Charity Next – Coram Beanstalk – Networking Project Manager

We have circa 3000 one-to-one reading helper volunteer across the country, many of whom undertake their role within their school in isolation. Due to a difficult financial climate that has affected many in both the charitable and education sector, Coram Beanstalk has had to reduce its remote workforce providing the local support to these volunteers. We also no longer are able to finance local offices apart from our London Head Office. Coram Beanstalk has worked committedly over the last 6 months of this new structure being in place to provide the volunteer reading helpers with alternative support, through online portals, less frequent but larger events, remote support through emailing and telephone. However the response we regularly receive from the volunteers is they no longer feel connected, they don’t feel part of the Coram Beanstalk family. The reason of social connectedness is usually found at the top as to why people volunteer, and as Sir Suart Etherington (CEO of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, NCVO) recently stated, 'connectivity is the lifeblood of the charity endeavour'. However we are consistently informed this is not being provided the level volunteers would hope it to be, or at least the volunteers that share their opinions regularly with us.

Volunteer satisfaction and retention is incredibly important to Coram Beanstalk. Not retaining volunteers hits us financially in many ways, and also impacts the consistent and continued service we are able to provide to the schools and early years settings, and most importantly to the children we support. Without as much face to face support being provided by the organisation and the slow uptake of other communication methods, there has also been a decrease in support, guidance and sharing new and best practice. This is an important consideration for the development and learning element of the volunteer role, keeping our volunteer's skills and knowledge base 'fresh'.

  • - Scoping - what actually is the issue regarding volunteer connectivity and what is the size of the issue (are we, for example, listening to a small vocal minority). Who do we need to ask, and how can we do this. Deliverable - consultation and engagment of identified parties, collated responses and evaluation. Time frame - 6 weeks
    - Planning - how can we solve the issue(s). What ideas could work, are practicable, and within budget, drawing on the available resources of the organisation and/or securing external support e.g. through one of our corporate partners, such as developing our social media channels, our portal and it's forums, initiating development of a Coram Beanstalk app, peer support, diversion/realignment of staff resource, improved or changed communication methods, events or accessible resources. Through consultation and behavioural insight, is a culture change as or possibly more important throughout our volunteer (and staff) base, and if so how can we effect this. Deliverables - scope out identified possibilities and present findings. With support make decisions on the best way forwards. Agree a budget, and how they will measure success. Identify who the secondee needs to work with (internal and external) - starting with middle and senior level management, this is likely to include members of staff from all levels of the organisation as well as external supporters. Time frame - 6 weeks.
    - Wider benefits - thinking bigger picture, what could be the wider benefits of any developments to the organisation. Could we improve our internal processes with the use of any digital development e.g. monitoring volunteer attendance. Could staff teams communicate more efficiently with each other and therefore we reduce the isolation of remote workers. Is there an attractive fundraising/corporate support package generated. Deliverables - wider benefits scoped and discussed, decisions made for implementation or recommendations passed over for future action.