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Fiona Liddell, Volunteering Development Manager at WCVA, offers some tips on using the new Volunteering Wales website, which will be launched early in June.
Some of us like change and some of us don’t. A new website can be a bit scary to those of us who are not natural technophiles.
So why, you may ask, are we embarking on a major change in the Volunteering Wales website which is currently used (and mostly happily so) to recruit volunteers by about 2,000 organisations in Wales?
Part of the answer is about keeping up with the digital age in which we live and the expectations of would-be volunteers – especially, but not only, younger ones.
Part is about the potential of technology to relieve overstretched staff of some of the admin associated with recruiting and managing volunteers, allowing them more time to focus on tasks that matter. (We are mindful that not all volunteers want to use a digital service and we remain committed to also providing a face to face service through our volunteer centres).
It takes time to get to know any new system and to reach the point where it feels beneficial rather than frustrating.
Here are some of the ways in which the function of the new site differs from the old one. When you register your organisation on the new site (the temporary address is https://volunteerwales.teamkinetic.co.uk) it will help to be aware of these differences from the outset.
If you have a link with a local County Voluntary Council or volunteer centre then search for the right county from the main website page and register there. This means that your admin support is provided from that county. It doesn’t matter to a great extent where you register however, and if it feels wrong we can sort it out easily enough.
Each organisation (known on this system as a ‘provider’) can only be associated with one contact name and one email address. This is the person who will receive notifications from a potential volunteer.
If you have more than one key contact person you have two options: either use a generic email address which both can access, or, if you are responsible for different volunteer roles or different geographical areas, register as 2 (or more) separate providers, with different names such as Organisation (North) and Organisation (South); each can then have its own contact name and unique email address.
You have to decide whether you want volunteers to ‘join’ or ‘apply’. If you want them to sign up and turn up, on a first come first served basis, choose ‘join’. You can specify how many volunteers you have places for; say you need 10 volunteers, the system will indicate to the 11th interested person that the opportunity is ‘full’.
For many volunteering roles there are different stages to recruitment; perhaps an application form, followed by an informal chat and a trial session or induction, before a volunteer is accepted. In this case always choose ‘apply’. You can upload an application form and any other information you want volunteers to see at this stage.
If individuals apply who are not suitable for what you have in mind, you can select ‘remove’ to remove their name from the applicant list and to trigger an auto generated email confirmation that they have been unsuccessful. (You can also send personal emails to keep in touch and perhaps to suggest alternatives that might be more appropriate).
At the conclusion of your recruitment process, however long that takes, you select ‘confirm’ to send an auto generated email to ‘successful’ volunteers confirming that they have been accepted. You cannot change the text of the autogenerated messages but you can always send emails of your own, either to individuals or to a group of volunteers. More help on creating an opportunity can be found here: http://providerguide.teamkinetic.co.uk/introduction-2
As before, having an informative and attractive title for your opportunity and a full description is important. It is not mandatory to include information in Welsh but this is strongly encouraged. Bear in mind that welsh speakers may be searching the website in welsh and if the right keywords are not in your opportunity they will not find you. You can use tags, in English and in Welsh, to help people to search for you more easily.
Every opportunity needs to be associated with a specific location in order that distance can be measured, since search results are displayed by distance from the searcher. For some opportunities this can be problematic, perhaps because they can be carried out from anywhere and we are looking into better ways of managing this.
For now, the best thing is to make clear in the description that it is home-based, countywide, or whatever and to create duplicate opportunities that will enable people in different locations to search for you. The use of tags for regions or towns may also help.
What type of volunteering opportunity are you offering?
At the bottom of the ‘Create Opportunity’ page you are asked to decide whether your opportunity is ‘repeating’ ‘non-repeating’ or ‘flexible’. If it is one-off, like a beach clean or a weekend festival, choose ‘non-repeating’. If it has regular sessions, for which you need a rota of volunteers, choose ‘repeating’. Otherwise your opportunity is likely to be ‘flexible i.e. no fixed hours, or hours to be discussed between the organisation and the volunteer. If in doubt, choose this category.
Even for an ongoing opportunity you need to specify an end date – this could be a year or more in the future if you wish and will ensure that you review and update opportunities on a regular basis.
You can also manage DBS checks and references and arrange induction sessions for your volunteers – but let’s not run before we can walk. The most important first step is to get opportunities up there before the platform goes live, early in June. After that date, any opportunities that you have on the old Volunteering Wales website will not be promoted.
How to get started
Go to the temporary web address https://volunteerwales.teamkinetic.co.uk to register and create opportunities. You could also register as a test volunteer and search for and sign up to your own volunteer opportunities to familiarise yourself with how it works. After the launch date, the platform will be found at www.volunteering-wales.net.
We hope that the new system will support your recruitment and management of volunteers and we will be interested to hear how you get on, what proves useful and we’ll do our best to help with any difficulties you encounter. The system and our use of it, will be an evolving process, no doubt.