Many charities are dependent on volunteers to deliver their work. But it takes time and resources to recruit, train, engage and retain volunteers.

It's also vital that volunteers feel valued and connected to the charity's mission.

How do you achieve all this with tight budgets, small teams and looming deadlines?

Our latest Community Conversation has some answers that work for a nationwide UK charity, managing thousands of volunteers across the country. Jenny Cater, Volunteer Attraction and Engagement Manager at Bookmark Reading Charity, told us how dedicated private communities on Guild are a vital part of their charity tech stack.

One in four children are unable to read well when they leave primary school, and a lack of reading skills causes difficulties with many other school subjects. The one-to-one programmes that Bookmark offers are proven to increase young people's enjoyment and confidence in reading as well as their skills. Each literacy volunteer is trained to help them deliver structured sessions, and Bookmark's communities are key to ongoing development, problem-solving and peer-to-peer support.

Jenny and community expert Blaise Grimes-Viort discussed:

  • how encouraging the joy of reading by offering fun and choice to children can have a measurable impact on their skills and confidence
  • why handpicking the right technology and tools is so effective for a volunteer-led programme
  • the importance of making sure volunteers feel supported and enjoy their role
  • why security, simplicity and flexibility were key in Bookmark's choice of community platform
  • the need for a sense of community and connection among volunteers
  • the benefits of an online community as a listening and communication tool
  • why volunteers value the opportunity to help each other as well as carrying out their own role
  • how to onboard and signpost a community to volunteers
  • using trial and error and experimentation to build a community
  • how a community's informality and conversational style boosts belonging and commitment in volunteers
  • why an online community helps with marketing, development and recruitment

See the full recording here:

Further resources

Interview with Jenny on her experience as a community manager

Bookmark community case study

Get 30+ tips for creating engagement in your online community

Check out our Community Strategy and Community Management resources hub

Become a reading volunteer with Bookmark

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