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Family support volunteering at East Anglia Children’s Hospices

News and comment

Getting our service up and running – what we do

EACH has been running a Help at Home service, our approach to Family Support Volunteering, for just over a year now. In that time we have engaged over 100 volunteers, training 48 of them and providing more than 400 hours of support to 28 of our families in Suffolk and North Essex.

Keeping volunteers interested

Trying to continually recruit volunteers is always a challenge, but with help from our families and volunteers we try to regularly update and add a personal touch to the information that we release, and we are always very happy to try new ways of recruitment.

As the service continues to develop and grow we also hope to be able to share volunteers over county lines with families and volunteers that are geographically close.

One of the best ways, in my opinion, to grow and retain volunteers is by spending a bit of time getting to know them and especially what skills they have and would like to use. This way you can make sure that the volunteer is carrying out tasks that they like

to do and also giving families the highest quality of service that can be delivered. Furthermore, if the volunteer is enjoying the tasks that they are doing they are much more likely want to give more of their precious time to the service and stay volunteering for as long as they can.

The difference volunteering makes

The development of the Help at Home Service for EACH has been an absolute pleasure. To see the difference that the support can make to our families is fantastic and being able to meet such inspiring volunteers is truly motivating.

I will leave you with a quote from one of our families that receives the service, talking about what it means to them, as they will be able to put it better than I ever could!

“The Help at Home Service is a huge help to our family, especially me. For any mother of three, life is a juggle; but when one of your children has complex medical needs and has been a patient at Great Ormond Street Hospital for over a year, there are many more demands on your time. I spend most of the week in London looking after my daughter.

Knowing that Clare will come in weekly to clean for a few hours takes one worry away and gives me more time when I do get home, so I can focus on my other children. It also takes the pressure off my mother who wants to help me, and keeps our house functioning when I am in London with my daughter. The service provides a lifeline for our family.”

Jess Hughes, Volunteer Co-ordinator
Help at Home, Cambridgeshire

I’ve been working at EACH for just a few weeks now as maternity cover, so unlike Hugh, I’m still relatively new to the Help at Home service. However, I have to say that the fact that I can turn to him for advice is truly invaluable!

Moving forward with Help at Home

Our Help at Home service has recently launched in Cambridgeshire, following the success of the service in Suffolk over the past year. So far we have recruited and fully trained six volunteers, all of whom I think (and of course I’m biased) are excellent. I took part in their final training day at our Milton hospice, and I found every one of them to be dedicated, empathetic and up for the challenge. So personally, I feel that we’ve got off to an excellent start in this respect.

However, we of course need to keep finding more volunteers to recruit! And this is where the challenge really lies…

Top tips for recruiting volunteers

One way in which we’ve been successful in gaining volunteers so far has been through word of mouth from other current volunteers. On a couple of occasions we have had Help at Home volunteers who are already volunteering with EACH in another role, such as in our shops. Here, these volunteers have spoken to their friends outside of the EACH volunteering circle and have managed to (skilfully) interest them in the Help at Home service. Again, the advocacy of your current volunteers can be worth its weight in gold.

We’ve also gained Help at Home volunteers from people who have themselves experienced the loss of a child with a life-threatening condition in the more distant past. These volunteers of course have a great empathy, which might be especially valuable to families who are now experiencing challenging times. Here, this level of understanding can be put to good use in creating strong links between our families and volunteers.

We have also gained volunteers from general advertisement online, through volunteer job listings. Here, it is often the case that you can get a great many expressions of initial interest – but as a warning, they might not always materialise! I would estimate that around a quarter or so of prospective volunteer applicants might go on to make contact with me and engage in the volunteer recruitment process. Therefore, this has been one of the more challenging aspects of volunteer recruitment.

Another way in which we’ve gained prospective volunteer interest and raised the profile of the Help at Home service is by going on local radio, which for us is BBC Cambridgeshire. We spoke about the service and the tasks which volunteers might be able to take part in. We also asked a family waiting to be matched to speak on the show, to explain what a difference our service might make to her. From this experience we managed to gain interest from the community, and we’re currently in the process of organising interviews with those prospective volunteers who got in touch. For us, this was quite an effective exercise – we think that getting a spot on a ‘drive-time’ show might be even better.

In terms of developing the volunteer recruitment reach of the Help at Home service in Cambridgeshire, we’ve been considering possible directions… For me, I believe in taking the personal approach, alongside the current methods of volunteer recruitment which have proved to be so useful to us at EACH in the past. Being face to face with potential volunteers is, I think, still one of the best ways to encourage people to become engaged in your service. If you believe passionately that your service is brilliant it comes out when you speak to people in an instant, and it is (pleasantly) infectious. Therefore my intention is to get out into our local community more, to present to local groups, ranging from gardening to Rotary, and from faith groups to mum’s groups, to tell them about Help at Home and about the difference it can make to our families. I hope that by speaking to this diverse mix of people face to face, we might be able to excite them about our Help at Home service, and encourage them to become one of our future volunteers.

The low-down

If you asked me what I thought about volunteering recruitment, I’d say that it can be a challenge at times, but that when you get those special volunteers who you know are going to make such a great difference to your families, it’s one which you’re grateful to tackle. By looking back at the Help at Home service in Suffolk to date, and by combining this with some new ideas, we hope to be able to make a great success of the service in Cambridgeshire.

To finish, if you asked me how I thought volunteer recruitment was going to develop from now, I’d say that making use of the vast array of online methods to recruit volunteers and your service can be powerful – but that great people are still at the heart of the volunteer recruitment process.

Learn more about developing your own volunteering service, with all the tools you need along the way, here.

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