Three steps to a job offer for flex-volunteers

How to get the most out of flex volunteering

Three steps to a job offer for flex-volunteers

The fact that flexible volunteering is not yet available in every organisation is mainly due to the fact that integrating flexible volunteer positions in the existing vacancy portfolio requires some effort. A foundation or association will have to take a good look at the needs of a new generation of volunteers, but should also not lose sight of its own need for manpower and specialisations.

Step 1: taking stock

A first step towards making the supply of vacancies more flexible is to make a detailed inventory of what the organisation needs in terms of volunteers. How many volunteers are there now? How many hours do they work? What tasks are being performed at the moment? Are there people who carry out specialist activities? What are the wishes of the permanent volunteers with regard to the future? Are there new vacancies or will positions become vacant soon?

Ympact020 posts vacancies for the various roles the team is trying to fill. From social media manager to consultant on CRM systems.

Step 2: redistribute

Research shows that both busy people and young people have a more positive attitude towards volunteering if positions or tasks have a predetermined duration. They would like to commit to an organisation, but do not want to commit to a position for an indefinite period of time. It must be possible for them to do voluntary work without entering into a long-term or heavy commitment.

This requires organisations to look at the staffing and vacancy levels and determine which jobs or tasks can be 'lightened': they can be divided into small chunks, so that several volunteers can work on a project basis, for example, to refurbish the animal shelter or acquire sponsors. Managers should not be put off by the idea that more people are needed to do the same job: the (new) energy that a group of flex-volunteers brings often ensures that the work is completed in a short time.

Photo: BOOST Transvaal clearly explains what someone can expect during an afternoon as a language volunteer.

Redistributing or cutting up tasks is therefore the second important step in making the job vacancies more flexible. Make sure that the positions, even if they are only for one day, meet a number of requirements. To entice flex-volunteers, the positions must:

- Be clearly defined (tasks may vary, but keep it within the same domain)

- Be completed within the set period

- Have a high chance of success and satisfaction

- Allow room for own initiative/ideas

- Offer space to be carried out in a group

Step 3: coaching

After organising the positions differently, a third essential step is to ensure good coaching of the flexible volunteers. The flex-volunteers often do not yet know the organisation, only come for a short time and, during that time, they must get the feeling that what they do really contributes to the organisation's objectives.

Therefore, make sure that the flex-volunteers have a regular contact person, someone who gets to know them and knows what skills they have. Even if it is only for a short time: the volunteers want to be of significance, and they are more successful if they can apply their specific skills and give feedback to the organisation about the task or project they are carrying out. This feedback is extremely important in order to improve the flexible vacancies and thereby attract new flex-volunteers.

Does it really pay off?

All this requires a considerable effort from organisations. Setting up and managing activities especially for flexible volunteers costs staff time. It also often costs an organisation extra money. And then there is the problem that some flexible positions simply do not fit in with the existing employment contracts in an organisation. For example, researchers Paine, Malmersjo and Stubbe note in an article in the scientific journal Vrijwillige Inzet Onderzocht (Voluntary Service Investigated) that it is not possible in the Netherlands to volunteer at weekends in care homes because activity counsellors (paid staff) are not present.

As an intermediary between organisations and volunteers, we at Deedmob do not find it strange that many foundations and associations wonder whether the pursuit of flex-volunteers is worthwhile. Are enough (and preferably more often returning) volunteers recruited this way?

For most organisations the answer is yes. In a 2006 study, researchers Handy and Brudney stated that "organisations simply cannot afford to ignore the new volunteers and their demand for irregular opportunities. Even if the return for the organisation - at least in the short term - sometimes seems questionable, in the longer term organisations are simply unlikely to reach the level of commitment they need if they do not change the way they use volunteers."

Professor of Volunteering and Strategic Philanthropy Lucas Meijs of Erasmus University also says in a recent article in FD Persoonlijk that "voluntary energy is spurting out of the ground in the Netherlands", but that volunteers often do not end up in the right place, in a temporary position that suits them - because they often do not know that such offers exist. Meijs also explains that experience shows that flex-volunteers relatively often return for a new job and that some of the flex-volunteers do indeed become permanent volunteers for an organisation. Research underlines this: a large proportion of flex-volunteers are also active somewhere as permanent volunteers.

It is therefore not really an option not to recruit flex-volunteers. But beware: recruiting flex-volunteers in the wrong way is just as fruitless as not recruiting at all. It is essential to follow the three steps above in order to get sufficient return (in the form of young, enthusiastic volunteers!) on the investment of time and money.