Staff volunteering The HEACF is as much about increasing HEI employee involvement in voluntary and community activity as it is about recruiting more student volunteers. When university staff take part in projects with and for local people, their involvement exemplifies universities’ commitment to reaching out to all sections of the community. Staff volunteers are thus important ambassadors for university outreach programmes. Staff have a vast wealth of experience and expertise to offer. Many offer the skills and knowledge they use in their work to benefit others. Others draw upon life experiences more generally. Some staff are proactive in developing and leading projects with student teams (often, but not always, subject-related). Others volunteer as individuals. The diversity of contributions made by staff through the HEACF is illustrated by the case studies shown under ‘Staff volunteering’ in the Cross-reference guide (pp.10–14). Universities also ask for academic staff support in promoting volunteering to students. If the member of staff is also a volunteer, this enhances their ability to encourage others to do likewise. Universities identify a range of potential benefits to encourage staff to volunteer. Some of these mirror the benefits to students: developing and sharing skills; building confidence; facing new challenges; CV enhancement; meeting new people and having fun; experiencing new career possibilities; as well as the satisfaction of giving something back to the community. Some benefits are more staff-specific, e.g: developing contacts outside workrelated networks; raising the profile of the department/boosting kudos through faculty-based programmes; building links with organisations that may help build the university as a business; helping the transition from work to retirement. Many staff volunteer already, outside the HEACF. Universities are therefore working hard to encourage staff to volunteer within HEACF programmes, in order to take forward projects that build stronger links with local communities. As incentives, they emphasise the value of joining an organised programme of volunteering, with a point of contact throughout, and the information, training and contacts needed for the chosen activity. There is rarely a shortage of opportunities for staff to volunteer. Local organisations frequently request staff expertise to fill roles such as: school governors, trustees, mentors and tutors. But frequently there is a mismatch between the commitment requested and the time that potential volunteers feel they can offer. Often, the type of project favoured by the donor is the short, one-off project, able to be undertaken by a team of staff and students to achieve transformational results (for example, projects that improve a community environment). Lack of time is frequently cited by staff as a limiting factor. In response, some institutions have instituted an element of paid leave for volunteering. In others, line managers are authorised to grant a set amount time off for volunteering within local HEACF projects in order to facilitate, or make possible, employee involvement. The case studies below illustrate different organisational approaches to increasing employee involvement in volunteering. Case study SV1 (2004) Best Practice in Staff Volunteering Kent Union, University of Kent Jenny Witherden and Sam Walker Volunteer Project Co-ordinators, Kent Union University of Kent Canterbury CT2 7NU Tel 01227 824232 Email firstname.lastname@example.org www.kentunion.co.uk/main/activities Context Active Community funding has led to a focus on volunteering not just among students but by the staff of Kent Union too. Through a number of initiatives staff at Kent Union are encouraged to participate in volunteering activities. This has led to community project work by Kent Union staff and an ambitious project to complete the Three Peaks Challenge in 2004. Programme detail Building links in the community through teamwork Volunteering is now a central part of staff culture at Kent Union. Volunteering has been encouraged and supported through a number of initiatives: Flexible Working Policy: Written in 2002, the policy includes a section on staff volunteering. Staff are encouraged to take up to half a day each month for volunteering. 17.0 Time off for volunteering A key principle of Kent Union is a commitment to helping others who have a need. Via Kent Union, hundreds of students volunteer their time each year to help others. Kent Union wishes to widen this opportunity to its staff, recognising the mutual benefits this offers to the staff themselves, the Union and the community. 17.1 Therefore, Kent Union will allow employees to take up to 25 hours per annum of normal work time to volunteer. 17.2 Examples of different volunteering opportunities are working with people with disabilities, assisting in local schools, conservation work, helping refugees, working in a local charity shop. 17.3 Volunteering must be in blocks of at least 2 hours and no more than 3.5 hours. may only volunteer once per week. 17.4 Volunteering times must be agreed in advance with the employee’s line manager. 17.5 Volunteering should normally be through the Union’s existing volunteering programmes. 17.6 Talk to the Volunteering Co-ordinator for further information. Staff In agreeing the policy it was recognised that volunteering adds to work/life balance and is an activity that the organisation values, recognising the personal and community benefits. Kent Union vision and values: Volunteering has a place within the values of the organisation. Vision Kent Union achieves excellence in student focused services and is recognised by its members as the focal point for life as a student. Values Is student led and customer focused, aiming to surpass every stakeholders’ expectations all the time Sees itself firmly at the heart of and integral to the University of Kent Is committed to realising people’s potential Constantly strives to achieve excellence in all it does Provides best value and excellent quality services to all its customers Is creative, innovative and at the forefront of student service provision Is committed to the principle of Equality of Opportunity, challenges discrimination and promotes diversity Realises that its staff are its greatest asset and commits to being an excellent employer Recognises volunteering and promotion of community participation as core functions Provides a safe, supportive and caring environment for its staff and customers Prioritises providing students with employment Staff development events: Volunteering has been included as an option in staff development days, encouraging staff to see value in volunteering their time and expertise. These events have raised awareness of the range of volunteering opportunities available and helped staff to identify how much time and expertise they have to give. This has led to staff volunteering who had previously not considered doing so. Partnership with Canterbury Open Centre: Kent Union has a long standing relationship with the Canterbury Open Centre (homeless shelter). In July 2003 the Centre opened a resettlement project and half-way house in Canterbury, creating new opportunities for volunteers to work with residents and renovate the property and grounds. These new opportunities have been filled by Kent Union staff. Staff have raised funds to equip the new property, used their own networks to get goods for free (such as a skip to remove old garden rubbish) and in August they spent a day working on an old shed to create a workshop for residents. Specialist knowledge within the Union is being used to develop the Open Centre as a whole. Senior managers are sharing best practice in strategic planning, and the Marketing and Fundraising Manager is helping Centre staff to prepare a marketing and fundraising plan. More ambitious plans The desire to work on bigger, more ambitious projects has led to a team of 15 staff taking on the Three Peaks Challenge in aid of the Meningitis Research Trust in July 2004. Volunteers work in all areas and levels of the organisation, including part-time student staff. Those not involved in the actual event are supporting it through fundraising and publicity. Benefits Volunteering by staff at Kent Union has developed stronger communication networks and created a culture of teamwork and co-operation within the organisation. Individuals have found the opportunity to apply their skills out of work motivational. Many were moved by the life experience of the Open Centre residents and gained a sense of satisfaction from completing a project for the benefit of others. Projects have given a shared goal to staff that would not normally work together. Volunteering is now firmly established as something to be part of at Kent Union - a sense that can only go from strength to strength. Hints and tips Embed volunteering in employment policy. Utilise skills and resources already within the workforce. Find a cause that people can relate to. Create projects with flexible time commitment. Celebrate projects and success within the organisation. Case study SV2 (2005) University of Leeds Staff Volunteering University of Leeds Greg Miller City and Regional Office 175 Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds Leeds LS2 9JT Tel 0113 3431058 Email email@example.com www.leeds.ac.uk Context For the last two years the University of Leeds has taken part in a city-wide appeal – Cares@Christmas – to collect gifts, including food hampers, goodie bags, sets of toiletries and kitchen essentials, for local charities. Seventy-three staff volunteers have contributed to the appeal to date which has enabled the University to collect over 8,000 gifts to make a difference to the people of Leeds during the festive period. Programme detail Staff volunteers from across the University co-ordinate the collection of gifts to support local charities, including those which support the homeless, elderly, children, refugees and adults with disabilities. The scale of this project has meant that staff volunteers have a great deal of responsibility for the delivery of the appeal within their own departments. The City and Regional Office oversees the overall co-ordination of the project, guiding and supporting the volunteers. Volunteers raise awareness within their departments and co-ordinate the massive task of collecting and wrapping the gifts to be donated. Volunteers also have the responsibility to determine which charity they will support from a list provided, manage a small budget to cover project costs, recruit other volunteers to assist with wrapping gifts, and publicise the appeal within their department. Volunteers attend two group meetings during the appeal to discuss their progress, share their ideas and give support to the other volunteers. These meetings also allow volunteers the opportunity to input their thoughts and shape the project according to their requirements. Volunteers have the freedom to find the best ways of capturing the interest and support of their staff and students. Each volunteer creates their own display to publicise and raise the profile of the appeal which they update each time a gift is donated to indicate their progress. Some of the most innovative displays include the School of Classics’ ‘Stripping Santa’, a wintry display which gained snowflakes as gifts were donated and a Santa which climbed a ladder up to a chimney the more gifts were donated. Staff volunteers have found many creative ways to increase the number of donations. Sparing no embarrassment to herself, one helper spent a whole day wandering around campus dressed in full elf attire, raffling two large teddy bears to raise money to buy gifts. The School of Healthcare held regular coffee mornings to raise the profile of the appeal in their department, keep staff interest and gain help with wrapping their gifts. The gifts are collected, sorted and delivered to the charities by the agreed deadline over a two-day period, co-ordinated by the City and Regional Office. One volunteer and his children attended a charity’s Christmas party and helped distribute the hampers he had collected to their elderly members. As an incentive for volunteers to collect more gifts, the department which contributes the greatest number of presents receives a trophy, presented to the winner at a post-project party by a senior member of staff at the University. This event allows volunteers to share and compare their experiences and congratulate each other on a fantastic job well done. Staff have also very much enjoyed the experience. As one volunteer said, ‘I have gained confidence in my own abilities as a result of volunteering, I thoroughly recommend it’. Another member of staff said that ‘despite the seemingly hectic work schedule, finding time to make a big difference to local charities was both personally rewarding and easier than I thought’. Without the support from the many staff volunteers at the University, the Cares@Christmas appeal would not have not been the success it has in giving support to so many people in need in the festive season. Hints and tips Start the project early and plan the project delivery carefully. Give volunteers responsibilities for the project and provide support and guidance to ensure they are confident with what is required of them. Allow staff volunteers to have the freedom to develop the project to their requirements. Ensure staff volunteers are fully aware of the time commitment required for the duration of the project. Ensure tasks are fun and that volunteers know why it is important to be involved. Ensure there is sufficient storage space for gifts. Allow sufficient time for wrapping and sorting gifts ready for collection. Plan the collection and delivery of gifts well to ensure the deadline is met. Reward volunteers for their generosity and achievements.