How to make volunteering more inclusive

22 April 2024

Volunteers are a lifeline for many charities, so it’s important to treat them with equity and fairness. Everyone should be able to volunteer and make a difference, whatever their background.

To attract and retain volunteers, you need to make sure your volunteering scheme is inclusive. The NCVO says this includes creating flexible volunteer roles that you can adapt to people’s needs and reaching out to those volunteers who are under-represented and helping them to get involved.

Why diversity is important for volunteering

By making your volunteering scheme accessible, you will attract a diverse range of volunteers. This can bring new ideas and perspectives to organisations that they’ve not previously thought about. It also makes charities more representative of the communities they serve.

Opening up volunteering to everyone has a positive effect on volunteers. It gives people the chance to develop new skills and helps those from different backgrounds to work together and understand each other better.

Making your recruitment accessible

Being inclusive starts with the recruitment process. For example, making sure the language you use in job adverts is in plain English and can be understood by everyone. Also, don’t list qualifications if people don’t need them to do a volunteer role.

Some potential volunteers may not speak fluent English. If possible, produce materials in different languages for your volunteer scheme, such as job adverts and training materials.

Make sure you remove barriers that stop people with disabilities from volunteering. Volunteer Centre Leeds says your application form should ask if someone has support or accessibility needs. It recommends having an initial meeting to identify any needs or adjustments that might need to be put in place before someone takes up a volunteer role.

Do no restrict when people can volunteer

If possible, don’t restrict the times of day and days of the week when people can volunteer. This will open up opportunities for people who work and those who have childcare, or other caring, responsibilities. Consider offering evening and weekend volunteering, as well as daytime opportunities during the week.

Use the right language

Volunteer Centre Leeds says you should always use acceptable terms when talking about disability. For example, saying “people with disabilities” rather than “the disabled” and “has (name of condition or impairment)” rather than “afflicted by”, “suffers from” or “victim of”. If you’re unsure how someone likes to describe themselves or their disability, ask them.

Use technology

Before you start using new technology at your charity to help you with volunteer management, look at your needs and goals. What is stopping your volunteer programme from being more inclusive? For example, you may need to improve your communication with volunteers, so they better understand everything that is involved in volunteering and don’t feel excluded.

By assessing your needs, you can choose the right platforms and tools that do what you need them to. You can find volunteer management software that will help you to strategically communicate with volunteers, as well as increase awareness of your volunteer opportunities and improve volunteer retention.

Offer virtual volunteering

It may not be possible to make all volunteering roles accessible to everyone. So, you may want to consider offering online volunteering opportunities. This will support people with lack of transport or mobility issues to give back to your cause.

Ask for help from other organisations

Contact charities and community groups that work with under-represented groups to see if they can offer support. For example, you could approach the National Inclusion Group. This group is made up of organisations, such as Volunteer Scotland and Glasgow Disability Alliance, that work together to support volunteer organisations to become more inclusive.

Make reasonable adjustments

Under the Equality Act 2010, an employer has a duty to make reasonable changes for applicants and employers. The NCVO says that “volunteers aren’t legally protected by the Equality Act” but that “it would be poor practice to discriminate against a volunteer”.

For example, if someone uses a wheelchair or other mobility aids, they would need tasks that don’t involve them standing, or stood up for long periods of time.

Think about other aspects of the volunteering environment that you may be able to adapt. Our article on workplace accessibility has some useful tips and advice that you could use with volunteers. This includes assistive tools for people with hearing and visual impairments.

To find out more about making volunteering inclusive, here is some useful reading:

Sign Up

Sign in to continue reading

Access all our articles and search the provider directory for free.