Improving the volunteer experience


​Paul Okroj of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland writes about Volunteering Week

TFN Guest's photo

30th May 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

It is apt that Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) being one of Scotland’s largest medical charities relying on over 1,500 volunteers checks the health of our own volunteering programme in preparation for Volunteers Week (June 1-12) 2016.

The good news is that we are in good shape. How do we know this? We asked our volunteers, what was working and what was not – how could we improve their volunteer experience? We always say we could not do this without them, that they have the power to change lives but we needed to actually listen and learn from the volunteer during their time with us and not just when they leave.

We identified that volunteers are more aware of the personal benefits to their mental and physical health; how it supports employability and how it impacts on their life skills and sense of belonging. The number one motivation for new volunteers last year was to develop new skills, experience and personal growth and we found that all ages needed more flexibility and more meaningful connected experiences when volunteering.

Paul Okroj

Paul Okroj

Volunteering supports key government social and political objectives such as reducing social isolation and loneliness

This is of course meant that our approach to volunteering has had to change. A move away from the traditional parental approach when we dictated when induction was, when training took place and when meetings were held to allowing the volunteer to take more responsibility of their volunteering during their time with us.

As a result volunteering within CHSS is now person centred – embracing the personal benefits of volunteering from recruitment , training and support and asking how they liked to be recognised and valued. So for Volunteers Week health check up we have prescribed that CHSS now sees volunteers as influencers of the organisation and lead the way in our volunteering strategy.

So, how to say thanks during Volunteering Week – we will hold celebratory tea parties across the country but we wanted to show our volunteers how much we value their input and take on board their feedback. We have embraced digital technology and developed a Volunteer Portal – a one stop go to place for all things volunteering within CHSS. Giving the volunteer access to all volunteering resources at a time that suits them, not when it suits us. For a preview have a look online:

We have been blown away by the response from our volunteers who now want to know what plans for the next stage.

Volunteering in the wider sense continues to support key government social and political objectives such as the aim to reduce social isolation and loneliness and the impact that has on health and wellbeing. These are key priorities for Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and the Scottish Government and its partners over the coming years, which means that the Third Sector and volunteering is in a key position to support and enable everyone to live longer, stronger lives.

Therefore it is important that we individually and collectively check the health of volunteering in Scotland and like CHSS give volunteers the opportunity to influence direction.

Paul Okroj is head of volunteering at Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland.