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International Volunteer Managers Day 2020

To celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day we are highlighting Christine Brookes and the fantastic work she has done managing volunteers.

Christine is one of six members of staff in the CHAS Retail team who are based at the CHAS shops in Kinross and Dunfermline. Christine manages two CHAS shops in Kinross together with colleague Emily Kate. They work together very closely and both have the same goals – to ensure that volunteers feel valued and that the shops have a fantastic atmosphere.

This year for International Volunteer Managers Day, we are highlighting the work of Christine, who excels at bringing the volunteers together, taking the time to integrate new members into the team. Christine always makes sure that everyone knows what they should be doing and that they are comfortable with their tasks.

What people notice when entering the shops Christine manages, is the atmosphere. Sarah Stephen, the Volunteering Advisor for Retail said “A customer who came into the shop even said the atmosphere was so lovely she wanted to apply to volunteer. That shows the work that Christine puts in.”

Christine answered some questions for us to give us an insight into her experiences of working with volunteers.

  • What do you enjoy about working with volunteers?

I enjoy building a connection and relationship with each volunteer over time, developing volunteers’ skills and utilising their existing skills is really rewarding, as they all bring something unique to the shop. Seeing the commitment to the shop and to CHAS that the volunteers have and their willingness to help is great.

  • How would you describe your volunteer management style?

My management style is fairly relaxed but we get things done. It’s different from having a paid member of staff so you have to be a bit more relaxed. I work with volunteers to make them feel part of the team and included. Supporting and coaching and motivating volunteers is important and also making sure that I am approachable.

  • What is something you have learned through managing volunteers?

Communication and that volunteers have to feel involved, which can be difficult if you have volunteers who come in once every fortnight. This means that I need to work with them to make them feel part of the team.

I’ve also learned how to be more patient. I’m quite a driven person but managing volunteers has taught me to take time out of the day to spend time with them, rather than just focusing on tasks that I’ve set for myself. Another thing I’ve learned, is to adapt my approach and style to tailor to the individual as everyone is very different.

  • What do you think makes a good volunteer manager?

Someone who can lead by example, motivate and remain motivated, give clear direction, has good listening skills and communicates a volunteer’s achievements. I think it’s also important to have an understanding of why they volunteer and what they expect from it, what is it that they need or want from volunteering?

Showing appreciation of what volunteers do and what they achieve is vital. Volunteers chose to give their valuable time to CHAS. We are a team and we couldn’t do what we do without volunteers and working alongside them is really important. I am a part of the team just like them and there’s no hierarchy. A good volunteer manager will recognise if support is needed to build confidence and know when that person might need support. This will enable the volunteer and the manager to get the most out of volunteering.

  • How did it feel when you first started managing volunteers compared to now?

I’ve worked in retail in many teams before but working with volunteers is very different. I had a low level of understanding when I started managing volunteers and wasn’t sure what was expected of them. Since then I have gained that knowledge as I’ve gone along. Now, there is a good level of communication, that’s something that’s really improved across the shop and the charity.

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