Lunch times in the nfpSynergy office are a sociable time of eating and talking with the charities we share our office space with (shout out to CharityComms, AVM and MEAM). One of the lunchtime conversations earlier this year meandered into volunteering and the increased media coverage of the volunteering organization GoodGym. As a keen newish employee, I suggested I might try it out and see what I could learn about the volunteering process. A month or so later, and after another boring evening at the gym staring at a wall, I finally decided to try out GoodGym.
The tag line ‘Do Good, Get Fit’ appealed to my aim to volunteer having moved to a new city, and my ongoing battle with minimal motivation to do more exercise. The first evening I attended, we met in a closed hipster coffee bar in Peckham. We were briefed by our trainer, did a quick warm up, and were then led on a run to our task helping a season change at a local charity shop, and then ran back again. The group was warm and welcoming, with each person at a different level of fitness and experience. Soon, I was hooked. Beyond feeling ever-so holy that I am volunteering most weeks and getting fit at the same time, I have learnt a few things about what it is like to be supported as a volunteer…
It’s old news, but volunteers want to get something back
As seen in our previous free report on volunteering, The New Alchemy, volunteers are not simply selfless individuals with too much time; they are also led by the ways that volunteering will benefit them. GoodGym is very open that you can volunteer and do good through their platform whilst almost accidentally doing exercise at the same time. There is no hiding that GoodGym will offer you an evening with interesting people in your local area, whilst also investing in your community. It is said again and again but make sure that you are blatant about the benefits people will receive from volunteering; these benefits can be highly diverse. In the case of GoodGym, I am even willing to pay a membership fee every month because of the benefits and wanting to support the charity to do more.
Websites – the new charity eye to the soul
Websites are increasingly the eye to the soul of organisations across all of the generations. The GoodGym website is incredibly easy to use and allows each member to have their own account where their ‘good deeds’ are logged and new volunteering opportunities are updated every day. This makes signing up for volunteering a breeze, with all of the information and different options available; this also allows both the individual and GoodGym to monitor the level and types of volunteering being done. Making an easily accessible website and having regular reasons to access it also reduces the need for communications that could be too frequent for some members.
Volunteer managers’ role in increasing volunteering
The website can go a long way, but it is the community and the ‘volunteer manager’ that are key to motivating the group and encouraging repeat volunteering. The trainer at my local GoodGym group is fantastic, and the personal point of contact is an important way to ensure that when volunteering in bigger groups or in a less consistent way, people still feel involved. As with so many supporters and volunteers, I say I don’t want thanks or praise, but receiving a well done and thank you at the end of a long run or hard task never goes amiss. The tasks are also always followed by an emailed run report with photos, puns, and shout outs to different people from the task as well as advertising and signposting other volunteering opportunities – catch them on the volunteering high and they are more likely to sign up for more!
Existing networks can get the job done
Engaging with existing networks is a great way to get tasks done and educate people about your cause. GoodGym and other organisations such as student unions are pre-made places where volunteers with time to give gather and receive information. On many of the different tasks I have taken part in, there has been an opportunity to learn more about the places we are helping, and there is often a soft ask to do more volunteering. Whether this is to become a regular gardener at a community allotment or coming to volunteer consistently at a charity shop, individuals from my group have signed up. Next time you need an event set up or local leafletting, why not look for existing volunteer networks – you might get the job done and scoop up a few extra volunteers for your own organisation along the way.
Having a body of low commitment volunteers means someone will always be there when you need them
The GoodGym model of varied and low specific commitment volunteering has developed a pool of volunteers, and although they may not be able to attend every week, they are willing to be informed about volunteering opportunities and join when they can. The size of this pool of volunteers means that although there is variation in numbers, there are always enough people to do a task. This means that some core members come almost every week and can lead others, but also those who do not want to commit to an evening every week can have the flexibility to dip in and out. This system would not work with all voluntary tasks; however, creating a body of lower commitment volunteers can be a great way to get more hands on deck when they are needed.
If you have volunteers or supporters at your charity and want to understand more about them and how to get them motivated, take a look at our bespoke research or supporter survey page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.