Equity and Inclusion in Volunteering

5 June 2024
Hetty Nanor, Hambleton Community Action
James Baldwin, Civil Rights Activist

In her blog for Volunteers’ Week, Hetty Nanor, Community Volunteering Project Officer at Hambleton Community Action, encourages us all to listen to our volunteers and ensure that we are supporting their individual needs.

It is interesting to realise how various voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations are passionate about sourcing funding to promote equity and inclusion across their boards. It is an undeniable fact that the majority of their goals, and the impact they make in society, could not be achieved without volunteers giving their time and experiences back to their communities.

As much as such organisations have great plans on paper, the question that comes to mind is – do their strategies put people first? What I mean by that is are they person-centred? Do volunteers enjoy the universal human right of inclusion? Are they treated fairly and supported, taking into consideration their individual needs? These questions need the right answers if VCSEs are looking to recruit and retain volunteers in the longer-term. It is evident that people choose to volunteer where they are supported and valued.

In my organisation we believe that the benefits of volunteering should be available to everyone, and that anyone who walks through our doors and expresses the interest to volunteer with us deserves to be listened to, and be provided with the support they need to thrive in their community. As a result, every week we take prospective volunteers through our onboarding process. I am an advocate on inclusion, equity and empowerment because it brings the best out of people. This takes me to my Masters dissertation in gender politics. I chose to do my research on women empowerment. The reason was that from my country of origin it was evident that there were many well-meaning charitable organisations sourcing funding to empower women by disbursing physical cash to them to invest in trades. However, my research showed that due to the patriarchal conditions in the country, the males living in the households with these women were in charge of the cash so in actual fact the women were not in control and the aim of those projects to empower women was defeated.

What am I driving at? For volunteers to be included and supported as individuals there is the need for their voice to be heard so their specific need for support can be identified and addressed. The support needs could range from ensuring volunteers are not out of pocket, providing mentoring support to build confidence, help with filling out onboarding forms, creating a welcoming atmosphere to work in, using acceptable language, holding social events just for volunteers such as quizzes, meals, tea or coffee out, providing the necessary infrastructure facilities and the list goes on. This is a quote I would like to share in the light of today’s blog:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” by James Baldwin, American writer and civil rights activist.

In conclusion, and from a professional point of view, inclusion is being asked to dance at a party and equity is being part of the organising committee.

I hope this piece will motivate organisations to do  their research – listening to their volunteers and providing them with support appropriate to their individual needs, recognising everybody’s capability to make a worthwhile contribution.

Happy Volunteering Week Celebrations.

Find out more about volunteering with Hambleton Community Action on their website.

If you want to post your volunteering role for free on our Volunteering in North Yorkshire (VINY) website, sign up here.

Need help with recruiting and retaining volunteer, or any other area of volunteer management, get in touch with our Community Support North Yorkshire team.

Want to get in touch with fellow volunteer managers and coordinators and share advice and learning, why not join our Volunteer Coordinators Network?