Are you thinking of setting up your own volunteering project whilst at LSE? Student led volunteering projects have the potential to be very successful and rewarding.
Below is a 10 step guide to the process of setting up your own volunteering project. Put together by the LSE Volunteer Centre, it covers everything from translating your initial idea into a practical project, to funding it, to recruiting fellow students as volunteers.
Step 1: What do I need to think about before I set up a volunteer project?
- What do you want your project to do?
- To set up your project can you work in partnership with an existing charitable organisation or social enterprise?
- How much time are you able to devote to your project?
- Does the project make the most of your skills (as an individual/group)?
- Who is likely to support my idea and why?
- Who may oppose the idea and why?
Step 2: Does my project meet a need?
- Does your project meet a need in the local community? (eg social / environmental / economic)
- Once you have identified a ‘need’ you will need to think about how to gain access to the group of people your project is focused on serving.
- Why is your project different to what is already available? Research if anyone else is doing anything similar. Can you pool resources or add something extra to what they are already provisioning?
Step 3: Why should I think about partnering with an existing charity?
- Your project is likely to be able to launch more swiftly, as well as potentially be more successful if you can partner with an existing charity.
- Support network: An already established charitable organisation or social enterprise gives you access to a fully formed support network for your project.
- Resources: whether people, equipment or training – charities can often provide these services for you to capitalise on free of charge.
- Make sure that if you do enter into a partnership, your partner understands, and potentially works with you on your project’s aims to ensure the successes benefit both you and them.
Step 4: What should I do to get the project started?
- You need to be passionate about your project idea, yes, but above all you need to be committed to devoting your time to the project (especially in the early stages) so it doesn’t get pushed down your to-do list. It is likely to take at least a month to successfully plan, promote and get your project up and running.
- In order to get your idea off the ground the concept needs to be well-thought out and easily explainable – practise describing it in 60 seconds to someone who knows nothing about it.
- You can think big for your project but it’s always better to start small. It’s always an option to scale up once you have accomplished your aims on a manageable scale.
Step 5: How can I get my project funded or part-funded?
Your project may require little or no funding, however, if you do want to set something up which requires an initial injection of cash, the following funds/organisations might be a good place to start:
- LSE annual fund
Small student-led programmes which contribute to an enriched LSE experience can apply for Annual Fund support – there is an application process near the beginning of each academic year.
Leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs.
- vInspired Cashpoint
Awarding up to £500 of funding to ideas and projects which solve a problem within a community. You need to be under the age of 25 to apply.
- Awards for All
Lottery grants and funding for projects in the UK – note you do need to send your application at least 3 months before the project is due to start.
Step 6: How do I go about recruiting student volunteers?
- Use the LSE Careers free vacancy board – LSE CareerHub - to recruit LSE student volunteers for your project. Register as a non-profit organisation – you will then be able to post the opportunity advert to recruit volunteers. Contact the Volunteer Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help with the advertising process.
- Explain to potential volunteers exactly what the project involves and how they personally will be using their skills to meet the need you have identified and the aims of the project.
- Once the volunteers are enthusiastic about the project it is much more likely to succeed – sell your idea and aims!
- Tap into the motivations of the people you are aiming to recruit
- Giving your team of volunteers specific areas of responsibility (for example: marketing, budgeting, secretarial duties) may be a good way to split the workload as everyone can play to their strengths and it fosters a sense of ownership/an affiliation to the project.
- Let your team of volunteers know how many hours per week they are likely to need to put aside to work on your student-led project – this will ensure you recruit the people who are committed to giving up their time.
If your project will be working with children or vulnerable adults you need to look into getting DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) checks for your volunteers. The LSE Volunteer Centre is unable to organise these so you may need to pay a local volunteer centre or organisation to help with processing them.
Step 7: How do I measure the impact of the project?
- What are you hoping to achieve and by when?
- How can you measure how much progress has been made towards your original aims?
- Evaluate as your project progresses – be adaptable - make changes to things which are less successful as you go along
Suggested ways to evaluate:
- Survey your team
Create a short survey on a free surveying site like SurveyMonkey and email it to those who volunteered for your project. This is a good way of collating constructive criticism which will hopefully enable the project to grow and improve. Aim to make the survey anonymous to ensure a good response rate and more honest feedback.
- Survey the people your project was set up to serve
Send an anonymous survey request out to the community, ask them what they enjoyed, what they thought worked and where there are areas for improvement. Do the participants believe the project helped to bring about positive change? Any responses in the affirmative will serve as good testimonies to use for future funding applications and partnerships.
- Informal in-person feedback sessions
Where a group of volunteers come together to discuss their experiences and the community comes together for a different session to discuss their experiences.
Some useful links for monitoring and evaluation best practice:
Step 8: How can I ensure a smooth handover to new project leaders?
- To make certain your project continues to run successfully you will want to think about the succession period a month before. Holding elections is a democratic way to elect new leaders for the project (President, Vice-President, Secretary, Media Coordinator etc.).
- Put together a project plan for the new project leaders, with details about volunteer recruitment, successful events and anything that didn’t work out as you had hoped.
Step 9: What transferable skills might I gain as a founder and leader of a volunteering project?
Setting up and running your own project can be time intensive and challenging but also very rewarding and you can gain excellent skills for future jobs, including:
- Project management
- Project planning
- People management
- Experience of recruiting volunteers
- Creative thinking
- Problem solving
Step 10: Where can I go for support and advice during the process of setting up my project?
Remember to use the LSE Volunteer Centre for support, advice and guidance at any stage of your student-led volunteering project.
Book an appointment with the Volunteer Coordinator to see how they Volunteer Centre can help with further developments, questions, volunteer recruitment etc.
One-to-one appointment bookings
Book an appointment through LSE CareerHub.