Just a volunteer
Annabel Tindale, Volunteer Coordinator for HWNL, shares her experience of a recent volunteer workshop ran by Healthwatch England.
“I recently attended the national Healthwatch conference in Nottingham and took part in a workshop called “Leading Volunteers.” The workshop was led by Kate Johnson, Development Officer at Healthwatch England. The focus was recruiting volunteers and the difference between leadership and management.
It was good to meet people from other Healthwatch and find out what work they are doing and how they are involving volunteers. Each Healthwatch is set up and funded differently, some Healthwatch have lots of staff and volunteers, others, like Healthwatch North Lincolnshire have a small team made up of staff and volunteers.
In the workshop we discussed Gaskin’s (2003) model of volunteer involvement: The doubter, the starter, the doer and the stayer. The model aims to encourage someone who is doubting or sceptical about volunteering to consider starting and once they start volunteering it’s about encouraging volunteer longevity.
I am pleased to say if I apply this model to HWNL volunteers they are all ‘doers’ and I very much hope they are stayers!
One thing that stood out for me at the workshop was the volunteer’s perception of being “just a volunteer”. Everyone in the room agreed this phrase needs to be challenged. Without volunteers, HWNL would not have strong priorities or strategic direction as our volunteer Board Directors help steer the focus of Healthwatch year on year. We wouldn’t be able to carry out as many Enter and View visits without our dedicated Enter and View Representatives. Volunteers contribute to our projects, support the staff team and boost the number of working hours completed each month. We are grateful for volunteers support and their vital contribution to our work. If you volunteer for a local group or organisation and someone says you’re “just a volunteer” then challenge them and make them realise how valuable you are!
One person in the workshop commented that you can buy in a professional but not life experience. I often have people enquire about volunteering who are worried they won’t be able to volunteer as they don’t have a degree. We have volunteers from all walks of life, some with a degree and some without – to us, it really doesn’t matter. We work with you and place you in a role that best suits your skills and support you to gain new skills if you want to. Volunteering really is what you make of it and we we’re here to support you.
1st – 12th June was National Volunteers Week. HWNL took this opportunity to thank all our volunteers and the work they do for us. If you’re interested in volunteering for Healthwatch you can find out more on the ‘Get Involved’ section of our website or contact Annabel on 01724 844986 firstname.lastname@example.org
 Gaskin, K., (2003). A Choice Blend; What volunteers want from organisation and management. [pdf]. Institute for Volunteering Research. Available at: < http://www.ivr.org.uk/images/stories/Institute-of-Volunteering-Research/Migrated-Resources/Documents/C/choice-blend-report-for-printing.pdf > [Accessed 14th June 2016].