The importance of our volunteers
Posted by David Gerard, Head of People, on 19 Aug 2016
"Hardly a day goes by when we don’t have volunteers in the Red Kite offices."
Whether they’ve come in to carry out phone surveys, to learn how to set up their own business or to sit on an interview panel to help us recruit new staff, our volunteers are a welcome everyday presence and would be hugely missed if they weren’t around. Not only that, but the majority of our volunteers are customers too – so they have great insight into what our customers want.
Staff have embraced this and appreciate that as a tenant-led organisation, volunteers are an essential part of our anatomy. Our Engagement and Volunteering team attend staff team meetings and are on hand to offer the advice and support that is needed to both volunteers and staff. They co-ordinate, monitor and report on the activity but it’s the rest of our staff who deliver on our promise to be tenant-led. We work to make sure that our volunteers are supported, rewarded and receive regular communication about how the work they are doing helps us.
We currently have more than 80 volunteers who regularly work with us – and last year they spent nearly 3,500 hours supporting us.
We've put together the infographic below that summarises some of the key milestones our volunteers have achieved.
What are our volunteers doing?
Our volunteers carry out a wide range of activities across our organisation. One of the key things they do is carrying out surveys, to find out what other customers think of the services we (and our contractors) provide. Our experience shows that having volunteers carry out our surveys gives us a much better response.
Jess Horwitz (our Insight team Leader) told us “the involvement of volunteers in carrying out our phone surveys has made a massive difference to the feedback we receive”.
Surveys have been carried out with our customers in areas such as adaptations, digital inclusion, gas servicing and property re-lets. The results of the surveys are fed back to the commissioning teams and Contract Review Groups who use the information to make more service improvements.
When we go out and inspect the places our customers live, we want people to get involved too – that’s why we welcome customers to join us and let us know about local issues so we can work to fix them.
“Involving our customers in the inspections is invaluable” said Carol Giddings (Experience Specialist) “not only does it give us an extra pair of eyes and ears to identify local issues but it also gives our volunteers a good understanding of what we can do to resolve issues and the process involved. It is a 2 way learning curve.”
Setting their own budgets
We think that giving the people who live in our homes an active say in how our funds are spent is one the best ways for people to make a difference.
We have an Environmental Improvement Group who meet monthly to decide where we should spend our funds to make improvements to the local environment, such as new patio doors, parking spaces and security lighting. The team are very active, always getting out and about on site visits so that they can understand the area in question and make informed decisions. During the last financial year our volunteers were instrumental in awarding eight major contracts to the value of over £9,000,000. These include new contracts for our external works to homes, redevelopment work on balconies and the extension of our grounds maintenance contract.
Our customers are involved in interviewing new staff wherever possible. During the last financial year, customers sat on nearly 20 interview panels for new staff.
Our Castlefield Regeneration Panel – a flagship regeneration scheme that we will soon be starting - is key in the decision making process. The panel are consulted on all major decisions and chose the architects. They have been instrumental in keeping local residents up to date with what’s happening around the project too.
Social media research, polls and feedback
Of course, engagement takes many forms – engagement can also mean getting in touch with us through our digital channels. Facebook and Twitter generates a lot of interaction with our customers – not just through general feedback about the services we provide, which is fed into our overall approach to feedback, but also when it comes to asking questions and carrying out research. Instant feedback from those who follow us is a great way of canvassing real time opinions on certain areas and gives our customers a free and widely available channel to influence how we do things.
Our newsletter encourages customers to submit stories and contribute to the articles we share – our story is a tenant-led one, so it’s important to us that we share our customer stories too.
What do we give back to our volunteers?
Customer engagement is a two way street, and it’s one we’re fully committed to walking down. Wherever possible, we look for opportunities to run joint training sessions with our customers and staff. We give our volunteers time credits for every hour they spend volunteering with us too – to reward them even more for the support they give to their local communities.
Whenever we support community events we welcome help from our customers. Our annual community day is a great opportunity for our customers and volunteers to work alongside staff supporting local charities and projects in our community and a number of our customers stepped forward to take part in this alongside staff.
So, that’s an overview of all the ways we’re supporting and working with our volunteers to make ourselves an even better organisation. To us, we can’t imagine working any other way – we owe our success to our volunteers, and we’re confident that our volunteers are going to help us be even more successful in the future!