Case study: Volunteers Count – The Children’s Society

Debbie Hill, Head of Volunteering at The Children’s Society recalls in this video how she has used Volunteers Count at her organisation. A transcript of the video is below:

“I’m Debbie Hill, Head of Volunteering at the Children’s Society; we work to fight against childhood poverty and support adolescent neglect. We have about 27,000 volunteers in the programme.

“Why do Volunteers Count? Well, we decided to do it for a number of reasons really, there wasn’t one key one, there’s a few of them. Obviously, it gives us the opportunity to understand where we are in the sector and that’s both about knowing when you are compared to your immediate peers, so organisations who do similar work or are of a similar size to you, but also about knowing where you are compared to the whole sector. Are you delivering at the level you think you are? It also gives you the opportunity to develop what bits of the programme that aren’t quite as good as you would like them to be.

“You don’t have to do it all, just do the bits you can do and once you start working through it, it’s stuff that you know, it’s stuff that you talk about as a volunteer manager or a head of volunteering. Both times that I’ve done it I’ve known that this this is going to be a useful thing, a beneficial thing. But actually what you get from it is much more than you initially think.

“Internally it gives you the opportunity to do a bit of an internal audit, or review, or mapping of where your programme is. It also gives you and overview of the whole programme in a way that you might not otherwise look at it.

“The case studies [good practice examples] really say: ‘this charity is doing it in this way’ and it sparks ideas and inspiration, it creates networks and you can go to that person and say: ‘I read it in Volunteers Count, the way you’re training your staff is brilliant, can I come and meet you and talk about that? We’re interested in doing something similar’.

“One of the things, probably the most important thing for me as head of volunteering is that it’s given me the language I need to be able to communicate with senior managers, communicate with the board. How do you talk to a finance director about a volunteer programme? Volunteers Count gives you the numbers, it gives you the statistics, it gives you the ratios and return on investment, and all those things that you need to be able to go to your FD or your CEO and say: ‘Look what the volunteering programme delivered last year, imagine if you resourced it more, imagine what we could do this year’. Volunteers Count gives you that process to be able to go and have those conversations.

“We take some time to analyse the data that’s come in. We tend to a top line, headline report to the senior management team, and that goes to the board too, just to explain where we’re up to. As a part of that report we set ourselves three to five objectives, depending on what data has come out from the study. That then forms part of the next year’s volunteering plan or strategy.

“Staff training was one thing that we looked at and thought that we needed to improve and we’ve now rolled out an effective volunteer management programme across the country. It’s actually quite interesting that we thought we needed to improve it, Volunteers Count said that we needed to improve it, and then once we’d implemented it, it booked up within two hours. Clearly the business needed it.

“We’ll set ourselves our five objectives and we want to see an improvement the next time we go around. We want to see growth, we want to see more efficient use of resources, we want to see a better return on investment rate, we want to see an increased number of volunteers in certain areas if that’s where we’re focussing. So it does provide you with the opportunity to measure your performance and improvement.

“The report itself gives you a mixture of hard cold data and soft stories about how people have to got to where they’ve got to in their volunteering programmes. Yes you can see that you’re wherever compared to your peers but then there’ll be a case study about some training or about the way they’ve increased the number of volunteers claiming expenses, or whatever it might be. So it brings it to life and you meet those managers, and you see what they’re up to and you can go and talk to them and see if you can support each other. It’s a real advocate for peer support, I think, as well as benchmarking.

“It provides you with a great way to help you business plan and build your strategy and development plans around it. So a number of reasons why I would say: ‘definitely do it! It will give you more than you think it will and it will be of huge benefit to any organisation’.”

Find out more…

Volunteers Count is run every other year, supported by our key partners Association of Volunteer Managers, Charities HR Network, and Voluntary Organisations Disabilities Group.

Reports from previous studies are available for download.

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Association of Mental Health Providers AVM AVSM Care England Charities HR Network Charity Comms Heritage Volunteering Group Hospice UK Humentum National Care Forum National Union of Students NCVO Voluntary Organisations Disability Group

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