek principles of diversity and inclusion when it came to recruiting and supporting volunteers:

We want to make sure that volunteering at our organisation is a positive, inclusive experience. We’re mindful of not having any volunteers with accessibility needs… is there something in particular we could be doing to invite those members of the public to get involved?

Our members encouraged NCVO’s local presence

You’re right on track holding meetings like this where members can come together. It’s impressive to see NCVO making these steps.

We felt enormously welcome amongst our Yorkshire members who reminded us that they were keen for their voices to be heard. My biggest take-away was an immense sense of admiration for the collaborative mindset of volunteer leadership in Yorkshire- whether that looked like partnership programmes, knowledge-sharing platforms or other forums. We’re better off for learning more about our members in Yorkshire. The parting words of Soo Nevison (Community Action Bradford and District) have stayed with me:

We are in weird times right now, there’s so much change. At the moment our sector is absolutely nailed. We live in communities that need extra resources- we need national resources like NCVO as well as local bodies. We can collaborate and we can share.

 

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Hollie McKee Hollie is the Senior Membership Officer at NCVO and leads on supporting the membership journey of our 14,000 members. Her priority is listening to members and connecting them with the networks and practical resources they need. She has a background in PR and membership, working with both grassroots and large charities throughout the country.

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