Volunteer Management Support Product: live testing

Testing the Volunteer Management Support product in the real world, with partners in Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Fiji and Cambodia

Aug 2023 - Feb 2024
People stand next to a projected screen with a person online


In the past year, we were busy learning about community volunteering in our partner countries, which led us to co-designing a Volunteer Management Support product with our country teams. Now, it’s finally time to test it in the real world! 

To better understand whether our prototype has the potential to meet partner expectations, 20 participants from 15 partner organisations in Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Fiji and Cambodia participated in live testing of the new support product, incorporating the volunteer management Resource Kit and workshops. 

Partner organisation: “The learning built my confidence in achieving my dreams”

Our objectives

  • To better understand what good user experience is in accessing and implementing volunteer management resources.
  • To find ways to design volunteer management resources that can be flexible to diverse needs.
  • To learn whether workshops can enhance user experience when upskilling in volunteer management.
  • To better understand the feasibility of this product from a country team perspective.
  • To identify if there are opportunities to engage country-based partners to deliver the support product in country.

Our approach

As we continued to explore user experience, we wanted to understand how participants accessed and engaged with the volunteer management support product, what were helpful supports, and finally, did everyone have the same experience? 

This project focused on testing two elements of the same learning journey: the Resource Kit – a complete volunteer management guide – and workshops – accompanying sessions, designed to support the implementation of the Resource Kit and provide a peer platform for mutual sharing.

Participants were invited to choose between two streams of the project: the Guided stream that incorporated exploring the Resource Kit and attending the workshops; and the DIY stream that included only engaging with the Resource Kit. All participants were able to contact the facilitator for additional needs-based support around volunteer management.

Fifteen partners chose Guided and five opted for the DIY stream. All project participants were asked to complete regular surveys and join reflection sessions that sought to gain insight into their learning experience. 

Partner organisation: “Thank you for developing this resource, before we had different documents, now – one."

What we learnt

  • An effective way to address partners’ lack of capacity and overwhelming amounts of information online is to promote resources by trusted organisations, e.g., program’s country teams, and on known and regularly used online platforms, e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Australian Volunteer’s program website.
  • The product has promise, for its flexible, adaptive and participatory approach supported organisations of various sizes, across sectors and industries. Organisations accessed the Resource Kit content in a non-linear way, based on their needs for learning. Additionally, participants easily adapted downloadable Word template resources to their organisational processes. Workshops have noticeably improved partners’ learning experience. Interactive, consistent and tailored activities motivated participants to engage with their peers and better understand the Resource Kit content. As a result, most organisations implemented knowledge gained from the resources to improve or set up volunteer management systems. Partner organisation: “Most workshops can be exhausting, but these workshops bring energy up”. 
  • Further product improvements are needed. For example, to reflect increased online volunteering, the Resource Kit could include information about how to engage remote volunteers. It may also be helpful to design a shorter version of the guide for easier access. The workshops were successfully delivered online, however, we learnt that to tailor the learning experience to organisations with lower English proficiency and poorer internet connectivity, sessions could be run in-person and in language.
  • Facilitating a peer platform enabled real time learning and a sense of connection and accountability – participants called each other when late or unable to join. 
  • Often partners lack capacity and motivation to implement improvements in their organisations. To overcome these barriers the product may need to: 1. Set clear expectations at the start and motivate organisations, 2. Use interactive and flexible design, 3. Provide hands on support, for example, an Australian Volunteers Program assignment.
  • Some of the unexpected learnings were:  1. Some partners found the workshops style engaging and inspiring, which led to identifying enhancements to their own facilitation and presentation approaches, 2. Certain topics raised additional partner training needs, for example, adaptive and empathetic management, 3. One partner adapted the product to enhance their own member volunteer management training course. 
  • Country teams were instrumental in the initial facilitation of partner relationships. They expressed interest and availability to support online or hybrid training sessions in the future. However, the teams require support as they may not have capacity to implement and evaluate such activity independently.

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