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Digital tools and new structures to inspire more volunteers

The fact that resources change is self-evident to a volunteer leader or coordinator, but at the same time, it is a challenge. The major resources of volunteering are those volunteers who believe they have something to give and also to gain from the activity. It is inspiring to meet people who want to impact the society through non-commercial work. Sometimes I may feel lost in how I could send them forward, which especially in rural areas may be more challenging than in the cities.

I have worked on starting volunteer activities by using a so-called ”Fyra betydelsefulla timmar (4BT)” method (“four meaningful hours”) in the Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia during last year. In the program, a volunteer is guided to be a leisure time friend of a disabled person. Commitment is supported and encouraged, so that friendships are built and meetings continue. I thank the Valikkoverkosto (volunteer coordinators’ network) of Citizen Forum for the opportunity to participate in the CEV (European Volunteers Center) seminar in Brussels 25.-26.10.2018. There, I learned two new ways to guide volunteers which are presented below.

Experienced volunteers as contact persons for the new-comers

EVS Realms publication Treasurebox for Mentors, presents tools that help create a structure to coordinator-guided volunteering, helping division of work between several people. The task of the contact people (mentors), together with the coordinator, is to get new volunteers ”on the right track” both in the beginning of and during an assignment. It is a question of division of work between the coordinator, the volunteer, and the mentor. The mentor can be an experienced volunteer or someone else who can be reached by the volunteer in matters related to the assignment. It would be ideal if mentoring could be shared with several team members who are part of the volunteer’s physical environment and organization. Thus, the different tasks of familiarizing the volunteers with volunteering can be divided between the mentors and the volunteer coordinator. The tasks to be divided are, for example:

  • presentation of the values, routines, and staff of the organization
  • presentation of the volunteer tasks
  • security issues
  • studying the new environment

Digital guidance of volunteers

Digitalization of the society affects whole Europe. I live in Ostrobothnia, where digitalization is seen especially in the way the younger generations act more and more through smart phones or computers in their daily lives. Whether it is a question of keeping in touch with family and friends, shopping, acquisition of knowledge or education, getting service etc. In the seminar, ”Digital mentoring” was presented: how digitalization changes our organization’s needs and the channels needed to reach the volunteers.

Volunteer Vision presented an application which makes it possible to talk with, interview, and train volunteers without a physical meeting. The application also helps in keeping continuous contact through a smart phone or a computer. The organization and the volunteers can thus be in different locations or even in different countries. To enable this kind of volunteer coordination, in addition to technical tools there is a need for:

  1. People who administer the network connection (e.g. volunteer coordinator or contact person)
  2. The volunteer takes an active responsibility in following up and making sure that the network connection is up and running (whether talking about a friend-pair, a volunteer or someone else)

If these things are taken care of, according to the application provider, it is possible to successfully train volunteers totally virtually.

The CEV seminar gave me lots of new contacts but also ideas about volunteering and how to act. The models of the rest of Europe can give inspiration, development ideas, and eventually new volunteering activities in our region. For example, ”a virtual volunteer 1 h/week” or ”digital connections” for friends or volunteer coordinators. Perhaps interest to try something new will rise.

Text: Irene Bäckman

The writer works as a volunteer coordinator in SAMS (Co-operation association for the disabled)

Translation: Merja Tahkokallio

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