Improving the Volunteer Experience

February 2024

What’s My name

As part of the Volunteer Experience project we are changing how we work together and also how we refer to ourselves. Whilst many may think a change to role titles controversial, it has been done as a result of a lot of research, to make our structures easier to understand for everyone and to reflect the part we play in Volunteering in Scouting. To help us all understand the changes, and answer questions we are being asked - below is a table describing the change in titles, where there is not a direct correlation we have indicated potential options for the volunteer:

Current role Title New Role Title Option where no direct transfer

Current role TitleNew Role Title Option where no direct transfer
County Commissioner Lead Volunteer – Durham Scouts
Assistant / Deputy County
No Direct transfer Possible Team Leader of county teams – Support, Programme, Volunteer Development
SASU role Team member in the Team & sub team that best fits the previous SASU role
District Commissioner Lead Volunteer – District Name
Assistant / Deputy District
No Direct transfer Possible Team Leader of District teams – Support, Programme, Volunteer Development, 14-24
Group Scout Leader Team Leader – Group Name
Assistant / Deputy Group Scout
Group Leadership Team Member
Section Leader Team Leader – Section name
Assistant Section Leader Team Member – Section Team
Group Section Assistant No Direct transfer Team member of one or more Section teams
Section Assistant No Direct transfer
Training Advisor Team Member in the County or District Volunteer Development team
Adult Appointments Committee

No Direct transfer

Team Member in the County or District Volunteer Development team

Skills Instructor, Admin role
Team member in the Team & sub team that best fits the previous role

Please remember that there is a role and a place for us all, it may be in a different team with potentially different tasks

What are we doing now.

At County Level and in Districts work continues to transform the way that we Volunteer, Highlights are:

Durham County is :

  • Recruiting Key Team Leaders

Districts and groups are working on:

  • Transition from Executive Committees to Trustee Boards
  • Building their new Teams structures
  • Starting to use our new role titles
  • Thinking about the Welcome Conversation

What we will be doing next

  • Advising Volunteers on their woodbadge journey
  • Implementing our new Welcome Conversation Process
  • Delivering more workshops to support the Transformation Project

For more information contact your Lead Volunteer ( District Commissioner in old language) or the County Transformation Lead ([email protected])

June 2023

Simplifying how we volunteer together with new roles and structures

This month we focus on how we organise ourselves in the county, Districts, Groups and Sections. Our current structure has served us well over the years, but involves leaders in roles with lots and lots of things that have to done by that leader. In a lot of cases many of these things could be done elsewhere in another way, and are also duplicated in other roles. So we are moving away from a person in a role with lots of things to do to identifying tasks that need to be done and who is best placed to carry those tasks out. Looking at using the skills we have and matching them to the needs of the Team. Many areas of scouting are already using this model without even realising it, especially in groups and districts that are short of leaders and need to work across sections.

This change to a Team based approach will also involve changing our role Titles. Feedback from the surveys we have done tells us that many are really confused with our role titles, the sheer qty of them and that they often don’t really describe what we do. So, for example,

• District Commissioners will become Lead Volunteer for Scouting in District Name.
• Group Scout Leaders will become Lead Volunteer 1st Any Scout Group
• Section leaders will become Team Leader Scouts section, Cubs Section, etc
• All others will become Team Member Squirrels Section, Beavers Section etc

We know that many are attached to role titles and for some this may be difficult. But we have had name changes a plenty in the past. We don’t have Wolf Cubs anymore, we had Rover Scouts, Venture Scouts and now Explorers. And I can’t remember the last time I heard a Scout leader being called “Skip”. It is not what we are called that matters it is what we do

Download the fuller update including list of role and organisation changes.

May 2023

Digital experience
By March 2024, we aim to have a new digital experience that works for both Girlguiding and Scouts, providing personalised volunteering opportunities, an easy way to monitor volunteers’ progress and the ability to streamline vetting and joining tasks where possible.
To do this we have structured the ‘welcome’ into three stages for potential volunteers-

  • Initial awareness of the organisation’s purpose and method, the wide-range of voluntary roles available and allow potential volunteers to explore options before they join.
  • This is then followed by joining, registering for an opportunity and matching to a role that suits the new volunteer’s needs. Once the right role is found they can be appointed.
  • The journey will then continue into beginning their induction, being safe and prepared and importantly recognised for the time they have already given to complete their induction.
    The welcome section of will:
    • Be as self-service as possible for new volunteers, reducing admin for our current volunteers and making the process quicker and smoother. This will allow our volunteers to focus on the elements that really need a human touch.
    • Show personalised volunteering opportunities with the ability to apply directly.
    • Help line managers and teams to post and edit opportunities, monitor volunteers’ progress as they join, and oversee recruitment. You’ll have clear oversight of who’s joining in your area and anywhere that things might be getting delayed.
    • Help streamline vetting and joining tasks where possible, making it easier to welcome new people.

Personal Experience – A welcome conversation instead of an appointments panel
We currently have appointments panels in Scouts to welcome a new volunteer into their role, ensuring that they are aware of and accept our values, policies and promise. The appointments panel supports volunteers to understand their role requirements and is able to point them in the right direction of support. It's an important process intended to keep young people in Scouting safe.

When we asked members (and non-members) we were told that the current appointment process is intimidating, unclear and rarely as welcoming as it could be. It can be off-putting to potential volunteers.

“The appointments panel is usually made up of the old guard […] who sit there and talk about their day. And this new person who’s really enthusiastic just completely gets put off straight away.”

The new process will confirm not only if a new volunteer is a match for us as an organisation, but more importantly that we are the right match for them, putting them at the heart of the process.

Why change? We’re committed to meeting the NSPCC guidelines around safer recruitment, so we need to make sure that new volunteers are ‘safe’ to work with our young people. We currently do this through disclosure checks, references and training.

The guidance is in place to:

  • Minimise the risk of appointing someone unsuitable
  • Ensure you select the right person for the role
  • Make the process fair
  • Make sure there are records of the process for future reference.

We know that appointments panels excel at introducing new volunteers to the wider movement and allow us to understand if the opportunity is a good fit for the potential volunteer.

However, members have said there are current challenges:

  • Appointment panels don’t make people feel safer 
  • They’re not a warm welcome for a new volunteer, because they usually happen after that volunteer has been acting in role for several weeks
  • Safeguarding concerns are likely to be identified through conversations and working with volunteers rather than in a structured panel
  • If a potential volunteer has needs that mean they cannot take up a role with the movement this should be highlighted before they start a volunteering task, if these emerge later then they should be raised in the normal safeguarding manner.  

To overcome these challenges, we’re proposing to introduce a welcome conversation –

  • Two existing volunteers meeting with the new volunteer.
  • One person a member of the Group leadership team.
  • Second person from other group, district
  • Happens in the usual meeting place of the new volunteer or via video call when suitable.
  • No more than six weeks after the start of volunteering

This is designed to replace the traditional format of appointments panels.

This is so that:

  • The conversations would give a space to discuss how the task/ role/ opportunity can be adapted to meet the needs of the volunteer, like flexible time, date and location options.
  • We also know that we want to provide the opportunity to clarify the next steps in the Welcome journey for the new volunteer – including disclosures, references and mandatory training.
  • We want to make sure that the new volunteer has the chance to meet existing volunteers outside of their current role and be introduced to the overall movement.
  • We hope this would provide a more welcoming experience for new volunteers. It’s important that we’re friendly, meet in familiar surroundings and at a time which is convenient for them.

March 2023

Firstly a reminder of what the Transformation project is covering :

  • Theme 1.  A warmer welcome for everyone
  • Theme 2.  Simplifying how we volunteer together with new roles and structures
  • Theme 3.  A more engaging learning experience 
  • Theme 4.  More support to help get everyday things done: digital transformation

We are now coming to the end of the “Understanding” phase of the Transformation project, the phase that involves sharing the themes, aims and nuts and bolts of the project understood by our districts and groups.   Since the end of last year we have carried out :

  • A briefing session to the County Executive Committee
  • A face to face and a second on line session to the County team
  • Two face to face sessions to District Commissioners
  • Two on line sessions to Group Scout leaders and Group Chairs
  • Two district Based sessions to Group Scout Leaders and Group Chairs.

So far the reception to the changes that are planned has been very positive and there definitely seems to be an enthusiasm to get on and start implementation.   Below the current timeline for change……….

So……in the coming weeks we will be getting the County Team together to start planning the new Team Structure and agree on the first elements of implementation at a County Level.   At the same time reaching out to DC’s to start to understand what the challenges at a more local level will be and what elements of the changes should be tackled first in each district.

In coming months we will expand on each of the Four Themes to continue the sharing of what the transformation project is all about in more detail, focusing on one of the Themes each month.

February 2023

Since the last update we have been working quietly in the background continuing to plan for the changes in how we improve our Volunteers Journey. At the same time during the latter part of last year and early this year, discussions have been taking place nationally with regard to the timings for the change.

The upshot of this is that implementation dates have been moved - Feb 2024. Whilst disappointing this allows more time to understand and plan for the changes. We have held off briefing GSL's whilst conversations about implementation has been going on. Now we are ready to brief GSL's and Exec chairs.

We will be holding on line briefings at the end of this month, and meeting invites have already been sent out. On line because there are over 100 GSL's and Executive Chairs on Compass and they are very busy people, so online we feel is a more flexible initial communication channel. As we move to the planning phase we will be offering local workshops to help work through the changes, particularly with regard to Team configuration and forming.

September 2022

Detailed briefings continue to widen understanding amongst key stakeholders.   

  • County Team members have been briefed, focusing on their key role supporting Districts, Groups and sections in delivering this transformation project and continuing to support the best possible Scouting. 
  • The next step to continue to widen the 'understanding phase' of the project will be a briefing for all Group Scout Leaders and Executive Committees.   This is planned for later this month/early October, and, given the very large number of adult volunteers involved and being conscious of people's time and travel logistics, this will take place on Zoom: Look out for the meeting invitations coming out soon. 


August 2022

The HQ emails and conversations at County events will have increased awareness of the planned changes to improve The Volunteer Journey.

Last month we described the Four Phases of the Transformation Project, and said that we were in the Understanding Phase and were briefing key stake holders. These briefings are continuing. When the time is right we will be sharing more detailed information with all members of the County.

In line with our Confido Theme and as a trailer to the Feature Film… Put simply, the changes can be described in four themes:

1. A warmer welcome for everyone – meaning change in two areas:
a. A better on-line experience for prospective adult volunteers
b. Ending of the Appointments Approval Committee process and a new more local, personal approach to welcoming new volunteers.

2. New roles and structures to simplify how we volunteer - meaning how we volunteer, together with new roles and structures – meaning a change:
a. To role titles and
b. How a section looks in who does what, giving the opportunity to use all our talents and resources to their best effect.

3. A more engaging learning experience – meaning simplifying training, having an amount of core learning that everyone does and with the full Wood Badge available but optional.

4. More support to help get everyday things done: digital transformation – meaning a brand new membership system… not a tweaking of Compass,

Change can be difficult and we understand that some will not find it pleasant, but we are committed to improving our volunteers’ Scouting experience, and are certain that this Transformation Project will deliver that. In coming months we will feature each of these four themes in more detail.


July 2022

Things are progressing well with the Project nationally and locally. The first meeting of Transformation Leads has taken place, to get all at the same place, and our Transformation Lead, Greg, continues to take part in HQ workshops to shape the future.

We will be approaching the Transformation Project in 4 phases : Understanding the Change, Planning the Change, Delivering the Change and Keeping things going.

We are currently in the first phase, where briefings for all stakeholders across the County are being carried out; what we hope to achieve and how we will go about it. To date we have briefed the County Executive Committee and also your District Commissioners. We are now following this up with Local Briefings for Group Scout Leaders and Exec Committees and the County Team. Three districts are already in the diary for their briefings, with more to follow. We will also be offering a Zoom call for any of those groups that have been briefed but have been unable to make a face to face session. In addition high level information has been sent out by HQ in a recent All Members email.