National Association of 
Voluntary Services Managers

Lead, promote and develop best practice in 
Volunteer Management in the NHS and Healthcare

The Chairs' Blog

A message from our new Chair Louise Mabley


Hello and welcome to my first blog as Chair of NAVSM, a role which I am honoured and privileged to take up.  I am very excited to be a part of this great organisation that has 47 years of history.  Alongside my appointment as Chair, existing officers were re-elected into their positions and new members were welcomed into seats left vacant.  The officers elected are:


Vice Chair: Sue Mellor, Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.


Honorary Treasurer: Stephen Osgathorp, SW London & St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust.


Membership Secretary: Joanna Rapson, Nottingham Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.


Project Officer: Mandy Cleaver, Sussex Community NHS Trust & Sally Knights, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.


eNewsletter Editor: Fiona Skerrow, Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust.


I would like to thank all committee members for their ongoing commitment to the organisation.


I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Carol Rawlings who stepped down as Chair after 6 years leading NAVSM.  Carol has invested considerable time and effort into the National Executive Committee (NEC) in her role as Chair.   Under the leadership of Carol, two consecutive five year Strategies have been produced, annual objectives have been set and met, strong links with a wide range of partners including NHS England, Department of Health, NHS Employers, NCVO, Volunteering England, Volunteering Matters, and a variety of voluntary sector organisations have been created leading to national recognition and significantly changing the way NAVSM operates.   Carol has a rich legacy indeed and will be a hard act to follow.   It has been a great pleasure to support Carol as Project Officer and Vice Chair and I pay tribute to all the work she has done on behalf of NAVSM.  On behalf of the Committee I wish Carol well in her future endeavours.  Carol is not going far as she will be supporting NAVSM in the background over the next year.

I would also like to thank Kay Duffy who has stepped down from the role of Honorary Secretary.  Kay has done a grand job over the last three years and we all wish her well in her new job with Silverline.


The 2015 Training Seminar took place on 24th and 25th September.  We were privileged to attract leading speakers from the government, the NHS, and the independent and voluntary sectors including: The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith, Chair, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust;  Kate Lampard, CBE and Ed Marsden, Verita;  Elisabeth Buggins, Chair, Birmingham Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust;  Step Up To Serve;  Volunteering Matters;  NHS Confederation;  NHS England;  Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Trust;  University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.


The Excellence in Volunteer Management Awards gave an opportunity for four organisations to showcase examples of their inspirational volunteering projects demonstrating how patient / service user / carer experience has improved as a direct result.


Thank you to everyone for taking the time to enter the Awards and to those who were nominated to present at the event.  The presentations provided were:

Blue Coat Volunteers – Major Incident by Jacky Taylor and Sue Mellor, Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.


Dementia Support Volunteers by Karen Bush, Luton and Dunstable NHS Foundation Trust.


Home from Hospital Volunteers by Trudi Jones, Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.


iConnect4Life by Mandy Cleaver, Sussex Community Health NHS Trust.


All of these presentations can be viewed by clicking here


Congratulations to the winner of the awards Trudi Jones and the Runner-up Karen Bush.   Well done everyone.    Awards celebrate the hard work and success of great projects and are a way of being recognised for what you have achieved.  They are a fabulous way of sharing best practice so if you have a story to tell please do enter next year. 


My goal for future blogs is to share with you what’s happening on the NEC.  The things I’m excited about and the things the committee are focussing on.  


In the meantime please do keep looking at the website for further information.



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When was the last time you publicised the difference your volunteers make?

How often do you put it out there about the difference your volunteers make in your organisation? It is not something that many of us feel comfortable doing. Why? Because we see it as boasting, blowing our own trumpet, and maybe a little conceited. Is it part of the British low key attitude? I suspect it probably has some basis in our culture.


We just get on with our jobs and think that people will be aware of the impact of what we do by some sort of osmosis. Then, are disappointed or shocked when our service is targeted for cuts, or is turned down for development money. The reality is that if we beaver away quietly, only those closest to us will hear us.


We need to take a leaf out of the 2012 Olympic Committee book. Think back – we heard almost as much about the ‘Games Makers’ as we did about the athletes taking part. The communications team did a great job of promoting and publicising the contribution that they made, and the Games Makers were recognised during the closing ceremony so that the whole world was aware.


So, where do we need to start? Here are my top five tips for getting your message out there:


1. Identify your audience;

Knowing who you are aiming your message at (the audience) will help you to plan what needs to be included in the message and the terminology that you will use. Don’t make the simple mistake of thinking that one message will reach and appeal to all your audiences, it won’t.


Your audience can be divided into internal (to the organisation) and external.


Your internal audience may include:

  •  Your team
  • Your manager
  • The Executive Team and Board of Directors
  • Governors
  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Recipients of the service e.g. patients, users, carers, visitors, department managers


    Your external audience may include:

  • Care Quality Commission (CQC)
  • Commissioners (CCG)
  • Monitor
  • Healthwatch
  • NHS England
  • Department of Health
  • Local or National Press
  • Local community
  • Prospective volunteers
  • Volunteer Centres
  • Other Voluntary Services Managers


    These lists are not exhaustive and I am sure there are others that you could add. The main point is that there is a raft of different audiences and one message does not fit all. This doesn’t mean that you have a write a completely different message for each person or group on your list, but it does mean that you will need to adapt your core message.


    I used to work for a great Chief Executive and Chief Nurse but I quickly realised that the way my message was prepared for each one had to be adapted. The Chief Executive wanted the statistics with little or no context i.e. 350 volunteers, giving 1400 hours per week, helped 10,000 patients to find their way around the hospital. The Chief Nurse on the other hand, wanted the human story too. That one lady had been so nervous when a volunteer showed her the way to the MRI scanner, the volunteer sat with her and chatted whilst she waited to have her scan. Afterwards, the lady filled out a compliment form to say how wonderful the volunteer had been and what a difference it had made to her visit to the hospital.


    2. Decide what message you are trying to convey;

    What we really want to say is what a difference our volunteers have made, that is, the impact they have had. NCVO defines impact as “Any change resulting from an activity, project, or organisation. It includes intended as well as unintended effects, negative as well as positive, and long-term as well as short-term”


    The way in which we would usually measure impact is through the outputs and outcomes of the activities that volunteers do. The outputs are countable units and as such are quantitative in nature. An example of this would be the number of volunteer hours completed on a hospital ward,  the number of volunteers trained as dining companions, or the number of patient surveys completed.


    Outcomes are the benefits or changes for intended beneficiaries. They tend to be less tangible and therefore often more difficult to count. Examples of outcomes are the reduction in patients falling on the hospital ward, staff reporting that they have more time to educate patients about their condition, volunteers increased communication skills leading to paid work.


    The type and amount of content will depend on the purpose of the message. It could be to provide an overview of your service; to recruit more volunteers; to attract future funding; to show how you are meeting regulators requirements; or, to raise the profile of your voluntary services.


    You need to be clear about the purpose of your message and what you are aiming to achieve.


    3. Make it real and relevant;

    It should go without saying that you need to make sure that any information and data that you include should be up-to-date and accurate. It is surprising how many people overlook this when putting a paper or report together and can, at best, be an embarrassment when its pointed out, or at worst, will be seen as a very poor reflection of your competence, abilities and reputation.


    For some of your audience, the human story will be an important factor in your message. Photos or videos can bring your message to life and should be included where possible. Tell the story and include quotes from comments and compliments received from patients, carers, and visitors and include any from the volunteers and managers of departments.


    Never assume that your audience, internal or external, knows what you are talking about, or that they already know about your service or the activity your volunteers are involved with. Provide a brief overview of what it is, how it came about, how long it has been going and who benefits.


    Pick your statistics carefully. This may seem obvious, but it is very tempting to throw everything in and baffle your audience with numbers, bar charts and percentages to demonstrate your point. But, if you pick your statistics carefully and present them well they will have a much greater impact on your audience.


    ‘Nearly three quarters (73%) of people who attended an open day returned an application form’, makes more impact than just saying ‘73% returned an application form’. Stating that ‘As a result of volunteers giving 150 hours to help encourage patients to eat on Belmont Ward, the nutritional score for all ‘at risk’ patients improved’ vs ‘On Belmont Ward volunteers supported five patients to eat and drink which improved their nutritional scores’.


    4. Plain English – drop the jargon;

    We are all guilty of using NHS jargon and abbreviations.

The CE is attending the VSA in OPD with other BoD’s and NED’s next Tuesday. ETA 12noon, unless her PA fails to remind her and she DNAs.

Got it? No? Neither will your audience.

It is good practice to give your final draft to someone unconnected with the project or activity to proof read it and see if they understand it.


If you do need to use abbreviations, and sometimes we do, then always write the words in full the first time you use them, with the abbreviation in brackets. For example, Board of Directors (BoD).


The National Literacy Trust provide a link to a Simplified Measure of Gobbledygook! or SMOG test which will provide a measure of the reading level of your document or text. This is very useful if you are preparing something for the general public. To give you some idea of how the rating comes out, the website states that average scores for newspaper editorials are as follows: 

  •  The Sun: under 14
  • The Daily Express: under 16
  • The Telegraph and The Guardian: over 17


    To use the tool all you need to do is cut and paste a 100 word section from your document into the tool and it will give you the readability score. I have found it a really useful resource.


    I used it for the first two paragraphs of this blog and got a score of 15.


    5. And finally - Keep doing it !;

    Make friends with your communications team and drip feed them with little nuggets of information that can be used by them for items and articles or to Tweet from the Trust account. They are professional journalists and will also help you to write your articles for the press and journals and advise you about the best way to get your message across.


    Also, remember to include @(your chairman’s account name) @(your Trust’s account name) @uk_navsm in any Tweets you do about your service and volunteers so that they can re-tweet to their followers and are made aware it.


    Importantly, don’t stop at one article, report, paper or press release. To keep people aware of you, your service, and the amazing contribution that volunteers are making you need to use every opportunity to say it again and again and again and again and again and again and again.........


    People need reminding, so keep telling them! Schedule a reminder in your calendar or diary.