From parent helper to front and centre
So, you’ve got some parents or volunteers doing jobs for the group, they might be taking part in the parent rota, or have recently completed the 4 week challenge. At the moment they might not have a uniformed role, and might not actually see themselves as ‘full on’ volunteers. Our job now is to persuade them they have the skills to take on a more formal role. This is the bit most of us find tough and if you add social distancing into the mix it might seem impossible.
But it isn’t, lots of groups have recruited new volunteers even when we’ve been delivering Scouting remotely. In this guide we’ll talk about how to convert parents and parent helpers for ease, but of course this applies to anyone who you think might be interested in getting involved.
Where to start
None of us were born as a ready-to-go Beaver leader or Group Treasurer. It takes time, energy and confidence to make that leap from parent helper to regular volunteer. The best thing we can do is put ourselves in their shoes, what do you think they need to see, hear or feel to be confident enough to say “yes I can do that role!”? Right now they might be thinking:
- I don’t have the skills and knowledge the other leaders have
- I don’t have the ‘Scouting’ experience
- The leaders seem to put hours and hours into it, I don’t have that time
- They seem to be a tight knit group of friends, I’m not sure I’d fit in
- I still feel like a bit of an outsider to the group
- The way people talk about training does not fill me with joy!
- There doesn’t seem to be enough for me to do
- I’m not sure what they want me to do really, I come along but don’t actually do a lot
- I can’t get my kids to do what I need them to, how do you get 20 Beavers to be quiet!
This list could go on! What really helps is having a great relationship with your parent helpers, and that way you have a much better idea about how they are feeling, what they enjoy about being involved with Scouts, and if you think they are ready to make the next step in their volunteer journey. What skills have you seen them use that tells you they would make a great volunteer?
Creating space & making time
Normally, the easiest way to have a catch up with any of our parent helpers is before, during or after a normal night at Scouts. But while we are delivering a mix of face to face and remote Scouting, and operating in bubbles, this is going to need a bit more planning! You need to think of different ways we can keep great relationships going with your team and you might like to think about:
- Setting regular time aside to catch up with everyone, especially parent helpers who might feel a bit more distant than uniformed leaders. Make this a friendly, relaxed and normal part of what we do.
- Having a team WhatsApp group (or something similar) so parent helpers and all volunteers can stay in touch with each other, and feel like they are part of one group, even when Scouts aren’t meeting.
- Have a Facebook, WhatsApp or other online group so you can keep all parents and other potential volunteers up to date with what is going on and how to get involved.
Based on what else you know about how people are feeling or how they are currently getting involved with the group, what else can you do to make time for them, or create space to speak to them? Giving people some dedicated time is crucial if you are going to have a great conversation with them about how they could get more involved.
It’s nice to be nice! Your parent helpers won’t understand quite how much of a positive impact they are having on the group and the value they bring. It’s really important you help them understand how much of a difference they make and how valuable they are. If people are having fun, feel welcome and feel like they can continue to make a positive impact they are more likely to agree to take on a volunteer role. It also helps make them feel more confident and shows them that they do know more than they realise!
Talk about an activity they have done with the young people, a game they ran or a task they did and help them understand why it was so important and why it made a difference. Just running a game frees up another volunteer to spend 10 minutes preparing a programme activity or doing some training. Helping organise the cupboard or container could mean we find equipment we thought we’d lost, or running an activity over Zoom might have helped teach young people a skill they might not otherwise have known.
If you are struggling to think of the impact your parent helper has had, you might need to think about whether you are giving them the right things to do. Are you creating the opportunity for them to help, or are they being kept on the ‘side-lines’ and have you been clear with them about the support you needed from your parent helpers. If you haven’t Don’t panic, there is always time to go back and have this conversation with them again.
Closing the gap, making it safe
Sometimes the gap between being a parent helper, and a leader feels massive. Our job is to show adults it’s probably quite small, it’s just about how we explain it. Let’s use time as an example. Make it clear that even if they take on a role, they can still volunteer flexibly. Hopefully, to make them feel part of the team your parent helpers are already contributing to things like planning meetings and they quite like coming to camp, so help them see that they probably put in very similar amounts of time in that you or other members of the team do, and even if they don’t that’s ok, they can give as much or as little time as they want.
What other gaps do you think parent helpers see? Again, if you have good regular contact with them you might already have a good idea about this. What can you do to show them that the gap is not as big as it looks and they can cross that gap safely!
Making the ask, being flexible
Once you’ve told them about the positive impact they make, and you’ve shown them how small the gap is between being a parent helper and a volunteer, you’ve set the scene and ‘warmed them up’. Now its crunch time, you need to ask them. The best advice here is to keep it simple and keep it short and sweet. Once you’ve asked give them some time to think about it! Be really clear and calm and encouraging. They’ve done a great job, the young people like them, they make a huge difference and they are putting in similar time and energy as everyone else, all we want to do is give them some extra training, support and some recognition which comes with having a volunteer role.
Once you’ve asked, make it safe, they don’t need to give you an answer right now, ask them to take some time to think about it, but agree to speak to them maybe after the next session and see what they think. If they do say yes fantastic - well done! The next job is to say a massive thank you to them, remind them about the difference they will make, and what will happen next in the process.