Through your 2015 Feed Geelong donations, Volunteering Geelong in conjuction with the Geelong Food Relief Centre helped improve the capabilities and capacity of volunteers in the food assistance system.
As highlighted in Food for Thought (2014) the system is highly dependent on volunteers; while the report found that there were at least 225 staff engaged in delivering food assistance, it found there were almost four times as many (997) volunteers engaged. These figures underscore the importance of effective volunteering to the food assistance system.
With the support of the Geelong Food Relief Centre and the other members of the Geelong Food Assistance Network, Volunteering Geelong received a $5,000 grant to deliver a program for members of Geelong Food Assistance Network to more effectively involve and support volunteers. Based on the National Standards for Involving Volunteers, the program involved workshops, provision of resources and development of a volunteer handbook which helped provide standardised volunteer policies and procedures for use in food assistance organisations.
Before the project many food assistance organisations had raised a number of challenges and risks of managing volunteers in their programs including:
- Volunteers feeling ‘out of their depth’
- Clients displaying aggressive or inappropriate behaviour to volunteers
- Volunteers becoming disheartened or feeling unprepared to confront these challenges
- Feedback such as ‘we need consistent written information to support us in what we should and shouldn’t do in our role as volunteers, rather than just making it up as we go’.
In response to these concerns Volunteering Geelong has developed and implemented a series of workshops of volunteer management and practice and created a Generic Volunteer Handbook and resources that can provide a benchmark for common practices and consistent service delivery of food services across the food assistance organisations.
These tools have been invaluable to the system with 100% of those agencies who have attended the workshops and utilised the Generic Handbook finding the new tools valuable and useful. After participating in the project Margaret Watts from St Mary’s Parish Pantry commented that “The program was a life saver – a good basis for helping any organization”. That the volunteer handbook will be ‘like a bible” for not only our group but other likeminded groups in the region. And that it will be a basic need to know that can be modified according to each programs’ needs. The resources included in the handbook will provide not only our volunteers with guidance but also our ‘powers that be’ with guidance. Instead of me harping on to them about everything I will now say – look in the handbook!”
The Generic Handbook is available for download and use by any food assistance agency and can be found here.