Using Volunteers Effectively

Scouting remains a relevant, global (and growing movement) that has done much over the last few years to change its image and brand to attract a wider and more diverse range of volunteers. In recent years the emphasis on new adults volunteering in Scouting has been based on “flexibility” and being grateful and appreciative for any amount of time and commitment volunteers can give to help deliver exciting and rewarding programmes for our Young People.

However, as in any voluntary organisation, new adult supporters do not “grow on trees”, and sometimes those who find themselves already volunteering in Scouting may end up feeling that the emphasis is all on them as individuals to keep a section going, and if they were to stop volunteering, no one else would come forward to take over – the section would close and ultimately the Young People would miss out…

In order for this NOT to happen, we all need to think ahead ensuring we all adhere to having a “work (and Scout) life balance” so that none of us burn out. The easiest way we can achieve this is through using other volunteers and adults around us as effectively as we can. These may include using:

  • Other leaders (uniformed & non-uniformed) within our sections.
  • Parents
  • Young Leaders
  • Executive members
  • Members of the District or County teams
  • Other members of the community – charities, local authorities such as the Police/Fire service

Using Volunteers Effectively

Question 1: How does your section use adult volunteers effectively?

  • Help with catering at camps
  • Support on trips to help with small groups when out
  • Involving them in the weekly meetings that take place each week
  • Sectional leaders, as well as key leaders, are invited to attend termly planning meetings
  • Supporting more challenging Young People to reduce potential conflict
  • Young Leaders are asked to plan and lead a game each week
  • Supporting a drinks rota for Young People
  • Finding out about (and then using) skills that adults may have & incorporating this in the programme through demonstrations or talks
  • Help take Subs money from Young People
  • Asking parents / sectional leaders to be badge secretaries
  • Using adults to provide transport, & Group pays for MIDAS training
  • Making the most of what provision is out in the community (local charities), and asking them to become involved

Question 2: How can you make adult volunteers feel more valued?

  • Give them the programme in advance so that they know what is happening before they get to the meeting
  • Say hello to them before young people arrive and ask if they have any questions about the evening
  • Involve them more with camps or outdoor activities and get them to have a particular job whilst there
  • Ensure that they are ALWAYS busy – never just standing around
  • Delegate certain jobs to them such as running a game, or an activity base
  • Involve them in opening & closing ceremonies and welcome them to the young people
  • Preparing young people for investitures or inspections
  • Invite everyone involved in supporting the section to planning/group/District meetings
  • Ensuring that each section has a parent rota in place to support sectional meetings/cleaning rotas etc
  • Hold an annual “thank you” night for all those adults that have helped throughout the year
  • As new adults get more confident, delegate more responsibilities over to them, with more experienced leaders taking more of a supportive position in the background
  • Give new leaders who support frequently a Colony / Pack name to make them feel part of the leadership team
  • Ensure that new volunteers are introduced to other leaders in the section/group AND that relevant paperwork is filled out and sent to District ASAP
  • Ask them if they would like to help again “Keep them hooked!”


There is a lot of good practice already taking place all over our District to ensure that all new volunteers feel valued, supported and above all USED! There is nothing worse than being asked to help, only to feel like a spare part when you arrive.

Regardless of how long you have been helping in Scouting, please think back to how you got involved yourself. It may have been because you were a parent… you had some previous experience of Scouting… You were asked by another leader/volunteer… You were bored at home… (!)

We all have our own individual stories of how we came into Scouting, and we as individuals need to remember what it was like for us when we first started. Please don’t assume that just because you are familiar with Scouting protocol & its many historical and sometimes zany traditions that new people coming on board will be too! Starting something new is usually an unnerving experience for anyone. However, with the correct support & nurturing, we can hopefully get new volunteers to embrace Scouting and stay with us despite leading busy live.

Guillaume Apollinaire (a French poet killed in the First World War) wrote the following poem, which I think captures brilliantly the apprehensions of someone about to start something new:

“Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
And they came,
and we pushed,
And they flew.”

Guillaume Apollinaire

Please embrace new volunteers – With your support, help them to fly…