Our volunteers have spoken!

Here at the Woodland Trust we are determined to continue the development of our volunteer experience. Our 764 volunteers ,who completed the National Volunteers' Feedback Survey, are helping  us do just that.

We are happy to say that 89% of volunteers said they would recommend volunteering with The Woodland Trust. There were so many positive comments that echoed this response, here are a couple of them:

  • “You do a really excellent job and make it easy for someone who has very little time to feel as though they are making a significant contribution. Thank you!"
  • “I honestly think the woodland trust provides the best support of all the wildlife environmental charities - and I volunteer for many!"
Our volunteers are at the heart of our great woodlands (Photo: WTML/ Judit Perry)
Our volunteers are at the heart of our great woodlands (Photo: WTML/ Judit Perry)

Key areas of the report and resulting action 

Demographics

61% of respondents were male and 39% female. Only 37 of the respondents were under 34 years of age, the highest numbers of respondents were in the 65+ year’s age category. 94% of respondents said they were ‘White British’. 52% of the respondents were retired with 27% employed and 14% self-employed.

Action: A new diversity policy is under development. Volunteer roles will be actively advertised and made available to the full demographics of the community in which the role is based. We will be specifically targeting to work with younger adult volunteers including corporate volunteering and more BME communities. A diversity element is also being developed for the Effective Volunteer Manager training programme.

Volunteer roles will be actively advertised and made available to the full demographics of the community in which the role is based.

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Volunteer Support

The analysis showed that there are a relatively high number of volunteers dropping out within the first few years of volunteering. 63% of volunteers have less than 4 years volunteering experience with the Trust. This partly indicates the growth over recent years but also is indicative of dropout within the first few years. There is an opportunity and need to strengthen the relationship with the volunteers during the first few years.

Action: We are developing an exit survey to identify the reasons for this dropout, this will allow us to directly address these concerns. An induction for all new volunteers is also under development and will be launched shortly. Combined with further training and support for volunteer managers and the policy development within the developing framework we would expect to see an improvement in this by the next survey in 2020.

Representative Comments

  • “Better, regular communication and sharing of plans”
  • “Ensure the volunteer manager has the necessary support - financial and work”

 

53% of the respondents felt the support from their volunteer manager was excellent, 35% of the remaining 47% still rated the support as good. More 1:1 communication and support was called for with volunteer managers, though it was recognised by some respondents how busy volunteer managers are.

 

Action: Volunteer manager training is now being delivered in the regions and countries. Volunteering Development Officers have been recruited for all regions and countries to offer additional support. The National Team are revising policies which will reduce paperwork and time required by volunteer managers. Further work is required to see how the Volunteering Development Officers can provide more personal communication.

Newsletter

The survey provided clear feedback that more information on local news would be welcome, as 30% of respondents supported this. 29% also stated information about the Woodland Trust was important too.

Representative Comments

  • “Greater emphasis on local news and volunteer news”
  • “I very much enjoy the Newsletter as it is though would be nice to feature a "local" wood“

Action: The newsletters will be led from the countries and the regions with national content feeding into them. This is a reversal of what is currently done. The survey response suggests this will be a popular decision and is in line with feedback.

The regional and country authors will need to consider the survey full feedback in this section with regards to guest authors and scientific articles. General Woodland Trust information can continue to be communicated via the national team into the regional and country newsletters.

 

Events

We wanted to gather feedback with regards to what volunteers wanted to see in local events that the Volunteer Development Officers will be delivering. 87% stated they are interested in local events. The feedback is being disseminated for regions and countries and forwarded to them, they have already begun to develop and implement local events, you will hear more about this shortly.

Representative Comments

  • “Encourage local events to raise visibility (active engagement)”
  • “I would like to know of other local volunteers”

Action: In addition to the local events, geographical focused newsletters will help address these points.

Volunteers have helped us transformed empty landscapes into thriving woods (Photo: WTML/ Judith Parry)
Volunteers have helped us transformed empty landscapes into thriving woods (Photo: WTML/ Judith Parry)

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Information & Equipment

Respondents proposed further support in relation to communication, particularly with regards to more detailed information on their roles and their local woodlands would be welcome. Feedback also supported the requirement for online systems for volunteers to be able to access essential information for their roles. There was concern raised about getting the right equipment for the role and for a call for ID badges.

Representative comments include:

  • “Have a specific induction process in place that can be emailed out when volunteers have just joined (documents/how to's etc.) so that new volunteers know procedures, processes and set-ups, including who their support manager is and/or any other relevant information they need to know to fulfil their role/s as volunteers.”
  • “Access to or provision of helmets replacement saw blades, plant/tree survey materials”

Action: Lead Volunteer roles are being piloted in Smithills and Skipton to communicate more information on local activity. There was favourable support to a standardised induction to help new volunteers settle in and be put in contact with each other which is in development. A requirement for further online systems to support volunteers will be explored and fed into the Trust’s Data Strategy Project.

Equipment concerns are being more closely monitored under the new recruitment process and the National Volunteering team will work closely with woodland operations to address this concern.

Our Future

We’ll be working hard over the coming year to implement many changes, most of which you’ll hear about through Volunteer News. We’re starting the process of Investing in Volunteers which is a really exciting step for the Trust.

Don’t forget to keep in touch and let us know how things are going and most of all…. Enjoy your volunteering!