Investing in Volunteers Achievers 2020!

We are delighted to report that Centre 404 has been successful in achieving our Investing in Volunteers accreditation October 2020- October 2023.

Investing in Volunteers is the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management and is awarded by NCVO, which champions voluntary sector organisations like Centre 404.

This quality mark is very important to our organisation as it demonstrates our value and commitment to our wonderful volunteers and the volunteer journey here at Centre 404.

We would like to thank our Volunteer & Communications Coordinator Josie Korda for leading us successfully through the process this year, and to all our amazing volunteers, staff and trustees who took part in the assessment day.

Despite the challenges of this year our volunteer team continues to provide vital support to our community and service users in new and innovative ways, and we are so very grateful for their contribution.

Please read on below for some highlights from the report. For more of a summary on how our wonderful volunteer network adapted and continued to support us throughput Covid-19 please see the volunteer dropdown on the coronavirus notice page here.

Image Shows: Centre 404’s Investing in Volunteer Certificate 2020-2023

Organisational Summary

There were 77 volunteers at the time of the assessment, in seven types of volunteer roles:

• Buddies / Befrienders
• Supporting group activities with adults or children and young people
• Peer family support
• Friday night social club
• Gardening group
• Committee members (ex. trustees)
• Reception and administration

Volunteering is led by the Volunteer & Communications Coordinator (VCC) who reports to the Director of People & Resources who in turn reports to the CEO.

Governance is provided by a board of trustees.

20 volunteers were interviewed in groups of 2-5 with 1 volunteer interviewed individually.

Staff were selected to include senior management, those directly responsible for volunteers, as well as those working alongside volunteers. The majority of staff work alongside volunteers from time to time.

Photo Shows: A selection of photos of volunteers helping with shopping, telephone befriending and delivering key worker appreciation gifts throughout the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Summary of Practise

INDICATOR 1 There is an expressed commitment to the involvement of volunteers, and recognition throughout the organisation that volunteering is a two-way process which benefits volunteers and the organisation.

Centre 404 is clearly proud of its history of being founded by volunteers, and that legacy is demonstrated in its involvement of volunteers to this day.

A member of staff explained,

“volunteering is central to all our activities, they bring a richness to what we deliver as well as new skills, a different perspective and diversity”

another added,

“we have a tradition of caring for volunteers, it’s important their involvement is reciprocal – we make sure volunteers gain training and experience”.

The trustee reflected how

“families supporting other families was how the organisation began, and that ethos of people coming together to support each other is still at the core of what we do”.

Volunteers described a number of ways in which they benefited from their involvement,

“I love the training programme, meeting new people and the feeling you get from supporting others”

“I want to work with children with learning disabilities, I’m getting great experience here”

“I just wanted to do something useful during lockdown being able to offer online activities keeps me busy and feeling useful and connected to others”.

Image Shows: Service Users enjoying an online arts and crafts session with Virtual Activities Volunteer Tessa

INDICATOR 2 The organisation commits appropriate resources to working with all volunteers, such as money, management, staff time and materials.

The VCC has attended numerous external training and peer support events on volunteer management through NVCO and the Association of Volunteer Managers, including their annual conference.

As part of the work towards IiV an internal role of Volunteer Champion has been created, with a representative from each department. This network will be used to increase the understanding of good practice in volunteer management across the organisation.

Image Shows: Our six Volunteer Champions

Volunteer issues are regularly discussed at Heads of Service and Personnel Committee meetings and the VCC regularly attends staff meetings with all services to give updates on volunteer recruitment and answer any questions those working with volunteers may have.

Volunteer objectives are included in the five-year strategic review as well as all service specific annual operational objectives.

The budget for the volunteer programme includes travel expenses, food expenses if volunteering four hours or more, volunteer training, refreshments for volunteer social events, volunteer support costs and the cost of materials used by volunteers.

Volunteers confirmed they were aware of the expenses policy and had the resources and materials they required for their roles,

“we have the tools we need for gardening and would talk to [the VCC] if there was something more we needed”.

Animation Shows: Our first Garden Group reunion following groups reopening in September 2020.

INDICATOR 3 The organisation is open to involving volunteers who reflect the diversity of the local community and actively seeks to do this in accordance with its stated aims.

Centre 404 proactively seeks to engage volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and promotes volunteering in a range of ways to attract a diverse pool of applicants. Volunteering is also promoted internally to service users and their families.

A number of volunteers taking part in the assessment were also service users. Centre 404 has an equality & diversity policy that is also available in Easy Read.

Volunteers interviewed confirmed the organisation to be welcoming and inclusive,

“they really take inclusion seriously here, particularly when it comes to disability, they really focus on what people can do, and what they can give” 

“it’s a very open and friendly place I felt welcome as soon as I walked in, I’m sure anyone would”.

A member of staff explained they were keen to develop their equality, diversity and inclusion strategy,

“partly in response to #blacklivesmatter we’ve set up a diversity group open to staff and volunteers…”

The VCC reported,

“based on the information we have so far, we have a very diverse volunteer base, one area we were already aware was under-represented was the under 25’s. However we now plan to address that as part of a new young volunteers’ project. We will be working with 40+ young volunteers during 2020/1”

Photo Shows: Four young student Events Volunteers from UCL who helped at our Quiz Night 2020 just before the lockdown.

INDICATOR 4 The organisation develops appropriate roles for volunteers in line with its aims and objectives, which are of value to the volunteers.

Centre 404 have many volunteer roles and therefore a wide variety of tasks available. They are willing to adapt roles to suit the needs, interests and skills of the volunteer wherever possible.

For example, a number of roles have been adapted to be more accessible to volunteers with a learning disability, by breaking them down into a specific tasks.

The group befriender role can also be flexible to suit a volunteer who has a specific skill they want to share. A volunteer interviewed had recently been recruited to run an online music session;

“I want to be a music therapist so this is the ideal role for me”.

Image Shows: A screenshot of some service users enjoying a Music Therapy session on Zoom with our Virtual Activities Volunteer Georgia.

INDICATOR 5 The organisation is committed to ensuring that, as far as possible, volunteers are protected from physical, financial and emotional harm arising from volunteering.

Centre 404 have written risk assessments for all volunteering roles… There are also risk assessments for events, and for individual service users.

Health & safety is included in the volunteer induction training, and volunteers interviewed were aware of how to keep themselves safe when volunteering.

The focus of this discussion during the assessment was relating to Centre 404’s plans to return to face to face volunteering safely. One volunteer who had returned confirmed;

“there’s hand sanitiser, masks and temperature checks at reception and do’s and don’ts on the screens around the building”.

There is a clear policy on the reimbursement of volunteer expenses, which is included in the volunteer policy and handbook. Volunteers interviewed confirmed they were encouraged to claim expenses and knew how to submit a claim, the process has been simplified since the previous assessment, volunteers can now submit electronic receipts and reimbursement is made via BACS.

Data protection and GDPR guidelines are covered within the volunteer policy and handbook and volunteers felt confident their personal information was stored and used appropriately. There is a clear data retention schedule that shows what can be kept on record and for how long before being permanently deleted.

Image Shows: Our three nominees and two winners at the VAI Volunteer of the Year Awards In November 2019

INDICATOR 6 The organisation is committed to using fair, efficient and consistent recruitment procedures for all potential volunteers.

There is a consistent recruitment process and at each stage of the application process volunteers are told what the next steps will be and how long it is likely to take.

Easy Read documents are available for volunteers who need them.

“When I applied online I got an email back the next day and was invited to an interview the following week – I was really impressed with how efficient they were and how straightforward it all was” confirmed one volunteer.

Volunteers are asked about why they wish to volunteer at application stage and this is explored further during the interview.

“We had quite a discussion about my career goals and how volunteering here could help with the experience I needed, I really appreciated the time they took in making sure this organisation was right for me, and not just me for them” explained one newly recruited volunteer.

Photo Shows: A selection of photos of volunteers and trustees

INDICATOR 7 Clear procedures are put into action for introducing new volunteers to their role, the organisation, its work, policies, practices and relevant personnel.

There are written induction check lists for all roles to ensure all relevant information is provided and discussed with volunteers during their induction, this includes a tour of the building and being introduced to staff, other volunteers and service users.

Key information and policies discussed are also covered in the volunteer handbook so volunteers have something to refer to when needed.

Volunteers confirmed boundaries were clear and that they would talk to a member of staff if they were struggling with boundaries in any way.

“Maintaining professional boundaries is very important, for the benefit of the clients, but also for us, we need to be mindful of personal space, not give out our contact details or be friends on Facebook, not get involved in any personal issues and if we’re worried about anything let a member of staff know so they can follow it up”.

Volunteers were aware they could use the complaints policy to raise any concerns they had, but volunteers interviewed generally felt they would first raise issues informally;

“I would talk to [the VCC] or one of the managers and see if things could be sorted that way first”.

Image Shows: Our VCC (Volunteer & Communications Coordinator) Josie at the launch of the Jack Petchey Giving Something Back Programme, from which our Young Volunteers Project was chosen for funding.

INDICATOR 8 The organisation takes account of the varying support and supervision needs of volunteers.

All volunteers have a named supervisor who is responsible for their day to day support and conducting regular check ins with volunteers. The frequency and format of these depends on the volunteer role, how often the volunteer and the needs of an individual volunteer. Volunteers can also request a one to one meeting with the VCC at any time.

Volunteers described staff has helpful, supportive, kind and professional,

“I can always get in touch with [the VCC] when I need to – she responds really quickly to emails and always takes time to help you sort anything out”.

For events and other occasional volunteers drop-in sessions are organised every six months.

“You feel really good when you get positive feedback from the staff, it’s helped with my confidence and I now find it easier to talk to people” explained one volunteer when asked about the support and feedback they received.

Volunteers were aware they could say ‘no’ and refuse to carry out any tasks they felt uncomfortable doing,

“the staff are very understanding, if you did say no to something they’d be fine about it, there wouldn’t be any pressure”.

“I’m in charge of what I can give”.

Feedback is obtained from volunteers through quarterly check-in forms,

“we found this works better than an annual survey where the response rate was really low”

Information from these forms is collated and used to inform future planning.

Volunteers are contacted directly if there are any changes that would impact on their role,

“there have been regular email updates about covid and all the changes” confirmed one volunteer.

Image Shows: Two members from our Volunteer Receptionist team.

INDICATOR 9 The whole organisation is aware of the need to give volunteers recognition.

Volunteers interviewed unanimously confirmed that Centre 404 valued and appreciated for the time they were giving,

“they will not stop thanking me, it makes me blush!”

“during lockdown there was an online quiz night which was fun, we also received a goody bag in the post, which included chocolate – that was very thoughtful of them”.

An annual awards ceremony is held usually during Volunteers’ Week and a volunteer newsletter is sent quarterly to all volunteers and staff and highlights volunteer achievements, as well as a Volunteer of the Quarter. Volunteers are also a prominent feature in the annual review publication, which presents case studies demonstrating volunteer input and their value to the organisation through the impact of their work.

Volunteers have their opportunity to give their views on the organisation’s work and participate in decision making; for example volunteers from each department were involved in the IiV working group. Volunteers are also encouraged to give feedback through their volunteering champions and regular check ins.

Training and progression records are kept for volunteers, and a number of volunteers had moved onto volunteering or paid employment with other organisations as a result of their volunteering with Centre 404.

“They help you create new skills and avenues for your life” 

“I know some Makaton; it was great to practice it with some service users who really appreciated it and taught me some more signs”.

Photo Shows: A screenshot of our trustees holding a meeting via zoom

Thank you for reading 🙂