The volunteer programme, as the basis for people-to-people cooperation, is effective internal communication. Knowing the goals and results of an organisation is important for all actors in order to identify its place in the organisation and its proper functioning. Internal communication is the means of continuous communication between the actors (paid and unpaid staff): we know each other, who, what, why and how, so we can relate to each other’s activities.
The external communication is an indicator of the perception, acceptance and integration into the organisation of the volunteer programme and of the organisation’s judgement, image and social embeddedness. In the long run, both are vital to the optimal functioning of the organisation. Internal communication tools are like a conductor’s wand: they help create a common denominator within the organisation. External communication makes the fabric of social acceptance and embeddedness increasingly important in the lives of organisations more secure and stronger.
Internal communication can have many purposes for a volunteer programme as well. Its basic purpose is to efficiently circulate information within the organisation, but it also has many other functions, from informing staff to supporting the benefits of the volunteer programme to the leaders of the institution. It is in the vital interest of the volunteer staff (coordinator) to communicate effectively in multiple directions. Depending on the size of the institution and its organisational structure, the target groups may be mexed, expanded or reduced.
Example: Every week on Thursdays at the Open Air Museum in Szentendre, there is a ‘weekly information’ for the following week, listing all the programmes and events that affect the museum. Weekly information is sent to all colleagues via email. In each case, this weekly information shows where volunteers applied for the job and where they applied. The weekly information can also be sent to volunteers for information on the programmes.
Tip: Age-specific aspects should be taken into account when communicating with volunteers. Generation X, Y and Z volunteers prefer to communicate through different channels. At the Open Air Museum in Szenna, each volunteer is a member of a closed Facebook group run by a volunteer coordinator. This channel notifies volunteers of possible tasks, but is also a good place to collect photos or other information about the programmes.
|Target group||Content||Communication channel|
|head of the institution||other managers (e.g., head of department)||paid staff of the institution||volunteers|
|x||x||x||x||achievements of the volunteer programme (e.g. number of volunteers and volunteer hours, estimated value of volunteering)||personal discussion, written report, (year) evaluation, volunteer newsletter|
|x||x||financial and HR issues (e.g. volunteering budget, staffing requirements)||early in the year: as a report from the previous year (in writing)
At the end of the year: as an estimate for the following year (in writing). These require written approval.
personal discussion, meeting
|x||applying for support||personal discussion, management approval (verbal or written)|
|x||x||x||volunteer programme update (e.g. information about the volunteer programme and opportunities, and when are there volunteers at the institution)||weekly briefing, meeting, gathering information from other departments about possible activities, weekly information (e-mail), volunteer schedule|
|x||information about the volunteer programme and opportunities||e-mail, Facebook, preferably with equal access|
|x||evaluation of volunteers’ activities (see Assessment chapter)||oral or written assessment|
(see Appreciation section)
|personal feedback, evaluation speech at certain occasions (e.g. end of year) before the institutional staff|
|x||x||dealing with problems, difficult cases||personal meeting, written record|
|x||x||x||x||presentation and personalisation of volunteers and the programme to strengthen the community||volunteer newsletter|
|x||x||tender related reports (if relevant)||volunteer report|
The target groups, content and communication channels of an organisation’s internal communication
Frequency of internal communication
It does not matter which set of information is generated during the volunteer programme and how often it is spread. A large part of the work of volunteer coordinators is internal communication, as there is a constant need to consult with volunteers and colleagues in the institution.
|volunteer programme update (e.g. information about the volunteer programme and opportunities, and when are there volunteers at the institution)||x|
|consultation on volunteering opportunities within the institution||x|
|feedback from volunteers||x|
|evaluation of volunteers’ activities||x|
|dealing with problems, difficult cases||x|
|introducing volunteers and the programme, and personalising to strengthen the community||x|
|tender related reports (if relevant)||x|
|achievements of the volunteer programme (e.g. number of volunteers and volunteer hours, estimated value of volunteering)||x|
|financial and HR issues (e.g. volunteering budget, staffing requirements)||x||x|
|applying for support||x|
Frequency of internal communication – the table was compiled by the team on institutional volunteering
Outside the organisation, there are four main reasons we communicate with a given volunteer programme:
- we want to reach and address potential volunteers
- By building on volunteers’ achievements, we build the organisation’s image, and perception of our organisation’s social embeddedness
- volunteering itself is also promoted
- if the presence of volunteers adds to an organisation’s repertoire of added services that did not exist previously or changed significantly in quality, the purpose of communication could also be to build an audience for this service.
Let’s take a look at what content and means we can communicate with the above target groups:
|Target group||Content||Communication channel|
|potential volunteers||the target group of our organisation’s services (audience, readers, etc.)||society|
|þ|| if they are also potential volunteers||Volunteer call
(includes application form, call text describing the activity, providing feedback channel).
|Organisation website – among job announcements and news, volunteer programme website, volunteer search portals, non-profit job search pages, organisation board, other target group communication channels (e.g. university bulletins, newsletters – if relevant, e.g. reach students), local media, posters, flyers in public spaces.|
|þ||þ||News, press release on achievements – preferably in numbers (whether anniversary or celebration, or International Volunteer Day).||Organisation website, FB site, e-mailed to press list, direct contact with (local) media (in many places ‘shortage’ of news during quiet times)|
|þ||þ if they are also potential volunteers||þ||News of launching a new programme (whether it is a completely new volunteer programme or a whole new field of volunteering).||Organisation’s website, FB’s page, e-mailed to press list, direct contact with (local) media, in posters, flyers in public spaces.|
|þ||þ if they are also potential volunteers||Open day invitation – if we organise an open day for the promotion of the programme, we may hold a part of the evaluation in public or recruit new participants at the beginning of a volunteer course to promote volunteering.||Organisation website, volunteer search portals newsletter, non-profit job search site newsletter, organisation’s FB page, other targeted communication channels, e-mailed to press list, direct contact with (local) media, posters, flyers.|
|þ||þ||Programme promotion – to promote a new service resulting from volunteering.||Organisation’s website, FB site, e-mailed to press list, direct contact with (local) media, in posters, flyers, museum maps in public areas, if the place of service is permanent.|
|þ||þ||Volunteer badge – with the name and position of the volunteer, with the volunteer programme logo, if any.||You can also put a sign on your volunteer clothing behind the volunteer desk to emphasise position and volunteer status.|
|þ||þ||Presence of volunteers as a general message about the acceptance and significance of volunteering||Volunteers appearing in public spaces and offices (preferably with a badge, volunteer T-shirt).|
|þ||Ministry annual reports, plans||Primarily a fixed-form plan and report to inform the financier.|
Content and tools of external communication
In conclusion, it is worthwhile to think carefully about and structure the communication issue. Where there is capacity or affinity for this, it may be beneficial to develop a communication plan, ideally integrated into the institutional communication strategy. Remember that we are not alone in the communication space. In the face of huge media noise, we need to target our messages in a targeted way, so it is worth thinking creatively, even out of the ordinary, and seeking the advice or support of experts in the field (pro bono) wherever possible.
This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version