Many organisations, even those that already offer well-established volunteering programs, can benefit from implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement, as Starlight Children’s Foundation discovered. Kylie Semple, a Volunteer Advisor at Starlight Children’s Foundation, shared her experience of and reflections on implementing the Standards in this nation-wide organisation with 250 active program volunteers and over 1,000 event volunteers.

Kylie learnt about the Standards through her professional development activities in the volunteer sector and chose to take on implementing them as a project.

“The opportunity to work on projects that we had been hopeful for over the years was a real silver lining in Covid,” says Kylie.

“I worked on projects with my colleagues such as refreshing [the] Volunteer Training … and then personally decided I would like to review Starlight against the National Standards. My manager was very encouraging for this to happen.”

The project involved finding all of the organisation’s policies and procedures relevant to the Standards, then reviewing them and making any changes that were needed to implement the Standards. Of course, this work and related research took time, as did updating and getting sign-off on each policy. “I think really from start to finish was a good six months. … [B]ecause Covid lockdowns continued I was able to focus on this solidly as we were unable to open any of our programs nationally with volunteers,” says Kylie, who is based in Victoria but currently manages volunteers across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

Key outcomes of the project have been recognising and celebrating that the organisation’s volunteers already have a positive experience, as well as understanding and closing gaps in volunteer management to enable a more consistent experience and management approach across all states and territories. This has benefitted the whole organisation as well as the wider community by highlighting the organisation’s strengths and building further confidence that volunteers are valued and both volunteers and employees have clear procedures to support successful volunteering.

“The best take away for me was that Starlight is in fact [a] leader in managing volunteers and we have an amazing opportunity for volunteers that does ensure the experience they have with us even at the very first point of contact is positive and fulfils the reason they were seeking to volunteer in a mutually beneficial relationship. It is so important that volunteers are valued, recognised and appreciated for the time they give to Starlight and given outstanding opportunities and experiences that allow them to be the best volunteer they can be,” Kylie says.

As well as bringing benefits for volunteers and the organisation, Kylie has also found the experience rewarding. The project has contributed to Kylie building her skills and leadership in volunteer management, and sharing her learnings has been an enjoyable and valuable part of the experience.

Ultimately, though, it all comes back to the volunteers and the value implementing the Standards delivers for them, as well as the organisation. “I think it is a great way for volunteers to benchmark an organisation and whether it is the right fit for them,” Kylie says.

“I think it shows that the organisation is committed to being a leader in volunteerism and should be implemented in large national organisations such as Starlight. I wish we had done it sooner!”

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 organisations in implementing the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement. Find out more: https://www.volunteering.com.au/national-standards-for-volunteer-involvement