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Five ways to elevate your volunteering offer

6th June 2024 by Tamara Hitchen, Volunteer Coordinator, Blackburn & Darwen youth Zone

I’m Tamara, and I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator at Blackburn & Darwen Youth Zone for two years. During this time, I’ve revamped our volunteer offer and we’ve seen it skyrocket over recent months. To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, I wanted to share five things we’ve done differently to transform volunteering at our Youth Zone:

  1. Developing our volunteering offer.

We’ve focussed on building a wide breadth of opportunities: from reception to catering, admin to driving – we’ve created a role for everyone. This has brought such a variety of people and skills, which has enhanced the team massively. We’ve also worked to offer better progression routes for volunteers. It’s not about how long we can keep them as volunteers, but how we can develop them personally. I work with volunteers to create personal development plans, and I have regular catch ups with them, so they know I’m present and they feel supported.

  1. Culture shift.

We found that internally, some people didn’t understand volunteering. It’s so much more than having an extra person on session, they bring a huge number of benefits. We trained the team on how to work with volunteers. This cultural shift has made a big difference and has helped ensure volunteers are valued and appreciated across the team.

  1. Focus on corporate volunteering.

We’ve been on a real journey with our corporate volunteering, and as a result our patrons are more involved than ever. We did this by trialling our patron’s volunteer over the summer holiday clubs, giving them the freedom to create workshops related to their industry. Getting our supporters in the Youth Zone has enabled them to see youth work in action and to experience the difference made thanks to their support. It’s also been so beneficial for our young people. Lots of our members are unsure about what to do when they’re older. There’s often a mindset that if you want to do well in your career, you must go to a big city to access opportunities, but that’s not necessarily the case. Having the local businesses showcasing their opportunities has opened our young people’s eyes to what’s on offer on their doorstep.

  1. Young volunteering.

What I’m most proud of is our AQA accredited young leaders programme, which trains young people to play a key role in supporting Junior sessions and Holiday Clubs. They feel a sense of pride in the fact that we trust them with these responsibilities. Our Young Leaders develop skills such as communication, organisation, leadership and teamwork as well as gaining confidence and meeting new people. The fact it is accredited is a real pull for our young people because they’re wanting to get as much as they can on their CVs. It’s an opportunity to build skills and experience, as not everyone thrives in an educational setting. Our young leaders programme is an opportunity for members to learn and thrive in a familiar environment that’s safe.

  1. Thank you, volunteers!

Volunteers’ Week is obviously a great way to celebrate volunteers, but recognising their contributions is something we do all the time; from regular check ins to inviting them to our team social events, as well as the simple but effective ‘thank yous’ that are so important and go a long way.

Inspired to get involved? Find out about volunteering across the OnSide Network: https://www.onsideyouthzones.org/supportus/youth-zone-volunteering/