The good, bad and ugly of volunteering

The good, bad and ugly of volunteering

I have had a few goes at volunteering over the years. Mostly good experiences, however I remember one particularly bad one. I was living in the UK and turned up to volunteer at the local youth centre. I had no prior information given to me and no induction. There I was with a bunch of teens and no clue as to what my role was. Some were wanting to discuss (or perhaps shock me with) very adult experiences they had been through. With a valid fear of causing more harm than good, I walked out that day and never went back.

Move ahead 10 years and I was in Colombia as a volunteer but also managing volunteers from all over the globe. I saw every part of the good, bad and ugly of volunteering. From volunteers who went above and beyond everyday for months to volunteers that would break every safety rule we gave them and kept us awake at night. The truth is though, that social programs often are heavily reliant on volunteers and therefore NFP’s must find ways to engage and manage them and find a balance between meeting volunteer expectations alongside meeting their organisational objectives.

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Last month as part of a partnership between online learning & development company Peopleplan (where I head up NFP solutions) and Spark Strategy, we held an event with leading NFP’s and Corporates where we started the session with a, “The good, bad and ugly of volunteering” brainstorm. (see header image) A couple of things stood out to me especially in the “Ugly” section – “slow onboarding” and the “complexity of compliance”. These are an ugly side for both the organisation and the volunteer. Without training, volunteers can cause a lot of headaches for volunteer managers. Conversely, without training volunteers feel under-utilised and unprepared. It’s a lose-lose situation.

In my social enterprise, Young Change Agents we have developed an online learning induction program in association with Peopleplan which we will now use to develop the knowledge of our corporate skilled volunteering prior to our programs. This means they can hit-the-ground-running with confidence. Something I didn’t have all those years ago in the youth centre! Our first lot of mentors through the program gave great feedback about how easy and “even fun” the learning module was.

Now, the Peopleplan team is creating customisable versions for NFP’s who are looking to do a similar induction. You can add your own videos and written content to make it your own. The key benefit aside from volunteers being ready and engaged is that you can track the completion of the course for compliance via our online platform. You will have piece-of-mind that volunteers have understood important principals like privacy or the rules around working with children, for example.

With 1:4 Australian’s volunteering their time each year, technology solutions like online learning can go a long way to cross some of the concerns off the “ugly” list!

For more information including a full set of insights from the volunteering workshop – get in touch:

Hireup launches “Hireup Academy” a digital Learning & Communications program to empower support workers and reduce risk

Hireup launches “Hireup Academy” a digital Learning & Communications program to empower support workers and reduce risk

Hireup – the easy alternative for Australians with disability to find, hire and manage their own support workers – is driven by its purpose of improving the lives of people with disability. In line with the NDIS principles of choice and control, Hireup believe that people with disability should be able to find a match with a support worker who shares similar interests rather than being sent support workers randomly through an agency. It’s a model that not only benefits the person in terms of match, but also saves them money through reduced agency costs. In August 2016 alone, Hireup saved people seeking support over $79,000, savings that they can use for other products and services they need like equipment or additional support services.


It is of no surprise that Hireup has been popular. Hireup now have 5,000 people signed up to the platform, almost 3,000 of which are support workers. In terms of targets, they are aiming for over 14,000 people on the platform by end of 2017.

Earlier this year, Hireup made the decision to take full employment responsibility for the support workers who are successfully matched with people seeking support. To date they are the only service of its kind to do so. This is really beneficial to the support worker as it takes away the burden of paperwork and other costs like insurance. However, taking employment responsibility also raises other responsibilities for Hireup, namely compliance and training.

Peopleplan ( have worked with Hireup to develop the Hireup Academy – an online training hub for support workers that provides three levels of training; induction, compliance and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

The first learning cycle includes:

  • Hireup induction
  • Infection control
  • Manual handling
  • Medication – best practice and assistance
  • Fire safety – in home
  • Abuse and neglect
  • CPR update
  • Worker health and wellbeing
  • Person-centred practice (building service user independence)

Each of these modules includes learner scenarios specific to disability and interactions and review questions to check understanding.

The CEO of Hireup Jordan O’Reilly has a great ability to make the difficult possible. He started the charity Fighting Chance in 2011 with his sister Laura, inspired by their brother who had cerebral palsy. Laura is now CEO of Fighting Chance and their two social enterprises: Avenue and Jigsaw, while Jordan has gone on to run Hireup. If you ask Jordan about why he is investing in people, he talks candidly about how keeping support workers as contractors is more attractive to Hireup’s community and supporters as it maintains arms-length liability. However, in Jordan’s words, “this is a false economy as you are handing the responsibility on to the support workers”. Jordan wants to add value to both people seeking support through Hireup and their support workers and is willing to take on the additional risk and responsibility so that support workers can get on with doing their important role.

Jordan is always trying to find new ways to help people with disability. You can see his eyes light up with the possibilities of online learning and development, not only for the support workers, but for also for people seeking support. The potential for the Hireup Academy is huge, with people with disability and support workers living in every corner of Australia, online learning is a cost effective way to empower people and drive real social impact.