Learning from volunteers about volunteer management


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Presentation by Helen Timbrell - Volunteering and Community Involvement Director, National Trust

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  • Running a survey for almost ten years
    Used to be bi-annual, now annual
    Organisation wide
    No database so distributed via our property teams and on our website for NT volunteers
    c.80% complete online
    Just short of 18k responses this year, up from c14k last year
    Managed by our inhouse Insights team and delivered by an external research agency. Volunteering team is the client and own the content and use of data
    Core content every year – so have trend data
    Some flexible content every year
    Paper copies to look at – circulate around
  • Data by property team or dept they volunteer in
    Key learning – have data at a level that people can meaningfully use. Org wide or national data of limited use
    Properties increasing ask for by department too – so what’s happening in Garden but not in House – being able to provide data at a level that’s actionable is key
    Length of survey really matters – always try to keep as short as we can and still cover key areas
    For every question ask think about what you will do with the data – motivations data not in this year, for example, as not change and not been actioned, demogs in instead as not had for two years
  • Show data by region and by property in NT
    And consciously show results from previous year as the movement is what’s important
    We also show the local scores in compariosn with the national scores – so have a sense of how they fit with the overall picture
    All of these things help contextualise the data and give managers and teams a way to start thinking about how to use the data
  • Organising results into key themes helps people navigate the results and subject matter – it gives them a thing to focus on
    We quickly started to talk about five drivers of the KPI – these four and recognition – became more manageable for people – actionable
    We then provided clear guidance, training, toolkits on each driver – but also quick and easy top tips, conscious not to scare people off with tomes of information and make this appear more complex that it is or need be. Consistent application of the basics is our key message
  • Crucial to getting senior buy in was having a clear story about why the results matter – empowered, engaged and satisfied people are proven to give more discretionary effort and been more often advocates and resilient to change – all organisations want more people who are able and willing to do this – that’s what drives performance
    Using the model and the results to show that this isn’t a volunteering question – not a moral or ethical question of needing to treat volunteers better on principle, but instead a question of what drives organisational performance
    And here a strong partnership with our colleagues in HR really helped us – often keen to remain separate from HR but can actually be huge allies in making this kind of case. Be selective about when you beat the drum of volunteering is distinctive
  • Basic quantitative research is within the grasp of any organisation – regardless of resource
    Key is:
    Know what you want to find out and why
    Build the story around the data – don’t assume the data alone is enough
    Explain the data – give people a way into it – don’t assume they are comfortable with working with it or know how to respond to the results
    Think about your allies – who can help you internally and externally
    Aim to lift the debate or discussion out of volunteering for the sake of it and into organisational performance – avoid the moral/ethical/obligation arguments as a stand alone
    Remember the survey and the data is the only the start of the journey for change
  • In contrast to Quant Survey work really powerful piece of research or work with volunteers has been the work we’ve done with Wally Harbert
    Discovered the book via NNVIA, Rachael Bayley put us in touch – speak at our event
    Hearing impaired opted for filmed interview – shown at event and used broadly across the organisation since
    Wally professional background in social services then volunteer with CSV and RSVP programme
    Book specifically focussed on challenges for orgs in working with Baby Boomers
    Value of this for us was in lifting out of anonymous “mass volunteers” and into the personal – a man with a clear professional background, huge skills and expertise, challenging orgs like ours – but not directly us – so less personal to NT too so avoided defensive instinct
    By being in abstract able to engage people more in debate and discussion
    Also something too about personal style and combination of mild mannered man and more hard hitting quotes in book – as powerful for some people as data
    Did this as a volunteer, for free. We paid a film crew but we could have used volunteers, an Intern or students
    Emotive and engaging and different angle on the debate
  • Learning from volunteers about volunteer management

    1. 1. It’s a session of two halves Quantitative • NT approach • Use of results – Volunteer experience – Organisational culture Qualitative • Wally Harbert • Focus groups – Current volunteers – Non volunteers (briefly) Combined approach = cultural change
    2. 2. Volunteering Survey: Thematic Perspective (strong agreement) When we compare the performance of our high performing properties against our low performing properties, there is a dramatic difference in their relative performance in terms of the drivers … most markedly in the priority areas of management, organisation, leadership and communication Group A - 37 properties KPI Management Organisation Leadership Communication Culture & Values Voice Enjoyment Engagement Empowerment Group B - 56 properties KPI < 64% and falling 52% 30% 30% 23% 20% 29% 16% 66% 29% 18% KPI > 64% and rising 72% 48% 46% 39% 33% 42% 28% 78% 41% 29%
    3. 3. Overview: The Underlying Model Discretionary effort Empowerment Engagement Advocacy Satisfaction Resilience in the face of change Organisational performance
    4. 4. So this is all very well if you have 30K…. •Survey Monkey •Internship •Volunteer project •Partnership with Universities
    5. 5. Sarah: Very enjoyable. Over 75% Gary: Don’t get me started! Sarah: I know! But it is Clara: There’s something about it being a target. That word. It’s just an anathema to most volunteers, I would suggest Sindy: Because you don’t volunteer to be put under that kind of pressure Clara: No, you don’t Sindy: You’ve got the T-shirt from doing that and you don’t want to do it again (Lodge House)
    6. 6. Key learning… • A compelling body of evidence • Avoid only moral/ethical discussions • Link this to overall organisational objectives and performance, not volunteering as an end in itself • Recognise people respond to different types of data • And they will need help navigating and responding to the data • Think about who can help you – internally and externally • Small number of consistent messages as the way in, don’t overload people early on • Make it actionable • Don’t assume you need a large budget for this