CASE STUDY - Keele Students’ Union Volunteering making a difference

KeeleSU Volunteering logo

March 2016 - KeeleSU Volunteering aims to provide diverse volunteering experiences to students during their time at Keele University, supporting their volunteers as they make a difference both on and off campus. But with more and more students registering to volunteer each year, their old system had become unsustainable. The Volunteering team chose to implement the MSL Volunteering module primarily to cut down on the amount of admin they had to carry out and, in doing so, now have a solution which has helped them nearly double the number of registered volunteers.

Achievements at a glance (updated August 2017)

Students registering to volunteer:

2016-17 - 1,617

Students logging hours:

2016-17 - 664

Student awards gained:

2016-17 - 572

The starting point

KeeleSU Volunteering is a partner of Support Staffordshire which is a county-wide service for voluntary and community organisations. As a Volunteer Centre branch, they have access to a database of opportunities although many weren’t always suitable for student volunteers and required a long term commitment.

The work involved in matching students to suitable opportunities plus the manual tasks of duplicating opportunities into our own shared database meant that the application process was often lengthy and we feel that put off many candidates,” explained Sarah Amphlett, KeeleSU’s Volunteering Manager.

Tackling lengthy admin processes

In addition to the lengthy application process, once a student had been matched with an opportunity, they were required to log their hours on paper time sheets, often back dated, to be signed off by their manager or project leader. A further spreadsheet had to be maintained to keep a running total of all students’ hours. Add to that the challenge of encouraging volunteers to maintain and submit a paper-based reflective log book for the awards they wanted to achieve and the result was a Volunteering team spending much of their time on admin tasks and data inputting rather than working on new projects to encourage greater participation.

The MSL solution

In the 2012/13 academic year the total number of students registered with KeeleSU Volunteering was 296; the following year this doubled and stayed around the 400 mark for the 2014/15 academic year.  It was clear a new way of working was needed to ensure students received the best service and support. KeeleSU Volunteering chose to implement the MSL Volunteering & Employability module primarily to help cut down on the admin work.  

However, Sarah Amphlett said “We have found that this MSL module provides much more than admin management – it helps us to fully support our students and manage volunteering opportunities from start to finish.”

It puts all the common volunteer and provider tasks online so that students can quickly register as volunteers, browse opportunities using search filters and saved preferences, build a personal profile to receive opportunity notifications relevant to them, record volunteer hours and skills to work towards awards. Providers can register, post their own opportunities, review applicants and accept or decline them through the same system.

With all these features at their disposal, Keele SU Volunteering has seen a huge increase of students engaging with volunteering since September 2015.

  • The number of students registering to volunteer has risen from 390 in 2014-15 to 725 so far in 2015-16.
  • The number of students logging hours in 2014-15 was 191; that figure has jumped to 400 in 2015-16 to date.
  • Keele SU Volunteering gave 73 awards in 2014-15 and so far in 2015-16, they have been pleased to give 104 awards.
  • Students report that it is now so much easier to log their hours and keep track of their progress for the awards they are aiming for. 

New resources, new processes

KeeleSU Volunteering has also made a number of changes to their supporting processes which have contributed to the increase in engagement.

Sarah Amphlett explains: “Student volunteers no longer need to make a presentation as part of the award process for their first two awards and, coupled with the ease of logging hours and skills to attain these awards, this has encouraged more students to take part.”

Verifying the hours that students log is now a lot easier as they must complete these details when they submit their review of their volunteering experience.  This has simplified and shortened the verification process as the volunteering team can now contact the opportunity provider as soon as a review is submitted.

Students are now able to apply directly for opportunities that have already been vetted by the volunteering team. This means that students can get involved more quickly and easily than the old system allowed. And this same vetting process means that there are more active providers and opportunities available for students to choose from. KeeleSU Volunteering currently boasts 46 active organisations and charities offering 41 opportunities, numbers which increase every week.

Reporting

MSL Volunteering & Employability offers an extensive suite of reports – from registrations, providers, awards progress, skills records through to training courses attended, activity participation and key milestones achieved such as 25 hour, 50 hour and 100 hour logs.

Keele SU Volunteering use much of this management information in their quarterly reports to the University and use the details to help them to identify especially popular areas of interests so that they can target charities and projects to provide more opportunities that they know their students will want to volunteer for.

Download the case study.

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