Providing effective support to your volunteers

17 Jan 2020 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 20 Jan 2020

Providing support to our volunteers through developing a positive culture, listening to their feedback and giving constructive feedback is essential to helping them do a good job and feel valued.

NICVA and Volunteer Now have been providing ILM level 3 Award in management of volunteers to volunteer managers in NI for over 5 years. It is the only course of its kind and our partnership is the only delivery agent.

During these courses the participants have shared best practice and addressed challenges they face together. Here are some tips from our learners' discussions in class and assignments to help us all as we support our volunteers

Promote a culture of positive learning

  • Provide a relaxed and informal setting for volunteer interactions, creating a positive, warm and friendly atmosphere.
  • Be as accessible as practically possible for your volunteers and  host training opportunities and meetings when your volunteers are readily available.
  • Choose appropriate forms of communication to suit the needs of the volunteer group. For example, social media ‘group chats’ work well with young leaders, and team meetings work well for club volunteers.
  • Help the volunteers feel valued and empowered by creating a motivating environment. 
  • Give your volunteers new opportunities i.e. necessary training opportunities for them to progress within the organisation.
  • Have good processes and procedures within the induction will help the volunteers understand fully of what is expected of them and about the organisation.

Encourage reflection and objective feedback from volunteers

  • Have debrief meetings where the volunteer can have a chance to express what they think is going well, what they think might need improved.
  • Carry out a survey/questionnaire which allows volunteers to express their opinions.
  • Have regular meetings – make the interesting and fun and allow time for listening to volunteers’ feedback
  • Ask questions during support sessions - ask what things went well and were there any areas that could have been improved? What would they do differently the next time?  If something hasn’t worked for a volunteer, encourage them to try something different. 
  • Use different communication methods which best suit the needs of the group or individual.
  • Be accessible when issues or concerns arise. A possible solution may be regular quarterly support meetings which offer a platform for one on one in depth discussion.

Give positive and constructive feedback to volunteers

  • Use the EFNC assertiveness model as a good process to follow when having to give feedback.  4 stages: explanation, feelings, needs, consequences
  • Create a relaxed environment for volunteers - provide refreshments for volunteers and hold discussions in a comfortable and informal setting.
  • Prepare an agenda for the meeting so as discussion is focused and purposeful. Open discussion with asking volunteers how they feel; their thoughts on what went well or needs improvement.
  • Follow up with volunteers via social media, phone call or email. Depending on the feedback discussed, some issues will require a written record of correspondence.
  •  Actively listen, be aware of body language, repeat key messages and check their understanding of what is being said. 
  • Use ‘I’ statements is also useful to contextualise feedback e.g. “I observed…”, “I have been informed…” and give validity to the comments as facts rather than hearsay.

If you are a volunteer manager and are keen to meet with and learn from other volunteer managers our next ILM level 3 Award in management of volunteers course is coming up on 25 February and 3 March 2020. You can also gain accreditation if you successfully complete the assignment.'s picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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