Since I joined Cancer Research UK 3 years ago there’s been lots of conversations going back and forth between teams about the performance and layout of the volunteering pages on our website. I sat in lots of meetings where we talked about what we wanted to achieve, and the feedback we had from volunteers to back up the need for change. But we didn’t have the resource to move forwards our requests. But then in 2016 a mythical beast called ’the spoke’ happened and suddenly things began to change.
We first saw the spoke as a magical wand we could point in the direction of all of our previous development requests to Digital and use to banish them – bish, bash, bosh! But actually, the digital hub and spoke model was much more about developing the team’s skills and knowledge so that we could handle those requests ourselves in the future. So it didn’t take long with our Proposition Manager, Rob, to bring us back to reality about what we were actually going to achieve during the 3 months we’d be working together.
It turned out our magical wand was in fact lots of helpful wizards:
Rob – Head Wizard (Proposition Manager) who was going to teach me everything digital (how to edit pages, build forms, run a/b tests, usability testing and most importantly to be able to write clear business cases and to articulate value for future development requests that are needed).
Becky – Training Wizard (Digital Producer) who spent time showing me how to set up lots of A/B tests using Optimizely so that I was able to do this on my own.
David – Technical Wizard (Developer) who was there to build things that we couldn’t do ourselves, like our brand new search function.
What happened during the Spoke?
During the Spoke we focused on how we can recruit more volunteers in 3 key areas: shop volunteers, event volunteers and skilled volunteers. Shop volunteers represent two thirds of the total hours worked in our shops, so they’re crucial for shops to run successfully. Event volunteers donate their time every year to support thousands of participants who walk, run, trek and cycle to raise thousands of pounds for our life-saving research. While skilled volunteers come into our offices and use skills such as photography, graphic design, and project management to add real value throughout the organisation.
We spent about a month working through KPIs to figure out where we could have the biggest impact. This helped us understand the impact of each new volunteer to the organisation, something we hadn’t really considered before. From this, our main focus was on recruiting shop volunteers and we realised that the easiest way to increase the impact of these volunteers was to increase the number of people who completed an application form and then went on to actually volunteer with us. We managed to increase the number of people volunteering with us by 20% by the end of the project and it’s still a key area for the business at the moment.
With skilled volunteers one of the biggest challenges we had was around opportunities within the business. Although there’s a huge appetite from people to do skilled volunteering, there just aren’t enough roles for them at the moment. The team are looking at new ideas for increasing the number of highly skilled volunteering opportunities within the organisation by focusing on engaging internal staff to make more people aware that this is a resource that’s available to them.
With event volunteering we had less time to spend on this during the spoke, but we’re continuing to run tests to help us drive volunteer numbers. One particularly successful test we ran was to cross-sell event volunteering opportunities on different volunteer application forms, which saw about 12% of people signing up for other events.
What’s happened since the spoke?
After my 3 month intensive course in digital wizardry I’m starting to put my new skills to the test. A new role was created in our team to focus on all the things that we didn’t get to cover in the spoke – like looking at our volunteering data and the experience for volunteers post-sign up.
What have we learnt?
What’s in a name?
How much extra resource do you need?
Surely everyone wants to be a wizard, right?
Getting to know other wizards
What’s happening next?
In early October, we’ve got a new project starting where we’re going to be focusing on our volunteering data. A lot of our data is stored in separate databases which can mean teams are unclear of the processes they need to follow. We’re going to be working to understand what the needs are within the business and to look at how we improve this moving forwards.