All change – implementing a new strategy during a global pandemic…

Back in March (seems so long ago now!) when lockdown hit, we stood down all of our volunteers, in common with many other organisations. We identified key areas where we needed volunteer support immediately, including some new roles to provide cover during the height of the crisis. Since then, we’ve been gradually working out how and when to bring our volunteers back, and a proportion are now back, in our shops, and inside the Hospice. So what, I hear you ask? Well we also decided to bring in much of our new organisational strategy as we adjusted after lockdown – some of which has had a profound effect on our volunteer roles. 

Up until March, we spent almost 18 months consulting and drafting a new Hospice strategy. By January, details of the strategy were on display, and the Chief Exec gave presentations about the plans to staff and volunteers. Then COVID hit. As services gradually reopened, we decided to implement our new Strategy, particularly around changes to services. This included some new volunteering roles – with a broader range of responsibility, more autonomy, and clearly managed and supported by the teams they are within, rather than Volunteer Services. Our Staff Café and Iona Café volunteers now sit firmly within the Facilities team – with the added bonus that this team have also taken the rotas away from Volunteer Services. Some roles are ending – for example, our much-loved Ward Volunteer role (the traditional changing-the-water-jugs-in-patient-rooms roles) has been replaced by a Hospitality Volunteer role, managed by our new Hospitality Lead and her team. These will be working with patients to take meal orders, serve meals, talk to the kitchen about changes or special requests, and generally helping us to make food and drink on the Wards more flexible and patient-centred. 

So in addition to bringing some volunteers back to support how we currently work, and supporting volunteers who aren’t currently volunteering, we’ve also been in touch with some volunteers to tell them that their role has come to an end. This process is not yet finished – there are still a few more changes to come. We’ve been doing a lot of communication, and our volunteers have been amazing – very understanding. We have had a few resignations – I suspect the changes ‘gave permission’ to some volunteers who were thinking about leaving. We are offering all our volunteers the opportunity to apply for new roles, as they come on-stream, and we haven’t yet had to do any external recruitment. We hope that this will help as many as possible to return to volunteering – even in a new role. 

We’d like to offer positive support to volunteers who decide to leave, so I am also working with our HR team on a new initiative for staff and volunteer leavers, drawing on the CHAS Connect model developed by Morven Maclean.

While all this was happening, we have launched our new Compassionate Communities project from within Volunteer Services, with a new member of staff from within the Hospice, and the Deputy Volunteer Services Manager is now leading on a Compassionate Friends project within that. And a new Administrator has just joined us. Lots of change within our own team too! 

Karen Filsell

Volunteer Services Manager, St Columba’s Hospice

kfilsell@stcolumbashospice.org.uk / 07557 111483