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News | 28 September 2020

Making a plan: how we can support family volunteering

By Kester Sharpe, Assistant Group Scout Leader and Deputy UK Chief Commissioner.

Many of you will have read Tim’s thoughtful blog on the different kinds of family volunteering we see in Scouts. Now let’s take a look at how we can put together a local action plan to welcome in new volunteers – especially from the families of our young people.

Let’s face it, most of us are worried about having enough volunteer support for our groups. It’s up to all of us then to take on the challenge of thinking how we can make our groups be more welcoming and accessible to volunteers. The insights Tim shared in his blog will not only help us come up with new ways for families to volunteer, they’ll also help us think how we can make volunteering more inclusive and enjoyable. It’s meant to be fun, after all.

Importantly, we need to acknowledge there will be some families that are more engaged than others. We all know a family where generations have been part of the movement (Scouting runs through them like ‘Blackpool’ through a stick of rock, as the saying goes). But what about those families who have little or no history of involvement, and don’t feel so confident stepping forward? Often they don’t feel part of the Scouts family and are unsure whether they would be welcome. We need to use the findings from the report on family volunteering to help welcome them better too.

Your family volunteering action plan

Here are just a few simple things we can all do in our groups straight away that will make a big difference to recruitment.

  • Greet parents with a smile and a friendly word – first impressions really do count
  • As we get back to Scouting face to face, make sure your meeting place feels welcoming – is it time for a spring clean, a new lick of paint or even just a tidy up?
  • Create a community – start a Facebook page or WhatApp group and invite parents to join. This way you’ll be able to stay in touch in a friendly and informal way. You can provide important updates, but also share volunteering opportunities too. There’s some good advice available on how do to this safely.

Find lots more great tips on getting ready to recruit.

What makes for great family volunteering?

Usefully, the report outlines the ideal conditions for family volunteering to thrive. First and foremost we need to offer a family-friendly environment and ethos – being welcoming and mindful of the challenges families face. Our values-based approach certainly helps with this – particularly our focus on care, cooperation and respect.

We must also do our best to be flexible, understanding that others’ commitment might not be at the same level as ours. We should offer varied opportunities – with different levels of engagement - helping families to fit volunteering around other commitments and interests, and to suit different people of different ages and genders.

Easy ways into volunteering

We should always be thinking about new and easier ways into volunteering; especially offering no or low commitment opportunities to help give families get their first taste of helping out. These could include:

All of these ideas give families the chance to find out what suits them, but also allow people to step back if and when they need to, without feelings of guilt.

Finally, we should help people as much as possible with understanding risk and regulation – what is and isn’t possible. Preconceptions about issues such as childcare and previous experience of Scouts can sometimes create barriers to volunteering and together it’s in our power to challenge these.

Why family volunteering is good for you

We all know the huge rewards volunteering together can bring. It give us a sense of shared purpose, helps us feel better about ourselves and our family, leading to better wellbeing. I know this is true in my own family where we share Scouting stories across three generations. Despite our different experiences, it’s magical having the common bond of Scouts to bring us together. 

Simply enjoying time together, knowing we are doing good and helping others is so positive for us a family. It helps us see new and different perspectives, broadens our horizons and helps us learn to cope better with pressures and stress.

Family volunteering is also invaluable to us as a movement. It means we can reach more potential volunteers through our existing networks, with a young person often being the catalyst for wider involvement from the family. However we need to redouble our efforts to reach out to new and different families to make sure we are as inclusive as possible.

Just the start of a volunteering journey

Let’s remember that a parent stepping through the door is just the start of a journey. Let’s not overwhelm parents or expect too much too soon. Some may want to progress to becoming a section leader; others may be happier to carry on helping out when they can. Everyone’s journey will be different.

Practical help for supporting family volunteering

As a team we’ll be using this report to better support family volunteering, but there are things we can do right away to start talking with families.

For those who aren’t already using them, I’d point you towards our excellent volunteer recruitment resources – including recruiting from a distance – to welcome families. Let’s use the guidance available to reassure people that volunteering can be both enjoyable and safe. By doing this, we’ll be helping more families feel part of this great movement of ours.

Need more support?

Getting ready to recruit webinar

Support for adult recruitment

A special thank you to Pears Foundation for helping fund this valuable study into family volunteering. 

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