We are all trying to find more adults to help out with scouting. But with busy lifestyles and so many demands on people and their time, how can you encourage more parents to support your group?
Research shows that the largest barrier to volunteer recruitment is the time pressure on adults coupled with concern over the demands placed on new recruits. Nearly 60% of non-volunteers say ‘lack of time’ is the main reason they do not volunteer.
Research also shows the main reason new volunteers leave scouting in the first 12 months is that they realise the scale and scope of the role they had taken on was too much. It is therefore critical that we are honest about what we expect from a volunteer and balance any role we ask someone to take on with the commitment they are able and willing to give.
We therefore, need to approach volunteering in a flexible way to get around these concerns.
What is flexible volunteering?
Flexible volunteering is any opportunity for an adult that fits around their availability, skills and circumstances. It applies to all roles and levels of experience, whether adults are new to Scouting or have been a long-standing Member. Flexible volunteering makes the most of our volunteers to benefit local Scouting.
Whilst it may be tempting to focus on filling vacant roles within your Group, it is important to remember that roles should be tailored to fit the individual, rather than pushing an individual into an existing role. You may need to look at the vacant role and reallocate existing members of your team or consider whether two or more people might be needed to undertake the tasks of a particular role.
Different people want different things out of volunteering. For example a student may want to improve their CV but have limited time to give, whereas a retired adult might have much more time to offer but want to volunteer in a totally different way.
It is critical that for each potential volunteer, you:
- find out their skills
- find out their availability
- discover what they want from a volunteering role
- ask them what they want/are able to give to the role.
Are you holding a residential experience soon? Are there things that you could ask parents to help to organise? Maybe you could ask a small team to manage the catering – taking one meal each, for example. This is a simple task, and something that parents will probably be more than happy to do. Again, it is now also one less thing for you to worry about.
It’s a Record
Is there someone who could manage the badge records and administration for you? If you give them a copy of the programme and attendance records, they can work out which challenges or badges have been completed. You’d be surprised by just how many people enjoy the paperwork- and basic tasks that you are constantly putting off.
Top Tips on Recruiting Volunteers
Think about what you would like an adult to do if there was one thing you could have help with, what would it be? Draw up a list of tasks that you would like another adult to do, so that your team can concentrate on running the section. Maybe it’s one of these:
- running craft activities
- running outdoor activities
- helping to organise a sleepover
- managing the badge records
- coordinating a section parent rota.
These tasks do not necessarily have to be done by the same person. They can be done effectively as part of a team. If you ask an adult to do one task for a set period of time then they are more likely to say yes.
Making volunteering flexible
Adopting a flexible attitude to volunteering can open up lots of opportunities for new adults to join your Group. The more adults you have in your Group will mean placing fewer demands on each person, spreading the tasks to be done.
Just as individual circumstances are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to volunteering. Each role in Scouting can be tailored to fit around individual motivations, skills and time commitments. Thinking flexibly about what an individual wants to get out of volunteering, and the skills they have or want to develop will mean that a role is more suited to them.
Adults who can give limited or irregular time each week to support the programme
Adults who can only commit to limited or irregular time each week, there are several options available.
- can be based in a Colony, Pack or Troop
- is a Member or Associate Member of The Scout Association
- does not need to make the Scout Promise
- does not have to wear uniform
- is not a trustee
- only has to complete Modules 1 and 3 of the adult training scheme
- does not have the responsibility of leading the section, and is not required to attend every section meeting.
However, if they wish, Section Assistants can:
- make the Scout Promise
- wear uniform (even if they don’t make the Promise, but they would not wear the World Membership badge)
- be on the Executive Committee (elected, nominated or co-opted)
- have access to as much training as they wish to undertake.
A Section Assistant can also have the responsibility of being the one in charge of the section on an occasional basis, with your agreement. In order to do this they must be capable and have had relevant training.
No specific time commitment is required to hold the role of a Section Assistant; the responsibilities and commitment required should be drawn up as part of a joint agreement between you and the individual.
Occasional Helper is another way that adults can get involved on an occasional basis (less than once every four weeks. NB: If a person helps more than once every four weeks they should become a Section Assistant).
An Occasional Helper:
- can be based in a Colony, Pack or Troop
- does not wear uniform
- does not take the Scout Promise
- is not a Member of The Scout Association.
Scout Active Support
Scout Active Support is another way for adults who can offer a limited or irregular weekly commitment to volunteer to support Scouting. The membership requirements are the same as a Section Assistant except there only need to complete module 1. In addition:
- a Scout Active Support Unit can be based at Group, District or County level
- units can support Scouting in whichever way is required by you as the Group Scout Leader or the responsible Commissioner to fulfil elements of the Group, District or County Development Plan. This could include supporting the programme, fundraising, property and maintenance and other service needs
- Scout Active Support Units also often have social elements to their programme too.
Parent or adult rotas
Over 40 per cent of new volunteers to section roles come from the parents of youth members (or prospective youth members), so parent or adult rotas are a particularly effective method of getting new people involved in Scouting.
One of the tasks in your to-do list could be coordinating a parent’s rota. Why not ask a parent who you know has younger children as they would not necessarily be able to attend a Pack meeting?
A parent or adult rota is another great way for sections to benefit from the increased adult support that parents can bring, without requiring them to make a weekly commitment. The rota could ask parents or other adults linked to the child to make a commitment to attending one section meeting a term.
Adults who would like to volunteer supporting other adults
Not all adults who want to volunteer in Scouting will want to work ‘up front’ with young people.
In a recent study, 80% of the Department of Health’s London staff that were surveyed said that they would be interested in using their professional management skills in a volunteer capacity.
There are many roles that can accommodate this and many of them are excellent ways to develop management skills and enhance a CV.
A position on an Executive Committee might be something they are willing to consider.
- Committees tend to meet roughly every quarter. The fact that meetings are planned way in advance means that they can be put in the diary in plenty of time to allow the person to attend.
- Volunteers could also take up roles on sub-committees, such as fundraising, maintenance or adult recruitment
Being part of the Group Executive is a great opportunity for volunteers to really help a Group, socialise and meet new people whilst using and developing new skills, which can benefit them in their professional life (CV enhancing).
Appointments to support adult training or appointments teams focus on supporting adults and can be very flexible. For example an appointment as a Training Adviser could require as little commitment as a meeting once a month while still providing valuable support to an adult leader.
Things you can do
As a GSL how can I encourage flexible volunteering?
- Ask a potential volunteer what they would like to do rather than telling them what you would like them to do.
- Talk to parents about what their interests are and see if there is a way you can get them involved to make the most of that interest or skill.
- Create an adult rota for supporting each of the sections involving parents or other adults.
- Set up a Group Scout Active Support Unit based around the skills of those interested in supporting the Group.
- Promote the personal development opportunities of the adult training scheme including external recognition by the Open College Network and Institute of Leadership and Management.
- Invite parents to a camp or trip see the members area on www.scouts.org.uk for more info.
- Promote local examples of flexible volunteering from local Groups or neighbouring Districts at: Annual General Meetings, leader meetings, recruitment events, fundraising events, meetings with external bodies, Executive Committee meetings.
- Review process – Rather than lose an adult, offer them a flexible volunteering opportunity.
- Keep the Appointments Advisory Committee updated of all volunteering opportunities and discuss with them how they can be made flexible.
If you take the skills of new volunteers into account, and respect the level of commitment they are willing and able to make, you will find yourself with a motivated team of adults. This, in turn, will mean better Scouting for young people.