How the National Standards helped one council’s volunteer programs to flourish
March 30th, 2021
Coordinating 13 volunteer programs with 800 regular volunteers and up to 1,000 one-off event volunteers is no small job. Implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement has seen volunteer coordination become a much smoother experience and produced better outcomes for both staff and volunteers at Northern Beaches Council. Here are some insights from their experience.
The National Standards for Volunteer Involvement have been developed by Volunteering Peaks and Volunteering Australia and are recognised across the country as the best practice framework for volunteer involvement. When Northern Beaches Council formed following the amalgamation of 3 smaller councils, an opportunity was identified to review and unify volunteer coordination processes. “The National Standards were used as a benchmark because we wanted to manage our volunteers according to best practice,” says Natalie, volunteer coordinator at Northern Beaches Council.
The audit process with The Centre for Volunteering took about 6 months and has resulted in a range of improvements that have seen positive outcomes across the organisation. Natalie says that enabling staff coordinators to better manage their volunteer programs, resulting in more consistent and supportive experiences for volunteers, was the most rewarding part of the process.
With a large and diverse team, implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement has brought greater quality and consistency to volunteer involvement throughout the Northern Beaches Council and laid a solid foundation for continued success of the various volunteer programs on offer. “Retaining the most valuable volunteers requires work, but the rewards are worth it,” says Natalie.
One benefit of the Standards has been improved recruitment and retention of volunteers, for example, by ensuring volunteers are matched to a suitable and clearly defined role and provided with appropriate support. Natalie says this has given volunteers greater confidence as well as supported staff to run their volunteer programs better.
Through the process of implementing the National Standards, Northern Beaches Council has also developed a greater understanding and appreciation of how volunteers contribute to the organisation. This in turn has provided increased management commitment, funding and resources to sustain and enhance volunteer programs. Implementing the National Standards has also created new opportunities for sharing experience and knowledge across the council’s 13 volunteer programs, resulting in collaborative problem solving and continuous improvement throughout the organisation.
Given the size of the organisation, the number of volunteers and the range of volunteer programs involved, implementing the National Standards was a significant project for Northern Beaches Council. The amount of consultation required across various council departments and the challenge of remaining flexible yet consistent to meet the needs of different teams involved in the implementation project has taken over a year.
Yet the rewards outweigh the challenges and, as Natalie says, councils are in a position to lead by example in their communities.
“Councils in particular may have more capability than other organisations,” says Natalie. “Dependent on the type of organisation and number of volunteers, there will be different levels of implementation, but councils should lead the way to implement the Standards in as much detail as possible.”
For Northern Beaches Council, implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement has helped their volunteer programs to flourish and has had a positive impact on the organisation, council staff and volunteers, and ultimately the community.
Want to know more about how your organisation could benefit from the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement? As the peak body for promoting and supporting volunteering and community participation in NSW, The Centre for Volunteering has training and resources available to support councils and other organisations in implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement. Find out more: https://www.volunteering.com.au/national-standards-for-volunteer-involvement