Volunteering is a powerful mechanism for fostering inclusion and creates ripple effects across entire communities. Building a volunteering program with inclusion at the forefront provides opportunities for all members of your community to be involved in your organisation and bring with them a multitude of experiences and insights. It is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to inclusion, and inclusive practices tend to take a humancentric approach.
Inclusive practices underpin each of the National Standards for Volunteer Involvement. Firstly, effectively designing volunteer involvement to be accessible contributes to National Standard 1: Volunteering is embedded in leadership, governance and culture and National Standard 2: Volunteer participation is championed and modelled. Secondly, creating volunteering roles that are inclusive, with equitable recruitment processes that are based on the interest, knowledge, and skills of volunteers shows your commitment to National Standard 3: Volunteer roles are meaningful and tailored and National Standard 4: Recruitment is equitable and diversity is valued. Providing individualised supervision, support and development opportunities for volunteers supports National Standard 5: Volunteers are supported and developed. Lastly, ensuring recognition is appropriate to volunteer being recognised and respectful of their personal and cultural preferences, and providing opportunities for volunteers to provide feedback on the organisation’s volunteer involvement contribute to National Standard 7: Volunteers are recognised and National Standard 8: Policies and practices are continuously improved.
Inclusion occurs when all people feel valued, respected, and can contribute to an organisation. The below is a list of considerations for thinking about inclusion and inclusive practices in your volunteering roles or programs. When considering how to improve inclusivity in your organisation, it can be advantageous to connect with other organisations and advocacy groups who are experts in inclusion. Most importantly, if you are looking to involve a volunteer who may require additional supports in their role, ensure you ask them what they need rather than making assumptions.
Inclusive considerations include:
- Is your workplace premise accessible? Are there any ways you can increase accessibility?
- Do your policies and procedures reflect a culture of equality and diversity? Are they accessible for persons with all abilities and from all backgrounds?
- Does your organisation use inclusive language and are all staff aware of the value and importance of inclusion?
- Do you encourage applications from people with lived experience and from diverse backgrounds?
- Are volunteering roles and role descriptions flexible and easily adjusted to support people with diverse needs?
- Are recruitment and onboarding processes flexible and easily adjusted to support people with all abilities and from all backgrounds?
- Are your recruitment procedures accessible? Do you avoid using jargon or acronyms in your recruitment documentation?
- Do you have an equitable recruitment process?
- Do you have systems in place to support new volunteers? Do you have the capacity to buddy volunteers?
- Are you actively seeking feedback from your volunteers on their volunteering experience?
It is important to remember that inclusion is an outcome, not an activity. It requires a dedicated and ongoing commitment to improving access to opportunities and providing supported volunteering experiences.