Happy Volunteers, Happy Shop

This week would have been Volunteers Week, a time when all our shops, superstores and donation centres, celebrate our volunteers and the incredible contribution they make to our customers and local communities. We will celebrate our volunteers in the future when we return to work, and when the time is right. Long before we had heard of COVID-19 and understood the impact it would have on our lives and businesses, one of our shop managers, Pauline Braithwaite, wrote a wonderful feature about volunteering, and we are delighted to share that with you on Volunteers Week.


Let me start by introducing myself, I am Pauline Braithwaite, Manager of the Widnes store. I have the privilege of managing a wonderful team which includes 22 incredible volunteers! We also have two award winners in our team, whom we are extremely proud off. Over time, our volunteers have become the heart and soul of our shop, and I’ve been asked to put together a little piece about my amazing team.

A place for everyone
We have a wide range of volunteers each with their own strength. Regardless of age or ability, every one of them provides a skill to our business that is necessary for our success and growth. The key to making their time enjoyable is to find the role that makes the most of their strengths. This gives them a sense of achievement at the end of their day, rather than doing a task they have struggled with and go home feeling disappointed. Nobody wants to go into an environment where they do not feel they are making a valuable contribution.

We need to remember volunteering is an unpaid job role. With any job role, the employee craves growth within their workplace. Here in Widnes all volunteers have the opportunity to shine.

The ultimate title for a volunteer is Key Holder. This title gives them respect and gratitude for the work they have put it to the store. They have proven themselves responsible and reliable. Not only have they learnt new skills they have mastered them.

Willing volunteers are set goals and milestones to achieve over a few months. For example mastering refunds and the rebag procedure, becoming an advocate for Gift Aid, teaching another volunteer a skill and overseeing his or her work. Final training is cashing up, then the deal is done! We present them with a certificate stating ‘Key Holder’. We have a little celebration in store to congratulate them.

We make opportunities for Key Holders when we can. Giving them a chance to shine and use their training; so that when we do have an emergency, they can step in and take over. Which has happened before and I have been extremely grateful to the team for taking over (reducing overtime and sourcing cover staff!).

Not everyone is capable of key holder status, but there is room for growth and rewards for everyone. We now have a ‘Head Tagger’ this young lady, Donna, has been with us almost 4 years. Donna has volunteered in the charity sector for a long time but this is the only placement were she has ever been promoted. She now trains and oversees any new volunteers on tagging, giving her an enormous sense of pride which is heart-warming to see.

Pictured: Pauline Braithwaite, Manager, and the team at the Widnes shop with volunteer James Carr receiving his award for Winter Season Volunteer (Central region), presented by Chris Jestico, Head of Retail.

Most importantly HAVE FUN!
Every person who is willing to come and work for free needs to leave with a smile on their face! So keep it casual, laugh and joke! If you are donated a silly outfit, stick it on and dance around! We have a rule that every new volunteer has to model the next silly outfit that comes in, and it breaks the ice and makes them laugh!

As you can see the more effort and enthusiasm you put into caring for your volunteers, in time they become the supervisors themselves, which relieves pressure from the paid members of staff giving them the time to focus on other areas of work.

Like all of our charity shop teams, we work together as ONE team. We always say it, we couldn’t do the amount of work we do without our volunteers, and we wouldn’t raise all the funds we do to help those people in the community who benefit from the help of The Salvation Army.

Having fun: the Widnes shop team celebrating World Book Day 2020