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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Setting sail for a brighter future


Volunteers Week: CHAS on the success of its volunteering strategy since the dark days of the pandemic

“In the same storm, but not in the same boat” – an apt description of the world at the height of the pandemic, published in a poem that evidently resonated widely and circulated across the globe.

It was certainly true for the staff and volunteers at CHAS, as well as the families using our services. Over the last year however, it's become apparent that, when it comes to volunteering, we have weathered that storm: our annual volunteer survey over the last three years has shown that volunteers continue to have a quality experience, with an emphatic 100% of volunteers saying that they enjoy their volunteering.

CHAS volunteer numbers have also bounced back. Our numbers dipped by 17% at the height of the pandemic in 2021 and volunteer recruitment remained a struggle while restrictions were in play.

However in August 2023, we had our most successful volunteer recruitment campaign since 2018. This is largely due to the hard work and determination of the Volunteering Team to find new and innovative ways to approach volunteer recruitment.

Credit must also go to the CHAS Income Generation and Engagement Team which has successfully increased our reach over the last three years. While many organisations chose to pause external marketing during the tough times of the pandemic, we made a bold decision increasing investment in marketing and PR launching our ‘no-one should face the death of their child alone’ TV campaign thus cementing CHAS as one of the most well-known children’s charities in Scotland.

With signs that the storm had finally passed, in October last year we embarked on the journey of developing the new CHAS volunteering strategy. This new strategy not only builds on the successes of its predecessor but also paves the way for deeper volunteer involvement in supporting families across Scotland.

It was crucial that this strategy wasn't crafted by a single person or team: we engaged with staff and volunteers across the organisation to understand what truly mattered to them; we held 20 consultation meetings; we collected themes and ideas from our annual volunteer survey. The result? We received over 500 suggestions, each highlighting the potential to further involve volunteers within CHAS.

We were fortunate that the strategy's development coincided with the creation of the new CHAS strategic plan. This alignment ensures that our volunteering strategy supports and enhances the broader organisational objectives, integrating seamlessly with our overall mission.

And our approach wasn't limited to internal discussions: we drew inspiration from the Scottish Government and Volunteer Scotland's Volunteering Action Plan too, recognising that volunteering within CHAS contributes to Scotland's wider goals for volunteering.

Volunteer Alex Malcolm putting his hands onto a canvas to celebrate the anniversary of Robin House's opening, next to Shirlie Geddes, volunteering development manager at CHAS. Main image (above): a group of volunteers creating a nature collage with items from the Robin House gardens with Hayley Smith, CHAS project manager for Wild in Art.

At the heart of our strategy are the volunteers themselves. More than just cogs in our charity machinery, they are integral partners in the evolution of our services. Diversity isn't just a goal in the strategy; it's our commitment. CHAS volunteers will reflect the rich tapestry of the children and families we support and the communities we call home.

Critical to the success of the strategy are staff. We want all staff to be trained and supported to confidently deliver a consistent, positive volunteer experience across the organisation. It's not just about individual experiences either; it's about nurturing and growing a culture where everyone is invested in consistently rewarding volunteer journeys.

What makes this strategy truly unique is its foundation in success. It's not a reinvention but an evolution, building on the achievements of the previous strategy.

As we've emerged from the pandemic, it's clear that we have kept our eye on the horizon as we’ve weathered the storm, and our new volunteering strategy is helping us to redesign the boat that helped us navigate those turbulent times, as we set sail into new territories.

Fiona Harvey is head of volunteering for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (known as CHAS).



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