We recently completed a three-step research project designed to find out whether Volunteer Wellington is meeting the needs of the hundreds of community organisations we work with and to pinpoint areas to focus on in the future.

First, we talked with a cross-section of our community member organisations – small, large, new and long-term users of our services. The discussions were face-to-face and in-depth carried out by two research students under the direction of researcher and mentor, Meenakshi Shankar. We then honed in on specific questions about our services with a selected group of member organisations and finished up with a detailed written survey of our broader membership.

Professional training and networking opportunity prove invaluable

High quality training, focused mentoring, and innovative ways to work more strategically with volunteer teams were the key benefits identified of the services we offer. Managers of volunteers said they felt more empowered and creative in leading their volunteer teams and developing projects after attending our training workshops and forums.

Comments such as, “the training has helped me immensely in my planning and in creating new systems and processes for managing our volunteers”, “ the training supported me in my role and helped me develop ideas to implement”, as well as “I now understand how to create better volunteer roles” were typical.

The value of networking opportunities offered through our training events was highlighted by many, with comments such as, “it’s been great to make new connections with others working in the same sector and dealing with the same challenges” and “good to share ideas with other managers of volunteers”.

Thumbs up from users of our ‘Employees in the Community’ (EITC) programme

Our EITC programme – matches volunteer teams from the business world (we have 35+ business friends and growing) with community organisations for specific projects such as painting buildings, landscaping gardens, developing marketing plans and websites – was rated highly by those who use it. Some who hadn’t, were “uncertain of how to use it” and “not sure where to start”.

This prompted us to run a forum on how to get involved with EITC last month (well attended).

Suggestions for the future included having more projects related to the skills of the business team and greater time-flexibility, such as half-day events or perhaps an hour a fortnight. This is already happening to a certain extent on both fronts and we’re keen to encourage more.

If you want to know more about the programme, call Judy Kerr, Volunteer Wellington’s EITC Coordinator on 499 4570.

Users of our Member Liaison programme rate it highly – non-users quizzical

The survey responses on our Member Liaison programme were similar with those who hadn’t used it not sure what it involved and those who had, full of praise –  especially where specialised and highly skilled roles had been created though the advisory process.

A steady stream of volunteers, having a knowledgeable liaison person to deal with and bounce ideas off, being given direction, personal support and how to define and create volunteer roles, were inspiring responses.

Call to extend leadership and peer mentoring groups

Excitement about our leadership and peer mentoring groups was high. There were hopes more would be established in some districts and/or continued.

The recruitment and referral process – a common thread

References to Volunteer Wellington’s recruitment and referral service came up through all the survey questions. The acquisition of volunteers relates across the board of our services. Our promotional activity with businesses means we can seek out skilled short-term or one-off project volunteers, and the creation of and targeted promotion for specific roles via the liaison programme has led to more diverse and ‘skilled’ volunteer teams.

State of play

The survey found that our professional development opportunities are critical to the success of all aspects of our community member organisations’ volunteer programmes. Promotion and marketing, advocacy, keeping volunteer teams in touch through social media, and ways to include diversity and difference were covered in our workshops and forums over the past year. Similar issues will be covered this year – check out our website for details.

With 89% of those who responded to the survey stating they were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘completely satisfied’ with the volunteers referred through Volunteer Wellington, it’s clear that improved management of volunteers is enabling organisations to provide more rewarding and effective volunteering experiences.

Managers of volunteers stated that they are now describing roles better, are more aware of induction to their workplaces, succession planning, and carrying out effective appraisals.

Looking to the future

Because of the feedback, we’ll be putting more resources into professional development with recruitment and referral becoming more specific and focused.

Some organisations mentioned the need to establish more volunteer-led projects with greater responsibility being given to volunteer staff. Such suggestions may form the basis of a forum or workshop as 2015 progresses.

Overall, we loved reading what our members had to say; so many kept saying “more of the same”, “continue with your excellent newsletter”, “couldn’t have done it without your support”.

But we want to stretch and go beyond. We aim to remain relevant for decades to come. This three-stepped research has given us the confidence and motivation to follow up on your suggestions and to continue to promote our services to as many communities in the Wellington region as possible.

Celebrating volunteering - a highlight for some community members

Our celebrations were mentioned as a highlight for some communities in our research results. Around 80 volunteers and community group organisers gathered to celebrate International Volunteer Day) over morning tea at The Jimmy café in Courtenay Place last year (5 November 2014).


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