Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) have launched a new strategy demonstrating the key role volunteering will play in their ambition to reach every family in Scotland who needs their services. Head of Volunteering Morven MacLean explains how it was developed in partnership with volunteers.
“We want volunteers involved in our children’s care…we don’t see the difference between staff and volunteers…we want to get more involved in volunteering ourselves…”
These are some of the reflections from families who use CHAS services, when we asked them how we should be developing volunteering in CHAS. As a Head of Volunteering, comments like these are gold dust, adding yet another reason to the myriad of reasons as to why volunteering is a no-brainer, for CHAS and for all charities.
In August we embarked on the process of developing our new volunteering strategy. The timing was ideal, as we were about to start the development of our new CHAS strategic plan, and the Scottish Government had published the new National Outcomes Framework for Volunteering in March.
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) had also published their ‘Time Well Spent’ research on volunteering in the UK, providing us with invaluable data to inform our new strategy. It was important to me that the strategy reflected the priorities of Scottish Government so that volunteering in CHAS contributes to the wider goals for volunteering in Scotland.
I also wanted the volunteering strategy to be aligned with CHAS’s new strategic plan so that the work of my team is directly connected with the wider organisational objectives. Volunteering development doesn’t work if it’s an ‘add-on’. It has to be integrated in to the fabric of an organisation. At CHAS we are committed to developing a volunteering culture and that takes organisation-wide support.
Our strategy development process has been led by the principle ‘nothing to us without us,’ so just as volunteers will be involved in the implementation phase, volunteers were also involved in shaping the strategy. A volunteer, St John Hattersley, with significant strategic experience from his time working in both the public and third sectors in Scotland, co-produced the strategy with me.
Working with him on the project was a real highlight, as he challenged me, asked thought-provoking questions and worked with me to plan the strategy development process. I looked forward to our meetings as he provided me with stretch, bringing new ideas and a fresh perspective.
As a volunteering team, we spent time digesting ‘Time Well Spent’ as well as our own CHAS volunteering data. A session with my team led to the emergence of key themes which helpfully (and unsurprisingly) reflected the themes identified in the research and in the Scottish Government’s National Volunteering Framework. St John and I then built questions around the themes and used these to facilitate a workshop for staff and volunteers from across the organisation.
I invited four of our Directors to attend the workshop which helped to secure their support for the strategy from the outset. Volunteers who were unable to attend were invited to complete a questionnaire to share their views. We then consulted with 15 families who use our service.
St John and I then spent time sorting through the feedback, creating themes – and we were delighted that strong themes naturally emerged: inclusion, diversity, integration, volunteer management, and creating flexible roles fit for the future. We used all of this intelligence to generate four strategic outcomes for volunteering in CHAS.
St John gave his perspective: “Being involved in developing the new Volunteering Strategy has been an absolute pleasure for me – because of CHAS’s enormous goodwill and support for all its volunteers, because of the exceptional skills of CHAS staff, and because of everyone’s willingness to try out new ideas. The Strategic Themes in the Volunteering Strategy are a really strong basis for CHAS going forward.
“It’s a big agenda but the time feels right with volunteers looking for new roles, and with attitudes changing in society about what volunteers can and should do. I think CHAS has a real chance to ‘get ahead’ in the Charity World in Scotland. It’s genuinely exciting!”
We launched our new strategy in December after it was approved by the Senior Leadership Team and in February, St John and I are looking forward to presenting it to the CHAS Board. For the strategy to have longevity, it needs support from the very top of the organisation.
I’ve loved every minute of developing our new strategy. For me, the reflections from families have been particularly interesting. Parents told us they see no difference between staff and volunteers and that they want volunteers as well as staff involved in their children’s care. This is as strong a mandate as we can get for investing in volunteering. Our new strategy is ambitious but we’re confident that it will enable us to develop volunteering and play a key role in our ambition of reaching every family in Scotland who needs us.
To read the strategy in full visit CHAS: Our Volunteering Strategy