Topic outline

  • General

  • Week two introduction working with volunteers

    Volunteers are the lifeblood of the voluntary sector, and many organisations would not be able to operate without their help and support. People volunteer in many roles, including being a trustee, or helping with operational activities such as assisting in a charity shop, fundraising, organising events, gardening, administration, caring for elderly people or children, and so on.

    Last week you explored what roles mean in the context of work and volunteering, as well as in other settings. This week you will find out why and how volunteers are recruited and how they are retained – how organisations and groups attempt to motivate volunteers and keep them volunteering.

    People often stay in paid work because they are dependent on the wages, but for volunteers non-financial reasons come into play. Commitment to a cause or an issue is important, but there are many other factors too.

    You might have relevant experience that you can draw on this week – perhaps of being recruited as a volunteer or of having recruited volunteers yourself. If you are considering applying for a volunteering role, then this week will help you to understand the recruitment process, and give you a sense of what to expect as a volunteer.

    Now watch Julie Charlesworth introduce this week.


    Welcome to Week 2. Last week you reflected on what your organisation does and your own role within it. This week you’ll focus on the important contribution of volunteers in your organisation, including how to work with volunteers and how your organisation manages them. 
    You might approach these topics as a volunteer yourself. I volunteer for the SPAB, where I look after their secret courtyard garden. Key issues include how to inspire and recruit volunteers to your organisation and how to induct, train, and retain volunteers. 
    A big part of retention is motivation. Many discussions about motivation at work are about pay, and this doesn’t apply to volunteers. So how does your organisation motivate and keep volunteers? In fact, retention of volunteers is one of the biggest challenges for organisations.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • understand why organisations and other groups need the help of volunteers
    • describe the different methods used to recruit volunteers
    • describe why induction is important
    • understand how organisations motivate and retain volunteers.
    Lessons: 14
  • Week three introduction marketing and communications

    Effective marketing is crucial to the success of all voluntary and community organisations. In order to survive and thrive, voluntary organisations need to communicate and build relationships with many groups. These will include not only existing donors, supporters, volunteers and clients but also potential funders, donors, clients and others who might promote and support the organisation’s cause. 

    An organisation’s communications might include, for example, a newsletter for volunteers or members, an annual report, a website, Tweets or Facebook messages, or an advert to try to attract donations. 

    Marketing is carried out at all levels of an organisation and is not necessarily confined to people working as marketing assistants or officers. Volunteers are often asked to help design leaflets or to promote the organisation in other ways. New volunteers are often recruited by existing volunteers marketing the benefits of volunteering.

    A key aspect of marketing is how good communication attracts people’s interest. This week you will examine some of the ways in which organisations communicate and how these communications can be made effective. 

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 3.


    Welcome to Week 3. Last week you looked at how voluntary organisations recruit and manage volunteers. This week you’ll find out how good communications and marketing can be used effectively in voluntary organisations. 
    It may seem strange to think of voluntary organisations doing marketing, as it seems more like something the private sector does. However, most organisations use marketing, whatever sector they’re in, although often it’s expressed as communication. 
    You’ll find out what marketing is and why it’s important, and you’ll get some ideas and practical steps on applying simple marketing theories to an organisation you’re familiar with. 
    You’ll also explore how to communicate effective messages, and the key role that social media plays in marketing at voluntary organisations.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • describe what marketing is
    • describe what happens in the process of human communication using a simple model
    • use the model to help explain what factors may influence whether a message is communicated successfully
    • prepare effective messages, including what to say and how to say it to a target audience, and persuading people to take action.
    Lessons: 13
  • Week four introduction working with financial information

    Every voluntary organisation, no matter how small, needs to consider the role of financial information in its operations; that is, the money it has coming in and the costs involved in paying staff, running services and projects, rent, utilities, and so on. People often think it is the accountants or other specialist financial staff who are in charge of finances but, in reality, many staff, trustees and volunteers have some input into managing financial information, fundraising and setting budgets. This week will help you if you are asked to take responsibility for a budget or to comment on financial information within your organisation.

    Good financial management is important for all organisations, even those with small incomes, and registered charities are regulated to ensure that they are being run appropriately, particularly in terms of how money is raised and spent. 

    You will look briefly at some of the key financial terms that relate to voluntary organisations (particularly registered charities), which will help you understand your organisation if you are new to working or volunteering in the sector. You will focus primarily on budgets this week – what they are, why they are important, and how to interpret them – as this is an area where many staff and volunteers are required to contribute information.

    Budgets are used at different levels – organisational and departmental as well as for individual projects and activities. Understanding budgets can prove to be a useful skill, whether in your work or in your personal life. You might think that budgets are just about working out costs and doing calculations, but actually much of the budget process relates to asking questions, and presenting information clearly and communicating well.

    You can also attempt the first compulsory badge quiz this week.

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 4.


    Well done, you’re nearly halfway through the course now, and this week you’ll do a longer quiz, which will count towards your badge. 
    Last week you explored the role of marketing in voluntary organisations, and this week, you’ll look at how to work with financial information. 
    All organisations need to know what money they have coming in and going out, and for many voluntary organisations, where finances are tight, this is especially important. You’ll learn how to read and interpret budgets. These set out the main income and expenditure for organisations as a whole, or departments or smaller projects within them. The basics of budgets are the same whether you’re responsible for a large budget or a small one. 
    By the end of this week you’ll have gained confidence in working with financial information.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • understand different terms relating to financial management in the voluntary sector
    • outline the different sources of income available to voluntary organisations
    • describe the importance of budgets and why they are set
    • interpret a simple budget
    • describe how to balance a budget.
    Lessons: 14File: 1
  • Week five introducing fundraising

    All voluntary organisations need funds to achieve their aims and carry out their activities. As you saw in Week 4, funds come from a variety of sources, from donations to contracts, and many involve considerable effort, such as writing applications and nurturing relationships with individuals and organisations. Some organisations have staff and departments whose main responsibility is to carry out all aspects of fundraising, whereas smaller organisations or groups tend to involve all their staff or volunteers in planning, writing grant applications and building relationships with donors.

    There are many ways in which voluntary organisations might ask people or other organisations for money; for example, through street collections, jumble sales, events, and so on. Asking people for money inevitably has an ethical dimension: the people being asked may feel a degree of pressure or obligation, and some older or vulnerable people may feel they cannot say no. In recent years, some voluntary organisations have come under the spotlight for their highly pressurised fundraising approaches. Consequently, there have been calls for greater regulation of fundraising.

    Even if you are not directly involved with fundraising, this week’s topics and issues will give you a greater understanding of the importance of effective and successful fundraising to your organisation. It will also provide you with the ethical context for asking people for money.

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 5.


    Welcome to Week 5. Last week you looked at how to work with basic financial information, and this week you’ll explore how to get more income for your organisation through fundraising. 
    Fundraising is about persuading people to donate to your organisation and plays a key role in the voluntary sector. You’ll find out what fund raising is and the different methods available, such as face-to-face and online donations, as well as crowdfunding. 
    You’ll also look at the types of information needed for writing bids for funding and the challenges this presents, and why building relationships with donors at all levels is so important.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • explain what fundraising is
    • know how organisations raise money from individuals and other organisations
    • explain the ethical challenges of fundraising
    • identify the skills involved in fundraising.
    Lessons: 15
  • Week six Introduction effective meetings

    Meetings are used to coordinate and plan work, to make decisions, to monitor progress, to consult with volunteers or users of the organisation’s services, to give support and for many other reasons. 

    In the past, meetings often took place in formal settings, such as offices and meeting rooms, and nearly always involved people meeting ‘face to face’. Times have changed though, and you have probably experienced sitting in a café hearing people nearby taking part in a meeting via their mobile phone or laptop.

    There is much more flexibility now, but does this mean people find meetings more effective? The chances are that people still complain about having too many meetings, as well as ones that accomplish little. When resources are tight and people have too much work to do they may feel that yet another meeting is unhelpful. 

    However, meetings do not have to be a bad experience. During this week you will engage in a variety of activities and tasks to help you think about what can be done to make meetings more effective and enjoyable.

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 6.


    Welcome to Week 6. Last week you explored the key role of fundraising. This week, you will learn about taking part in or chairing meetings. 
    Meetings are an inevitable part of organisational life, and they happen at all levels of organisations and can involve paid staff as well as volunteers. You will look at the strengths and weaknesses of different types of meetings and find out what makes a meeting effective. You’ll draw on your own experience of being in meetings as a participant or chairing a meeting. It’s also important to explore alternatives to traditional face-to-face meeting as teams become more dispersed and online meeting methods become available. 
    By the end of this week you’ll have learnt how meetings can work well or less well. And you’ll also have some practical ideas to apply to your own work or volunteering.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • analyse and describe the strengths and weaknesses of meetings you are familiar with
    • distinguish between different types of meeting and the activities that are appropriate in each
    • plan what you need to do to prepare for a meeting in which you are to take part
    • explain what is involved in being an effective chair, secretary or participant in a meeting
    • analyse your own strengths and weaknesses when taking part in meetings and what you might do to address any weaknesses
    • know what is involved in recording and following up on meetings.
    Lessons: 10
  • Week seven Introduction working in teams and partnerships

    A team is a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. The idea of ‘belonging to a team’ can be very appealing – it conjures up images of everyone working together well, knowing their role within the team and working towards a shared purpose. Teams do not just ‘gel’ overnight, however – team building takes time and there is usually someone in the role of team manager or leader facilitating the process. Sometimes teams do not function well and experience conflict. People are all different, and some may resist working in teams or have had negative experiences of teams.

    Teams occur in most organisations, irrespective of sector. What is unique about the voluntary sector is that teams often involve both paid staff and volunteers, as well as teams made up entirely of volunteers. In the voluntary and public sectors, there is considerable cross-organisational working to achieve common goals, for example on a regeneration project or a social care initiative. These are usually described as partnerships.

    Working in a team brings together many of the issues you have already covered on the course so far: for example, how to communicate well, how to work with volunteers and how to participate in meetings. These are all key elements of working in a team or a partnership. You were also introduced to the idea of teams in Week 5, where Anna and Patrina talked about the importance of team work and learning from each other while fundraising.

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 7.


    You’re nearing the end of the course now. Last week you explored how to take part in, as well as manage, meetings. This week you’ll build on some aspects of meetings, such as communicating well, and find out how to work in teams, which are an important part of all organisations. 
    In the voluntary sector, teams can be paid staff, volunteers or a mix of both. You’ll explore what teams are and why they matter, as well as how a team is built and managed, and what makes them successful. You’ll also find out what your team role is and think about how teams work in your organisation. 
    You’ll look at a more complex type of team – a partnership of different organisations. Partnerships are often difficult to work in, particularly when they involve very different organisations to your own, and you’ll examine what these challenges might be.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • recognise the differences between groups and teams and understand the importance of teams
    • outline what the roles are in teams
    • outline the different stages of team development
    • explain the importance of partnership working and its role in the voluntary sector
    • describe your own experiences of teams and partnerships.
    Lessons: 13
  • Week eight Introduction understanding stress and conflict

    Working for voluntary organisations has many rewards – not least the feeling that you are doing something worthwhile. However, there can be aspects of working in voluntary organisations that can make it stressful and difficult. Many of the ideals of the sector, such as the participation of service users and beneficiaries or the strong value commitments that people hold, bring excitement and a feeling of passion on the part of those involved. 

    Sometimes, however, the features of voluntary organisations bring tension, stress and conflict when things are not going so well. Reasons for this include the informality of some smaller organisations, or the hierarchies of some larger organisations, uncertain funding arrangements and the strong value commitments of the people involved.

    Understanding and improving well-being at work has gained greater attention in many sectors and professions. Not all stress is bad; however, not everyone is the same and we all deal with stress in different ways.

    This week you will explore some sources of stress and conflict, which might help you to understand how you are feeling or have felt in the past. It will also help you to understand why your colleagues might be experiencing stress or conflict.

    You can also attempt the compulsory badge quiz this week.

    Start by watching this video in which Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 8.


    You’re on the last week of the course now, and you’ll do a longer quiz which will count towards your badge. This week you’ll explore topics around stress and conflict. 
    This might sound negative but it’s something that’s very common and there are many ways of dealing with the challenges. You’ll look first at some sources of stress and conflict in voluntary organisations, and then find out about some strategies that can help with coping and managing these issues.

    By the end of this week, you should be able to:

    • identify and describe some sources of stress and the strategies to deal with them
    • explain a number of issues about working in the voluntary sector that can lead to tensions and conflict
    • describe sources of conflict and identify some strategies that can help you to cope with these issues
    • understand the constructive benefits of conflict.
    Lessons: 19