Remove barriers to volunteering

What does volunteering mean?

Volunteering occurs in many cultures, but is often performed differently from culture to culture. In Britain we have developed a great number of community-based groups or organisations focusing on volunteer activities. This phenomenon may not be representative of other societies and cultures where extended family groupings, religious groups or organisations, and government may play greater roles. Many people give a significant amount of time to help others and support their community but do not recognise this as volunteering.

Society is constantly changing. Peoples’ availability to volunteer and their motivations are varied. The challenge for voluntary groups and organisations in an increasingly diverse population is to provide opportunities that appeal to and engage with people from as wide a range of backgrounds and lifestyles as possible.

We need to consider how we present volunteering in order to reach a wide audience. Phrases such as “helping out” or “getting involved in your community” may be more easily understood.


Remove barriers

It is important to consider if your organisation may unwittingly be creating barriers to some people getting involved.

Organisations that are successful in attracting volunteers often under represented in formal volunteering eg younger people, older people, unemployed people, disabled people and people from black and ethnic minority communities, tend to adopt a range of approaches.

These include:

  • Paying out-of-pocket expenses
  • Offering a variety of different types of volunteering opportunities requiring various levels of skill and commitment
  • Organising transport where necessary
  • Ensuring that buildings have full disabled access
  • Making it clear in recruitment literature that volunteering is open to all
  • Targeting recruitment campaigns at specific under-represented groups
  • Adopting non-rejection policies for people who want to volunteer and linking volunteers into alternative opportunities
  • Adapting roles to suit individual volunteers needs
  • Employing a diverse paid staff group, thereby illustrating to potential volunteers that the organisation is committed to equal opportunities
  • Providing appropriate training and support
  • Minimising the amount of form filling and bureaucracy directly involving volunteers


Promote diversity

Consider how you promote your organisation as inclusive and welcoming to all. Use words and images that convey diversity whilst reflecting your ethos and activities. Advertise opportunities to volunteer as widely as possible using a variety of means such as leaflets, posters, volunteering development agencies, social networking sites and local media.

Ensure that all policies and procedures incorporate diversity and are relevant, easy to understand and simple to put into practice.

You may want to use a diversity statement such as the example listed which is suitable for a small organisation. It is important however that you understand what this means in practice and act on it otherwise the words are merely empty and well meaning.

Why not ask yourselves:

  • How are differing ideas heard and valued?
  • What do we do to facilitate this?
  • What examples can we give of where ideas have been acted upon?