I hope you all had a wonderful Volunteers’ Week celebrating the greatness of your current volunteers and encouraging new volunteers to get on board! We’ve had a hectic time here at Northumberland CVA lately when it comes to volunteering. I’ve been out and about promoting our Volunteer Connect database and organising both a Volunteer Fair with a twist at Northumberland College and a Volunteer Information Event at St Georges Community Centre during Volunteers’ Week.
On the 22nd of May I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the Northumberland VCS Assembly’s Network meeting to talk about Volunteer Connect, our online interactive database that can link organisations looking for volunteers with individuals looking for volunteering opportunities:
I’m very enthusiastic about Volunteer Connect as a tool for finding volunteers and I use it all the time. Whenever someone comes into the office looking for an opportunity it’s the first place I go to. When I talk to potential volunteers they tell me they love having all the Northumberland volunteer opportunities in one place. Organisations who attended the presentation told me that they have found some great volunteers using it.
With all that in mind I’d love to invite you all to put your own opportunities on Volunteer Connect if you haven’t already. And if you’d like a visual guide to some of its functions you can view the presentation I delivered here.
Volunteer Fair at Ashington College
We were fortunate enough to be able to work collaboratively with Northumberland College and the Future Me team who agreed to us holding a Volunteer Fair at the Ashington Campus. This was the first time we’d run a Volunteer Fair devoted to students and it was a great opportunity for us to try something new.
We offered stalls to organisations that had volunteer opportunities specifically for younger people and 16 organisations came forward. There were 45 students who came in to have a look at the stalls. Timing-wise, Volunteers’ Week sits during a crucial exam period so there were fewer students than we expected, although those who did come found it really informative. The college hospitality was outstanding and they had kindly provided refreshments and lunch for all the stallholders.
As with all new ventures a number of learning points came out of the event:
- Timings for volunteer events are very important – Volunteers’ Week dates are set nationally, so if you are looking to host your own event locally do think about timings and about when people might be more receptive to your opportunities.
- Do you have the right people manning your stall? Perhaps as an organisation you could create a Volunteer Role for someone who loves talking to people. Their role could be engaging with potential new volunteers at fairs and events.
- Think about how you present your information to different audiences. Younger people will pick up leaflets and talk to you, but what they naturally gravitate towards is technology. Do you have a website? Are you on social media? Could you make a really short video and post it on your site?
- When you have a stall at an event, think about an engaging way to draw people to you. Some people at this event had laptops showing a film, some people were asking a question using an interactive method, and some people had a series of engaging photos. What could you use to engage younger people?
Volunteer Information Event at St Georges Community Centre
Also during Volunteers’ Week, we attended an event, which was open to the public, at the Community Centre in the grounds of St Georges Hospital in Morpeth. The majority of people I spoke to were Occupational Therapists and Health professionals who are often looking for Volunteering opportunities for their clients.
The final part of the journey towards recovery for people who are in St Georges is rehabilitation, where they are supported by staff to help them return to their lives outside of the hospital. Volunteering is an excellent way for people to increase their self-confidence and take small steps towards continued recovery.