CJS

CJS Focus on Volunteering

Published: 15 February 2016

logo: The Conservation Volunteers

In Association with: The Conservation Volunteers


logo: Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife TrustVolunteer Driven Success at Rutland Water

 

Rutland Water is a reservoir nestled in the small county of Rutland in the East Midlands. Built in the 1970s by Anglian Water, there are 26 miles of shoreline, including a peninsula on the western side, and 9 miles of this is managed as a nature reserve in a unique partnership between Anglian Water and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

 

Two of our Volunteer Trainee Reserve Officers enjoying the sun while wardening at Birdfair 2015 (Eric Renno)

Two of our Volunteer Trainee Reserve Officers

enjoying the sun while wardening at Birdfair

2015 (Eric Renno)

Over the years the management of the reserve has grown, with new features being added all the time and we are now at the point where we have 8 lagoons and nearly 30 birdwatching hides, as well as 2 visitor centres and a newly built, HLF funded volunteer training centre. Running a reserve of this size is, as you would imagine, impossible without a vast team of volunteers who now number more than 450. Volunteers here work in a variety of roles including habitat management, osprey monitoring, wildlife recording, visitor experience and much more! We also have the annual Birdfair which could not be run without the near 300 volunteers that join us on the weekend (and for the many weeks of preparation/dismantling!).

 

Managing such a huge team can be a struggle at times and keeping the volunteers satisfied and happy is vital. It is something we have put many years of work in to, and are forever improving. A couple of years ago we built a WordPress website, specifically for volunteers. This is a private website that doesn’t come up in search engines and requires a login. The website is vital in our day to day running of the volunteer programme. It is full of interesting stories and news updates on the goings-on at the reserve but it is also an important tool when communicating practical information such as rotas, health and safety information and dates. We also have a large

A team of volunteers head off for a guided walk on the reserve with staff in December 2015 (Sarah Proud) 

A team of volunteers head off for a guided walk

on the reserve with staff in December 2015

(Sarah Proud)

createsend email database where we can send emails out to the appropriate volunteers, often linking them back to information on the website. This has been incredibly useful in getting the volunteers adapted to logging in to the website regularly, and we are now at the point where less than 10 volunteers require documents to be posted.

 

Rewarding our volunteers and recognising their hard work is important and we go out of our way every day to make the reserve a friendly, welcoming place. This can be anything from providing homemade soup after a challenging work party to the constant supply of tea. We try to make it as simple as possible for the volunteers to reach us, either by telephone and email, or through dedicated ‘drop in’ hours when we can guarantee we will be in the office if they want to pop down in person.

For many years now we have had annual end of season or Christmas parties for each group. For example, when the ospreys migrate for the winter in September, we host a party for the monitoring volunteers who then finish until March. We get a fish and chip van to come to the visitor centre and pay for their meal (£5 a head). We provide entertainment, usually in the form of the staff making fools of themselves, which they thoroughly enjoy! It is a great way to round off the season and leaves them satisfied and valued during their break.

 

Steve, one of our expert volunteers, leading a Dragonfly and Damselfly walk on Wild Rutland Day (Eric Renno)

Steve, one of our expert volunteers,

leading a Dragonfly and Damselfly

walk on Wild Rutland Day

(Eric Renno)

Throughout the year we provide events specifically for volunteers, a practice that has really taken off since the completion of our Volunteer Training Centre in July 2015. These events include walks, talks, workshops and catch ups, and can often be done for just the cost of the staff member’s time. If there is a budget, however, there’s one thing I’ve learnt, to provide hot drinks, biscuits and cake wherever possible! It always puts a smile on to everyone’s faces. These type of events not only make the volunteers feel valued but also improve their knowledge, which in the long term can only help us more. We have also found that eventually you end up with some very experienced and enthusiastic volunteers, who in turn are happy to train others. In 2016 we have 13 events scheduled already that are led by volunteers, for volunteers. A costless, effective approach!

 

Getting stuck in…the volunteers enjoy a well-earned Christmas lunch, waited on by the staff of course! (Tim Appleton)

Getting stuck in…the volunteers enjoy

a well-earned Christmas lunch, waited

on by the staff of course!

(Tim Appleton)

The most expensive event for us throughout the year is the Christmas Lunch at approximately £7 per head. We limit the numbers to how many we can fit seated in our biggest room, about 80, and then give tickets on a first come first served basis which works well. Christmas always proves the perfect opportunity to really lay the thank yous on thick and it can be great fun in the office when it comes time to collate the volunteer photos (take lots!) from throughout the year into a video summary of what they’ve been up to. This is shown at the Christmas party but also shared on social media, with the added benefit of a bit of advertising to help with volunteer recruitment the following year.

 

In my role at the reserve as the dedicated Volunteer Coordinator  I can put a lot of time into our particularly large reward and recognition programme. On a smaller scale some basic events such as a guided walk or a ‘cuppa, cake and catchup’ event are simple and either free or done for the cost of tea and cake, well worth the difference it can make to volunteer attitudes.

 

Sarah Proud, Volunteer Coordinator, 01572 720049, volunteering@rutlandwater.org.uk

Visit our website: www.rutlandwater.org.uk/wildlives

View our 2015 volunteer video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoVFqY3pMcs

Contacted January 2017 - believed to be correct


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