From parent helper to front and centre
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.
In this guide we’ll show you how to convert someone from being ‘just a helper’ to an official volunteer. We’ll be talking about parents and parent helpers, but of course this applied to anyone who is interested in getting involved.
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.
Put yourself 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!”.
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!
If you work on creating a great relationship with your parent helpers you will have a much better idea about how they are feeling and what they enjoy about Scouts. What skills have you seen them use that tells you they would make a great volunteer?
Often, the easiest way to have a catch up with any of our parent helps is before, during or after a normal night at Scouts. However, this is also a really busy time and it can be hard to have a proper conversation!
Think of different ways you can build those relationships with your team. This could include:
- 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.
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. What else can you do to make time for them, or create space to speak to them?
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.
- Running a game frees up another volunteer to spend 10 minutes to prepare the next activity.
- Helping organise the cupboard could mean we find equipment we thought we’d lost.
- Running an activity 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’? If not, there’s always time to start creating opportunities for them to make a difference!
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.
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?
In preparation for any questions which might come up about vetting, make sure you understand what type or frequency of volunteering would make it essential for a parent helper to have to hold a satisfactory criminal records check, by looking at 126.96.36.199 of POR.
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.