Volunteers: the key to success

Posted on the 6th April 2018

As a leading INGO, volunteers are at the heart of our organisation and have been since Islamic Relief started over 30 years ago.

Volunteer-led beginnings

In 1984, touched by the devastation caused by the famine in Sudan, a group of inspirational volunteers set out to make a difference. It’s thanks to their drive that Islamic Relief is what it is today – the world’s leading Muslim NGO saving and transforming lives in over 40 countries worldwide.

These fundraisers worked tirelessly across the country within their families and communities, visiting institutions and community events to collect donations.

A photograph shows Islamic Relief volunteers with newsreader Jon Snow

Islamic Relief volunteers with newsreader Jon Snow

Still championing the cause

Currently, we have around 2,000 volunteers from all walks of life, assisting us in all areas of our work, including running and managing 15 charity shops nationwide and campaigning on a range of key social justice issues, including climate change and gender-based violence.

In fact, volunteers are not only joining our team but leading the way. Our student-led campaign Charity Week brings together students from universities and other educational institutes across the country for one week in October to lead on various fundraising initiatives.

Each year, teams of local fundraisers across the country amaze us with their passion, dedication and initiative to change the lives of orphans and children in need worldwide. Championing the values of teamwork, hard work and innovation, last year these volunteers even broke the £1,000,000 mark!

Humanity is waiting for us. Not to hear our actions, but to see our actions.

Dr Hany El-Banna, co-founder of Islamic Relief

Inspiring your volunteers

Now you may be thinking: how do we do all this? How do we inspire, motivate and organise volunteers to form a mutually engaging relationship? Well, here’s four key practical tips to lead the way!

Students from Liverpool John Moores University fundraising in their local city centre (Charity Week, 2017)

1. Organisational strategy

Ensure that you value and welcome your volunteers on every level within your organisation. Senior management especially should be invited to volunteer-led events and team meetings so they’re able to personally meet and spend time with volunteers to show they really value their work.

2. Appreciation and recognition

Volunteers deserve regular recognition and thanks for all their hard work. An awards ceremony or celebration which brings everyone together is a perfect way to do this.

Through our highly-popular annual Lifesaver Awards we bring together 300 volunteers from across the country to celebrate their achievements.

3. Belonging and empowerment

We all need to feel that we belong within a team who share values and a positive cause. It’s therefore crucial from day one to provide a group or individual induction so that each volunteer can learn about and understand the organisation and vice versa.

Two-way communication is essential from the get go. Follow up with discussions and regular consultation and empower your volunteers to provide input on organisational improvements.

4. Development and training

Structured accredited training and development programmes really demonstrate the importance of volunteers within your organisation.

Our highly successful volunteer leadership programme AimIRendorsed by the Institute of Leadership & Management – allows our volunteers to develop their own skills and also lead fellow volunteers to make an even bigger difference.

We’re proud of our volunteer-led beginnings and this is what has guided our success over 34 years later. By placing volunteers at the heart of your organisation, the whole organisation benefits!

Abdulla Almamun

National Volunteer Coordinator

As National Volunteer Coordinator for Islamic Relief UK, Abdulla works with a wide range of staff and volunteers to ensure that each and every dedicated volunteer has a positive, long-lasting experience with IR. When he’s not hard at work, he also loves globe-trotting and all things food-related.

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