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Why would a student want to volunteer anyway?

There are a number of reasons why a student might want to volunteer. Often students volunteer in order to develop personally or indeed emotionally. They may be interested in civic engagement, doing their bit or giving back to the community. They may also volunteer in order to improve their chances of finding a job after they graduate. Every student is different BUT what is important is that these students DO wish to volunteer their time within your organisations and they have a diverse range of skills to share. It is our job to ensure that they make the right decision and will stay around. If a students skills and individual qualities are placed at the fore of what they do within your organisation we may come closer to fostering long term commitments. Unfortunately there is a negative perception within some students minds with regards to volunteering and at EUSA we are very keen to challenge this and to get more students in to the charitable sector to further good and positive work within the community.

So why do some students not want to volunteer?


It is EUSAs prerogative to place students within organisations to help carry out useful, forward thinking and socially conscious work. Unfortunately there are students who feel that volunteering is not for them. We would like to work alongside charitable organisations to change this perception. Here are the number one reasons why a student may not volunteer: 1. Within the organisation they have a sense of not really being needed 2. They may feel that their efforts are not making a difference to the cause 3. Sometimes they may not feel welcomed by the organisation, particularly paid staff 4. Some students may not be used to the culture of volunteering within the UK 5. When a student is not fully aware of the organisations mission they may feel out of the loop. They dont feel a part of the organisation 6. They feel they may be given tasks that are too routine

7. They worry that their efforts may go unrecognised 8. They feel that their time is being wasted (time to a student is vital) We need your help to change this mentality. Of course we understand that at some point every person within an organisation needs to get their hands dirty and by no means wish to suggest that a student need not be involved in the everyday perhaps more mundane activity that simply needs to be done. Far from it, however we need your help to ensure that a students skills, passions and ambitions are able to shine within their voluntary role. The above list is certainly not made up of the majoritys opinion. However it does give us a little insight in to problems that may be present within the current system that we have in place. We are also aware that issues within student volunteer placements are certainly not one sided and that often charitable organisations are reluctant to take on student volunteers for many reasons, we also more than anything want to make a change to this and together we can.

Why would an organisation not want to recruit a student volunteer?


The nature of student life is rather higgledy piggledy at times. Where a first year student full of optimism and good intention might wish to volunteer in many capacities, that same student in the middle of their second year may have very different ideas and motivations and indeed at the end of year three may suddenly find very little time on their hands. Believe us when we say that we understand there may often be commitment issues. We also know that for you it can be a training, admin and recruitment nightmare! As an organisation with a clear mission and passion you might also find yourself questioning a students intentions or motivations: Is this purely something to stick on their CV? Will they move on in a week? Will they let you down? A big struggle for students is often being tarred quite heavily with the same brush. We are not going to try and state that all students will devote their life to your charity or even still remain with

you when they graduate. What we can promise is that with the right support to make the right decision in the first instance we can set the student up for success within your organisation. We also need your help to foster clear, positive and honest relationships based on understanding and valuing the individual within the voluntary work place.
Ensuring that each student is aware of your charities objectives as well as the role that you wish them to fulfil is one of the most important factors in keeping hold of a good volunteer. It is also very important to appreciate their individual and collective goals within the organisation.

MOVING FORWARD
So how can we improve this relationship, get more volunteers on board and work effectively together to further your organisations mission? There are a few things we need to consider

It is commonly known now that in this difficult financial climate volunteer work is often far more valuable than any paid work throughout a university career. Also upon graduating voluntary placements can be the first roles for students on their career ladder. It is vital then that a student gains the best experience that they can whilst working with you. It is also vital that your organisation gets the most out of your volunteers in the bid to further your cause. It is up to you to use your student volunteer in the most valuable and effective way, this will not only make it worthwhile for you but it will also ensure that it is a worthwhile venture for them. If a student feels integral to your organisation the chances are they will stick around and become a valuable asset to the team.

What can they say they did to further develop or contribute to your charity? What was their real effect on you and your users? What might someone from within the organisation (either supervisor or user) say about them and their contribution?

Are they meeting their potential?

Students have a massive skillset that could be yours


EUSA Volunteering endeavours to place each student and their skills correctly within an organisation that they are not only passionate about but also where their skills are best matched. This is often course related however also takes in to account the students main interests and hobbies. We do this to ensure that a student can be made useful within each placement. A student may have impressive IT skills, creative and artistic flair, they might have a passion for poetry and literature or landscape gardening - use this to your advantage! We would like for The University of Edinburghs Careers Service to form a far closer relationship with each charity volunteer supervisor off site. We believe

that a closer relationship of understanding between student and charity supervisor will empower each volunteer to use their skills, be creative and utilise their best qualities providing a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.

USE YOUR VOLUNTEER AND KEEP YOUR VOLUNTEER ITS ABOUT MORE THAN TURNING UP!

THE THREE POSITIONS OF UNDERSTANDING

For the Charity, the Volunteer and the Service User


When Student or staff volunteers enter into a

community, organisation or school they are engaging with many different people on different levels. It is all rather ethical, political, based on practicalities and a bit complex. This can often be pushed to one side in favour of getting on with a task at hand.

All individuals whether they are a service user, charity worker or volunteer have differing needs, anxieties, experiences and motivations. A lack of understanding often comes about due to a lack of communication and honest engagement and can be detrimental to a

successful

placement;

people

become

unhappy,

unheard, un-vocal and volunteer placements can come to an unpleasant end. Having a deeper engagement with each individual will provide a more rewarding experience for all parties. Solid, open and understanding relationships are vital to positive outcomes when volunteering. We are not all Ghandi-a-likes with degrees in psychology and social studies nor are we always capable of reaching out to everyone but we can make the effort to consider individuals within the work place. The first step is in realising that a person is far more than simply a volunteer, a charity worker, a homeless person, an elderly person etc. The second step is in asking what do people expect from you and what do you expect from people in return? The following exercises* aim to foster a deeper understanding of the many individuals you may work with and to begin to acknowledge their needs as well as your own. It can be carried out with your colleagues, co-volunteers or anybody you encounter on placement
*For your reference these exercises are adapted from various applied theatre techniques as well as from many NVC (Non Violent Communication) training objectives

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THE EXERCISES
Interview panel please see additional hand-out for initial exercise ideas.

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