Being creative with volunteering and Investing in Volunteers

30 January 2015

When I ask people to think about volunteering and what volunteers do, the tendency is sometimes to think about the more traditional roles; the charity shops, fundraising or after school clubs perhaps.


In the course of meeting with lots of organisations I’m often surprised to hear what some volunteers choose to do.  Some of the more unusual, or just plain quirky, roles for volunteers have in the past included: the famous toe nail clippers of NHS Shetland and you may remember the sweat-mopping Clyde-siders at the Commonwealth Games badminton events in 2014.  Neither role is glamorous or dramatic but both, in their own way, are much needed.

If you’re an older person living in Shetland, and can no longer manage to reach your toes to cut your nails, think how uncomfortable you might become.  A retired GP, aware that some patients struggled in this way, started a successful scheme to provide this service for people.  Volunteers are, in the main, retired nurses and other health professionals now supported by the Podiatry Dept of NHS Shetland. Some people can’t imagine ever doing this; but the 'toenail clippers' recognise a need and are happy to be involved providing a bit of social contact by chatting with their clients and getting the satisfaction of a job well done using their skills and training. 

Think about all those red coated Clyde-siders in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games: I was one and loved the experience.  The days were long and tiring, with very early starts, and for some that alone might have been off putting but - most of the time - the weather was sunny and warm and being part of such an exciting time in the city felt like a huge privilege.  I met lots and lots of people, took hundreds of photos of people attending events, answered dozens of questions every day and smiled until my face hurt!

Investing in Volunteers encourages organisations to be creative and to develop their volunteering in ways that work for them.  We talk about good practice in volunteering and this includes all the good things that keep people interested and involved - keeping it fresh and up to date.  The IiV standard indicated that organisations have a variety of roles available to interest and attract a range of people; encouraging diversity , embracing new ideas and meeting the needs of the organisation.  It also encourages organisations to think about adapting tasks to suit individual volunteers’ abilities and interests instead of always doing the same things in the same old way.  Encouraging volunteers to suggest new roles and alternative ways of doing things helps to generate ideas and volunteers to feel even more a part of “their” organisation.  

Think about your volunteers, or what you do as a volunteer – is volunteering in 2015 predictable ... or is it exciting and innovative?

If you take part in an unusual and exciting volunteer role, we’d love to hear from you, contact:

- Written by Anne Hislop

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