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How to make flexible volunteering work in your group or unit

We are all trying to find more adults to help out with Scouting. But with busy lifestyles and so many demands on people’s time (theirs and yours), how can you encourage parents to support Scouting?

Research has identified that the largest barrier to volunteer recruitment is the time pressure on adults coupled with anxiety over the demands placed on new recruits. Nearly 60 per cent of non-volunteers cite lack of time as the main reason why they do not volunteer.

We must, therefore, must approach volunteering in a flexible way to get around these concerns.

What is flexible volunteering?
Flexible volunteering is any opportunity for an adult that fits around their availability, skills and circumstances. It applies to all roles and levels of experience, whether adults are new to Scouting or have been a long-standing Member. Flexible volunteering makes the most of our volunteers to benefit local Scouting. 

New volunteers
Whilst it may be tempting to focus on filling vacant roles within your Group, it is important to remember that roles should be tailored to fit the individual, rather than pushing an individual into an existing role. You may need to look at the vacant role and reallocate existing members of your team or consider whether two or more people might be needed to undertake the tasks of a particular role.

Different people want different things out of volunteering. For example a student may want to improve their CV but have limited time to give, whereas a retired adult might have much more time to offer but want to volunteer in a totally different way.

It is critical that for each potential volunteer, you:

  • find out their skills
  • find out their availability
  • discover what they want from a volunteering role
  • ask them what they want/are able to give to the role. 

Simple Tasks
Are you holding a residential experience soon? Are there things that you could ask parents to help to organise? Maybe you could you ask a small team to manage the catering – taking one meal each, for example. This is a simple task, and something that parents will probably be more than happy to do. Again, it is now also one less thing for you to worry about.

Get Crafty
Is doing a craft activity something you dread? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. However there may be an adult that you could ask to organise and run a couple of craft activities each term. Remember that craft doesn’t have to mean glitter and glue, it could be photography, dancing or acting.

Is there a parent of a Cub Scout in your Pack who is a keen hiker or cyclist? Could they run an evening outdoors taking the Cub Scouts on a short hike? Taking the Pack on a short hike requires a lot of organisation, so asking another person means that it’s something else you don’t have to do.

It’s a Record
Is there someone who could manage the badge records and administration for you? If you give them a copy of the programme and attendance records, they can work out which challenges/badges have been completed. You’d be surprised by just how many people enjoy the paperwork- based tasks that you are constantly putting off.

Parent or Adult Rotas
Over 40 per cent of new volunteers to section roles come from the parents of youth members (or prospective youth members), so parent or adult rotas are a particularly effective method of getting new people involved in Scouting.

One of the tasks in your to-do list could be coordinating a parent’s rota. Why not ask a parent who you know has younger children as they would not necessarily be able to attend a Pack meeting?

A parent or adult rota is another great way for sections to benefit from the increased adult support that parents can bring, without requiring them to make a weekly commitment. The rota could ask parents or other adults linked to the child to make a commitment to attending one Pack meeting a term.

Top Tips on Recruiting Volunteers
Think about what you would like an adult to do If there was one thing you could have help with, what would it be? Draw up a list of tasks that you would like another adult to do, so you can concentrate on running the Pack.

Maybe it’s one of these:

  • run craft activities
  • run outdoor activities
  • organise a sleepover
  • manage the badge records
  • coordinate a parent rota.

These tasks do not necessarily have to be done by the same person. They can be done effectively as part of a team. If you ask an adult to do one task for a set period of time then they are more likely to say yes.

Making volunteering flexible
Adopting a flexible attitude to volunteering can open up lots of opportunities for new adults to join your Group. The more adults you have in your Group will mean placing fewer demands on each person, spreading the tasks to be done.

Just as individual circumstances are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to volunteering. Each role in Scouting can be tailored to fit around individual motivations, skills and time commitments. Thinking flexibly about what an individual wants to get out of volunteering, and the skills they have or want to develop will mean that a role is more suited to them.