Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers: An Analysis
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Published: Tue, 06 Mar 2018
This dissertation will look at the recruitment and retention of volunteers within St Luke’s Hospice Charity Shops, based in London. Whilst some aspects will be similar to the recruitment and retention of paid employees, it is essential to understand the differences between the two groups of staff. The recruitment and retention of volunteers raises many of the same challenges as those involving paid workers, but the solutions may differ (Suff, 2008). However, Olga Aikin points out that the legal status of volunteers and the duties owed to them by employers are not necessarily clear. She believes that the ambiguity is caused by the term volunteer having no universal meaning.
Aiken (2009) explains that at common law level the status is relatively simple. The status can be determined by asking the question ‘did the parties have a binding contract?’ For an agreement to become a binding contract there has to be mutuality of obligations and an intention for the agreement to be legally binding. At common law the parties can agree that the agreement will not be legally binding (a so-called “gentleman’s agreement”) (Aikin, 2009)
Aiken goes on to clarify that it if often wrongly thought that a contract relating to employment must include monetary benefit, however this is not the case. For there to be a contract there must be mutuality of obligation, meaning that each party must receive some benefit, and be under some obligation. The individual must receive some consideration for his or her work. This consideration does not have to be money; it could include other benefits such as training or accommodation, however, mandatory training, or training to allow a volunteer to carry out their role is not excluded (Aikin, 2009). Due to this it is essential that volunteers do not receive benefits for their role. Whilst the paying of expenses is acceptable, St Luke’s would be restricted in offering volunteers other benefits which fall outside of this.
It is important to establish from the outset that the person is working in a voluntary capacity, to avoid the organisation facing problems further down the line, including possible claims for payment and other benefits related to employment.
Formal volunteering is defined as ‘unpaid voluntary work carried out with, or under the auspices of, an organisation.’, whilst informal volunteering is defined as ‘unpaid or voluntary work carried out outside organisations, often at neighbourhood level, but outside the immediate family’ (Volunteer Development Agency, 2007). Phil Hope from the Cabinet Office (Association of Volunteer Managers, 2007) defines volunteering as:
“any non-compulsory activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which is of benefit to others (excluding relatives), society or the environment’
The Volunteer Development Agency (2005) defines volunteering as ‘The commitment of time and energy for the benefit of society and the community, the environment or individuals outside ones immediate family. It is undertaken freely and by choice, without concern for financial gain.’
The difference between paid staff and volunteers is often not clear. Kate Engles (Volunteering England, 2006) says that:
“Although both permanent staff and volunteers can be motivated by the cause of the organisation, for the former there is always the additional motivation of remuneration. So it is very important that volunteer managers are aware of the wider motivations that volunteers have, because that is why they are there. A paid employee will have a contract of employment and have clear workplace rights. A volunteer does not, so the relationship is based on reasonable expectations. It is important that the terminology in a volunteering agreement refers to role, and not job, description, for example, so that it is not inferred that the volunteer is a paid employee.”
Similarly, volunteers should only be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, as any subsistence or payment could be construed as a wage.
One of the other major differences between volunteers and paid staff is in the recruitment process. When recruiting paid staff the process results in the most suitable person for the job being appointed. With volunteers however, the approach is often different, with the process being a lot more flexible, allowing the organisation to tailor roles to suit the individual. If an individual if unsuitable for the role for which they have applied, it is often possible to point them in the direction of an alternative department or role, for which the organisation would be able to use them. This is a tactic that St Luke’s use, predominantly when individuals under the age of 18 apply to volunteer within the hospice setting.
Engles continues to say that there are some requirements which help to differentiate between the two groups. These include the organisation having a volunteering policy which sets out how the volunteering arrangement should work in practice, covering recruitment, supervision, training and development and reimbursement of expenses. WRVS also recommends having good-practice policies in place to manage the volunteer workforce, mirroring the approach of policies which are in place for permanent staff. This should include documentation which clearly sets out expectations for both volunteers and the organisation about what can be expected from volunteering. (Volunteering England, 2006)
This was something that was implemented in 2008 at St Luke’s Hospice, called a ‘Statement of Mutual Expectation’. The Statement of Mutual Expectation is a document which clearly states what is expected of volunteers whilst working at St Luke’s, and what volunteers can expect from St Luke’s whilst working for the organisation. It was drawn up in agreement with a volunteer focus group, to ensure that volunteers were in agreement and that the expectations were realistic from both parties.
Suff (2008) believes that having the right person, in the right place, at the right time, is central to organisational performance. Recruitment is an essential activity for organisations as a whole, not just for the HR team, but also for line managers who have become increasingly involved in the selection process (CIPD, 2009). This principal does not just relate to the recruitment of paid employees, but to volunteers too.
The volunteer recruitment process should reflect that of paid staff. Prior to recruiting for a position the CIPD recommends investing time to gather information relating to the role, including the role’s purpose, the outputs required by the role holder and how it fits into the organisation’s structure. When considering the role it is also important to take in to account the skills and personal attributes needed to perform the role effectively (CIPD, 2009). This should be the first step in the recruitment process. This should also include looking at how volunteers will be supported and managed whilst working with the organisation.
By including both paid staff and current volunteers in the planning process, it ensures that everyone has an input and understands the volunteers involvement. By involving senior management and board members in any planning, this ensures that the organisation has commitment at strategic level. The National Centre for Volunteering agrees that successful recruitment is heavily dependent upon organisations identifying what is needed from potential volunteers by understanding the specific roles, and recruiting to them (McCurley and Lynch, 1998).
McCurley and Lynch (1998) found that there is evidence that shows potential volunteers are attracted to the type of tasks or the nature of the role when being recruited to an organisation. It is therefore important that these are in place before the recruitment process starts.
As well as being attracted to the roles offered, each volunteer has a reason for wanting to give their time for free. By identifying these motivations, the organisation will be able to match the needs of the volunteer with the needs of the organisation. Motivation factors include a commitment to the organisation. Within a local Hospice this may be that a friend or relative has received care, meeting people and socialising, gaining skills, or utilising existing skills (Volunteering England, 2006).
The 2008 Institute for Volunteering Research paper ‘Young people help out: Volunteering and giving among young people’ explain that the volunteering agenda believes young people volunteering has a positive impact, including increasing skills and employability, enhancing social cohesion, integrating young people in to society and reducing crime and anti social behaviour.
Once the role has been planned for, the organisation needs to generate interest from external individuals. This can be done by advertisements in newspapers, on commercial job boards and on websites, including the organisations (CIPD, 2009). Regional newspapers often offer free advertisement space to charities, which can benefit both the organisation and the publisher.
CIPD believes that as the use of technology in recruitment increases, organisations are adapting, and creating databases or pools of ‘ready’ candidates, who can be kept in reserve, for as and when positions in the organisation arise, without the need to re-advertise (CIPD, 2009). This is not an area that St Luke’s have attempted, due to lack of technology within the organisation. Also, with so many voluntary positions in the organisation, the majority of people can be placed immediately.
As well as the recruitment process identifying suitable individuals, it can also be used to allow candidates to find out more about the organisation. It is also used for the individual to assess the organisation, and decide whether it is the right environment for them to work. As the experience of all applicants impacts on their view of the organisation, it is vital that each stage of the recruitment process is managed effectively and to the best of the organisations ability (CIPD, 2009). This is particularly important in an organisation such as St Luke’s Hospice, who are community based, and rely heavily on word of mouth for recruitment and support.
WRVS uses a variety of methods to attract potential volunteers. These include local media, attendance at events, local recruitment campaigns and word of mouth. “One consideration with word-of-mouth approaches is that there could be an impact on diversity if people of similar backgrounds are coming forward, so we balance that method with other promotional activities,” head of people volunteering at WRVS Chris Dobson says
The CIPD Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Annual Survey 2009 found that the number of voluntary, community and not-for-profit organisations experiencing difficulty in recruiting for one or more category of vacancy in 2009 has decreased, compared to the 2008 figure, from 82% to 79%. However, the same report found that organisations with fewer than 250 employees are increasingly finding difficulty in recruiting for one or more category of vacancy in 2009 at 83%, up from 80%. The previous year
CIPD also believe that effective recruitment is crucial to organisations for successful day to day running, and that it should not only be carried out to fulfil current needs, but should consider future needs, which will impact on the organisations resourcing (CIPD, 2009). However, in such a small organisation, the luxury of future planning is not always possible. With so many volunteer roles needing filling, planning for the future is not a priority.
For recruitment to be effective, it is essential that there needs to be some understanding on where potential volunteers would look for current opportunities. Volunteer Development Scotland (VDS) research (2006) shows that 69% of existing volunteers became involved in volunteering through ‘being asked to help’. VDS however found that from the group of people asked, comprising of existing volunteers and non volunteers that the most popular places people believed they would look include the library, internet, direct to the organisation which they are interested in, a volunteer centre, or by speaking to their family and friends. These findings differ from the reality.
Organisations can use a variety of methods to recruit volunteers. One of these is promoting itself to potential volunteers. Ways of doing this include informal methods, such as word of mouth by existing volunteers, as well as more formal methods, such as advertising.
Word of mouth should not be under estimated. In a community charity it is a very powerful tool. Danson (2003) found that those who did not have access to these networks would become excluded from volunteering. â€œHowever, the socially excludedâ€¦ are the least well informed about volunteering and the least networked into existing volunteers’ (Danson, 2003). For young people, aged 16 – 24 years, word of mouth was the most popular route in to volunteering (Institute for Volunteering Research, 2008).
Institute for Volunteering Research (Gaskin, 2003) conducted research, using volunteers and non volunteers, and found that recruitment messages can be targeted to particular groups of people through advertising. What Gaskin was demonstrating, was that for a modern image of volunteering, organisations should use innovative media, emphasising the benefits of volunteering. For an outreach approach, organisations should be using talks, road shows and presence at public events, which could be incorporated with fundraising events. Lastly, for maximising word of mouth recruitment organisations should be encouraging current volunteers to act as ambassadors for volunteering within the organisation.
Baird (2005) has found that often, non-volunteers have little knowledge of the activities undertaken by volunteers, or the number of hours and commitment which would be required of them to join an organisation. Baird also found that potential volunteers like to know how their time can make a difference to others, the organisation, or the environment and what they themselves could gain from volunteering. Whilst some volunteers like to know what they gain personally, this would also depend on their motivation for volunteering, as mentioned by Volunteering England.
It is therefore important when planning and designing the volunteer role, to include information such as amount of time involved and any ongoing commitment requirements.
It is vital to remember that volunteers are an important, if not invaluable resource for many organisations, and their recruitment and retention needs to be treated with as much care and detail as that of paid employees. Whilst motivational factors may differ between paid employees and volunteers, many aspects of people management remain the same.
Volunteering is a major activity in the UK, with theÂ government’s citizenship survey (2007) identifying that three-quarters (73%) of all adults in England and Wales undertook some form of volunteering in the previous 12 months, with almost half (48%) of adults surveyed claiming to do voluntary work on a regular basis, at least once a month (Suff, 2008). However, the extent to which volunteers are used within organisations varies considerably, ranging from organisations who solely depend on unpaid staff, to organisations who have minimal volunteer involvement.
The Institute for volunteering Research (2008) found that in the previous year, 59% of organisations surveyed had experienced ‘some’ problems with recruiting enough volunteers, with a similar proportion (57%) reporting difficulties in recruiting volunteers with the skills their organisation required. Kate Engles, Policy and Information Officer at Volunteering England, says that there is a range of support available for charities trying to attract volunteers, including volunteer centres, who offer advice to organisations on working with volunteers. They also advertise organisations’ volunteering opportunities to the local community. However, this is an approach that St Luke’s have previously tried, using volunteer centres in Harrow and Brent, with little success.
Chris Dobson, head of people volunteering at WRVS explains the demographic changes since the formation of WRVS 70 years ago (Volunteering England, 2009):
“Since WRVS was formed 70 years ago, people’s lifestyles have changed significantly. For example, at first there was a big group of women who did not work, but today most women do work and so do not necessarily have the free time to volunteer. This means we have to work a bit harder and be a bit more creative in how we attract potential volunteers.”
St Mungo’s, a homeless charity based in London, use a range of approaches to promote volunteering opportunities, including free advertising in London newspapers. This is an approach that St Luke’s have tried in the past; however this was not very successful in terms of recruiting volunteers but did provide free press coverage to a large reader group. (Volunteering England, 2009)
St Mungo’s is also registered with several national volunteering databases, as well as having forged links with University College London and London Metropolitan University, due to the universities course provision relating to the work done by St Mungo’s.
St Luke’s work closely with Thames Valley University, by providing accredited modules in Palliative Care as part of their degree programme. However, students who spend time at St Luke’s as part of the module do not volunteer for the charity whilst training to become specialist palliative care nurses. They carry out supervised placements within the hospice, but no students have so far extended their time to volunteering outside of the module.
When recruiting volunteers for the organisation it is important to understand diversity and the role which it should play. Diversity includes physical and non physical differences, with a number of personal characteristics covered by discrimination law. These give people protection against being treated unfairly, with the ‘protected characteristics’ including age, race, disability, sex, religion and belief and sexual orientation. Diversity in volunteering should mean that people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse skills, can volunteer, regardless of any of these characteristics (CIPD, 2010).
“There are many compelling reasons to attract a diverse mix of volunteers, such as reflecting the community or client group, encouraging inclusion and encouraging new skills and backgrounds into the organisation, because there is greater flexibility in the recruitment process for volunteers, there is greater scope to encourage greater diversity.” Kate Engles (Volunteering England, 2009) observes.
The Institute for volunteering Research’s 2008 study found that more than half of participating organisations (56%) had experienced problems recruiting volunteers from a wide range of social and community backgrounds. Volunteer Development Agency (2005) states that when talking about a diverse organisation, it is one that represents the community that it is in. In an area as diverse as Harrow and Brent, this is a particularly relevant challenge, and one that needs to be overcome to ensure the future of volunteers within the hospice.
Over the past 5 years WRVS has worked to implement a diversity strategy. This is in an attempt to enhance its reputation and image, resulting in widening its potential recruitment pool. The reason for WRVS implementing this was that it views volunteers as the public face of the organisation, and believes that if they reflect today’s diverse society, then individuals will more easily identify with it (Volunteering England, 2009). For St Luke’s, this is also an influencing factor, along with the need to diversify to continue to attract volunteers from the local community.
The CIPD give several examples of why an organisation would want to become more diverse. To be competitive, everyone within the organisation needs to make their best contribution. By employing a diverse workforce, this allows for a more diverse skills mix. A diverse workforce can help in market competitiveness, opening up new market opportunities, increasing market share or expanding an organisations customer base. It can benefit the organisation by brining fresh ideas and perspectives from people with different experiences and backgrounds. It can also help to ensure that the services the organisation offers are relevant to the community (Volunteer Development Agency, 2005).
To implement a diversity strategy within an organisation, it needs to start with buy in from senior management, and include changes in workplace behaviour, communication and training (CIPD, 2010).
CIPD Recruitment, Retention and Turnover Annual Survey 2009 found that 94% of voluntary, community or not for profit organisations surveyed monitored recruitment to gain information on gender, ethnic origin, age and disability and 70% train interviewers to understand what diversity is and the impact on stereotypes.
The benefits of having a diverse workforce are also highlighted in the Institute for Volunteering research paper ‘Regular and occasional volunteers: How and why they help out’ (2008). The report found that although there are no significant differences between regular and occasional volunteers when it comes to gender or ethnicity, the age of the volunteer can make a difference. Volunteers aged 25 â€“ 44 years old and more likely to be occasional volunteers, whilst those aged over 65 are more likely to commit to regular volunteering opportunities.
Retention is the process in which employees are encouraged, through various means, to remain working for the organisation. This can be ongoing, or until the completion of the project. Employee retention is beneficial for both the organisation and the individual, and it is seen as the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the employee stays working for the organisation by using compensation, environment, support, growth and relationship. (CIPD, 2010)
Retention of volunteers is just as important as the recruitment. Previous literature has cited negative experiences within organisations as well as personal factors, as reasons why people leave volunteering. Examples include lack of relevant training, poor supervision within the role and uninteresting duties (Alexander, 2000). Other factors include feelings of being overburdened and undervalued (Locke, Ellis & Davis-Smith, 2003).
Whilst it is not a fail safe way of ensuring high retention figures, there are many processes in place within the Shops Company which work towards addressing these issues. All volunteers are issued with a manual when commencing their role, which needs completing in agreement with the shop manager. Volunteers have set roles within the shops, and have regular parties to show appreciation for their hard work and commitment, along with birthday cards set as a sign of thanks.
A thorough induction programme is also thought to be essential, to make volunteers feel comfortable, welcome and able to carry out their role with confidence. It should include an introduction to the organisation, including the organisations ethos and how they can personally contribute as a member of the volunteer team, an introduction to staff and volunteers with whom they will be working, an introduction to their new role, and also cover legislation, including health and safety (Help the Hospices, 2004).
Beugen (in Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers, 2007) found that it is important to recognise that the needs and motivations of volunteers change over their time volunteering for an organisation. He believes that volunteers progress through a motivation life cycle, much the same as paid employees in any organisation.
The first stage of Beugen’s life cycle of volunteers is the exploratory stage. This is when the new volunteers are still exploring the possibilities of being a volunteer, and trying out their new role within the organisation. At this stage Beugen believes that it is important to give reassurance to the volunteer, to find out their expectations and to discuss any uncertainties that they may have.
The second stage of the life cycle is the period where volunteers are developing themselves and their role. They do this by analysing what they are doing and improving on their performance. Support for the volunteer doesn’t need to be as intensive as the first stage during stage two, however it is still important to maintain contact with and encourage the volunteer. (Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers, 2007)
Ongoing training is important during the second stage to allow for continual development. Beugen believes that this helps to create a sense of commitment to the organisation, resulting in higher retention rates. He also thinks that it is also important to recognise volunteers’ achievements and to acknowledge the value of their contribution to the organisation. Recognition can be formal (e.g. certificates, long service awards) or informal (e.g. birthday cards, cakes).
The final stage of Beugen’s life cycle is maturity. This is where the volunteer is ready to share their skills and knowledge, and to support and lead other volunteers. In an organisation with a lot of volunteers, this stage of the life cycle is important, as it allows established volunteers to share their experiences and knowledge to newer volunteers, and to possibly give a different perspective on the role than that of a paid member of staff. By involving existing volunteers in this knowledge sharing it is preventing them from losing interest and motivation.
Beugen points out that it is important to recognise that total retention isn’t necessarily a good thing. He believes that once a volunteer has gained new skills and interests they may be ready to move on to another organisation. This may not be necessary if the organisation is large enough to have a range of roles to keep the volunteer motivated and interested.
Holmes (in Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers, 2007) comments that the recruitment and retention procedures advised by many organisations are over-formal and similar to the personnel practices for paid staff. Despite this formal approach having advantages to both managers and volunteers in its structured approach research has found that volunteers often find this approach off-putting (Gaskin, 2003; Holmes, 2004).
The Institute for volunteering Research (2003) asked volunteers ‘what factors contribute to a satisfying and enduring volunteering experience’ in order to help organisations recruit and retain. IVR found that what puts volunteers off is “feeling used, not appreciated, not consulted and not accommodated”. They found that volunteers want “to feel welcome, secure, respected, informed, well used and well managed”. Since they do not have the incentive of financial gain, rewards must be supplied in other ways.
Kate Engles (Volunteering England, 2009) comments:
“Many volunteer-involving organisations use volunteers’ Week in June to give awards or celebrate their volunteers by an outing or picnic, for example. Saying thank you costs nothing and goes a long way. Birthday cards or small gifts can also have a lot of meaning for the recipient.”
Birthday cards for all volunteers are sent annually, with tea parties held during volunteers week in June as recognition of the volunteer teams extensive work at St Luke’s.
At St Mungo’s, the belief if that if volunteers can see that they are making a difference within the charity, and that they are working for a professional organisation then this willÂ help boost retention. This is done by integrating volunteers in to the “Mungo’s family”, by making them feel like a part of the permanent workforce (Volunteering England, 2009). Similarly to the integration of volunteers at St Mungo’s, St Luke’s have invested time in altering its culture. Historically, within St Luke’s, volunteers and paid staff have been treated very differently, with separate inductions, handbooks, social events etc. However, since 2007 work has been carried out at St Luke’s, to establish a less ‘them and us’ culture. This work started with the setting up of several focus groups, to enable volunteers to have more input in to the organisation. Yet, since this work in 2007, retention rates have not improved.
Approximately half of the organisations surveyed in the Volunteer Development Agency 2009 survey said that during the first quarter of 2009 the number of people applying to volunteering within their organisation had stayed the same, with 39% or organisations seeing an increase. The most common reason for an increase in applicants was that people wanted to increase their employability skills to aid finding paid work. The most common reason for decreases in volunteer applications because people had less time to come forward for volunteering.
The organisations who stated that they saw an increase in volunteer application in the first quarter of 2009 were asked to clarify the % increase that they had seen compared to the same period in 2008. 59% said that they had seen an increase of 1-25% and 27% had seen a 26-50% increase.
Looking towards the future, the organisations surveyed predicted that the major challenges facing them over the coming 6 months were related to funding / limited resources and the need to adapt to changing motivations / expectations of volunteers.
90% of the organisations who responded to this survey were from the Voluntary and Community sector. The remaining 10% were split between organisations with a remit in church / faith, sports and social enterprise. The largest had 1080 volunteers. Although extremely difficult the quantity, the perceived monetary worth of one hour of volunteer’s time to the organisations surveyed average out at Â£9.24, which ranged from Â£0-Â£30. With over 700 volunteers, it is estimated that St Luke’s saves in excess of over Â£1,000,000 per annum.
Participating organisations are quoted as saying â€œVolunteers at present are needing greater flexibility, this is ok to a point but does cause our organisation problems. Volunteers are not committing themselves for long periods any more, in the past the average duration for volunteers was 2-3 years, now that is down to 6-12 months’ (Volunteer Development Agency, 2009).
â€œThe majority of our volunteers are women and to date a few of them were unavailable to volunteer because they have had to look for paid work when their husbands became unemployed. This trend may increase’ (Volunteer Development Agency, 2009).
In the report ‘Volunteering in UK Hospices: looking to the future’ Smith, J (2004) estimates that each Hospice volunteer contributes approximately Â£1,500 a year worth of work, using nearly Â£200 of management time. Using this calculation it becomes clear how invaluable Hospice volunteers are, as the Shops operation would not be able to operate to such an extensive profit without them.
With plans for the Hospice to continue expanding, and the opening of more shops in the local area, it is essential that the Hospice has a strategy in place to ensure that there is a constant supply of volunteers joining the workforce to allow this to happen. As well as looking at new ways of recruiting volunteers, it is vital that the Hospice acknowledges the need to retain the volunteers is currently utilises, as they have a wealth of knowledge. As well as knowledge, Smith, J (2004) identified that volunteer commitment increases with length of service.
Statistics released by Volunteering England (2009) show that demand for volunteer placements in the 6 months prior to the report (March â€“ September 2009) increased in 86% of volunteer placement centres. A recent survey by Howard Lake (2009) for Institute of Fundraising found that Hospices were ‘bucking the economic gloom’. Lake found that people in the South East of England were still volunteering, and believes this to
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