Adults volunteering for scouting want to feel valued for the contribution that they make and this can be achieved using a strong welcome and induction and by offering continuing support throughout their time in your Scout Group.
Over recent times we have developed an interesting understanding of some of the reason why adults leave scouting, some of which may be more surprising than you think.
The reason new volunteers leave within 12 months is often because they do not feel welcome or they find that the role they have taken on demands more time or responsibility than they were expecting. Sometimes they feel challenged by the behaviour of young people or have difficulties with other adults.
Former youth members
Volunteers who ‘came through the Movement’ often stay with Scouting and volunteer for many years but when they leave it can be due to changes in personal circumstances and their time or because of difficulties with other adults.
Many parents are willing to volunteer but typically stay for 3-5 years and again, leave due to changes in personal circumstances and their time or because of difficulties with other adults.
So what can we do about it?
To improve the retention of adult volunteers we can:
- Provide a well-planned, relevant welcome for new volunteers, with an effective and timely appointment process and a comprehensive induction into their new role – but just as important for new volunteers is being involved and being made to feel part of the team.
- Offer genuine flexible volunteering opportunities where the volunteering role is matched to the individual’s interest, skills and availability. Flexible volunteering is by its nature flexible; there is an ongoing training module titled 'thinking differently about volunteering', it has some great examples of volunteering methods. You can find it in the training pages of the members’ area at www.scouts.org.uk
- Create a culture where we allow people’s commitment to decrease as their circumstances change. We are good at encouraging people to increase their involvement, but it’s often easier for people to resign completely rather than reduce their commitment when their lives change.
- Manage complaints and adult disputes effectively (nipping them in the bud rather than allowing them to fester).
- Actively support the Young Leader’s Scheme (and Young Leader training), given its role as a key source of future volunteers.
- Support new leaders – particularly with the tools and techniques for managing the behaviour of young people. Encourage them to complete modules 14 - Young People Today and 15 - Challenging Behaviour early on in their adult training.
By following these top tips you can help keep your adult volunteers and retain the valuable skills and experiences that they bring to your Scout Group.
Welcome and induction
Welcoming volunteers to their new role is essential and a friendly induction should not only ensure that the new recruit understands their role and the support available to them, but also how the Movement works and who can help them. Consider appointing a buddy to show them the ropes and introduce them to the wider team.
Involvement and feeling part of the team
Make sure your new volunteer gets fully involved as soon as possible, so that they feel part of the team and that their contribution is making a difference. Check that they don’t feel out of their depth and that they are enjoying the interaction with both the young people and the other members of the team.
Training, learning and meeting needs
Most appointments come with learning opportunities, both formal and informal. Where training is a role requirement, ‘talk up’ the advantages of getting trained and see that a competent Training Adviser is on hand to validate any training.
Many people respond well to being set a realistic challenge. This will vary from individual to individual but don’t underestimate the positive impact that a ‘common cause’ will have on getting everyone to pull together to achieve results.
Information and communication
Most people like to feel informed and up-to-date. How this is best achieved will vary with the role and the individual, but good communication is part of the culture of an effective team.
Appreciation and feeling valued
It’s important to value those that give freely of their time. This can range from a simple ‘thank you’ or remembering a birthday, to other more imaginative events and presentations. Don’t forget The Scout Association’s own awards scheme.
Make sure volunteers have the tools and the necessary support structure to carry out their role effectively. Show them the relevant resources that are available including those online. Ensure any out of pocket expenses are reimbursed promptly.
Support and reviews
Find time to meet one-to-one with all your team at least once a year. It’s your chance to check they are still in the right role and still enthusiastic. It’s a good opportunity to hear their take on the local situation and an ideal time to set some new goals and say ‘thank you’.
The volunteer experience
Those that play together, stay together. Everyone likes having a social life and people enjoy opportunities to have fun together, away from their role. This could vary from a meal together to a residential event.
Keeping in touch
If people do leave, keep in touch. Send them a regular update, invite them to special events. They may well remember just how much they enjoyed it and come back!