Based on the data collected from our survey with volunteer agencies, nearly all of them (98%) reported having a volunteer policy in place. However, despite having a policy, volunteers did not always feel this was implemented and adhered to across the organisation, particularly at a senior level where managers were not always seen in a positive light by volunteers, often being described as distant from the experiences of volunteers. However, some volunteers felt that they could and should contribute to the wider aims of the organisations they worked for. Volunteers thought that managers should be more engaged and visible with a wider organisational commitment to volunteering activities. Some volunteers reported specific problems with the management within the organisations they volunteered for, linked to changes in personnel within management. This would suggest that sustainability is not just about volunteers’ sustainability but also about the sustainability of the staff and wider organisations that support them.
Overall the management of an organisation did not seem to be particularly influential over volunteers and their experiences. There were few positive experiences or examples of volunteers engaging with wider management within organisations. The experience of volunteers was more likely to be influenced by the volunteer coordinators and other volunteers.
I think sometimes maybe people who are little bit higher up in the organisation perhaps, I don’t know, making a little bit more effort to perhaps come round the groups and just have a little look would be nice. I know that’s not always possible but maybe I don’t know more personal discussions of our volunteering experience perhaps. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)
[Management] is an enormous gap from the [organisations] side. One of the problems is that it’s been such a rocky road over the last three years, where you’ve seen somebody in post and then four weeks later they’ve disappeared or they’ve resigned or something. It’s been a really unhappy situation so the volunteers have just muddled along really. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)
And it seems from the reports of the last volunteer forum it wasn’t ignored at all and they have taken it on board to the extent of changing the personnel on the management. So, they have brought somebody else in who obviously feels the same way that the bulk of the volunteers do. So, that has been quite good. (Male volunteer, Cumbria)