As a small charity whose projects have grown massively, especially in recent years, we were painfully aware that we were not supporting our 330 volunteers as well as we wanted to. With just 6 staff in the Centre (10 during the Winter Shelter) there was no dedicated person to support our volunteers and to be a voice for them. Firstly we created the new post of Volunteer Co-ordinator and then we embarked on the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) accreditation for which we sought specific funding.
For us, it was always about raising the standards of our volunteer offering. It is Rainbow Centre’s firm belief that volunteers are at the very heart of what we do, and alongside our commitment of excellence to all those who use our services, we set out to ensure our volunteer offering also met these high standards. The first step, acknowledging where we could improve, had been taken, and the IiV accreditation was the next logical step.
We started with an evaluation of our volunteer offering, which included input from volunteers, staff and the Shepway Volunteer Centre and the IiV assessor. We were very intentionally brutally honest about everything, and treated this evaluation not as a fault finding exercise, but as a starting point. Once completed, we compared the evaluation to where we wanted to be, and with the help of the IiV structure, we highlighted the gaps we needed to bridge in order to achieve our goals.
Over the next 12 months we set out to achieve those goals and with the help of the IiV process we went through everything with a fine tooth comb, including our values, policies, communication, support, training, and much more, right down to how we thank people.
The culmination of this process was a two day evaluation in August 2018 by the IiV Assessor, during which time she went through all our documentation, policies, forms etc. and also completed a series of individual and group interviews with volunteers from all our services, as well as interviewing managers, staff members and even a trustee.
Achieving the accreditation makes us very proud as an organisation, because this award means we can be confident that we are now supporting our volunteers in the way they deserve.
We always knew the process would be hard work, because we were so far away from where we wanted to be. The IiV process gave us the framework which enabled us to raise the standards of how we take care of our volunteers, from recruitment through to exit interviews and everything in between. Athough the accreditation is awarded for three years the work doesn’t stop here, it will remain an ongoing process for us.