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Knaresborough Connectors is a is a community support organisation. They connect residents who are isolated with other residents who are available to support them

This Guide looks at recruiting volunteers using Google Forms. You can use any form tool to do it. It also has other tips about planning and safeguarding in mutual aid projects. 

Steps to recruiting volunteers using digital forms

When people are offering their time, you want to make it simple for them to apply to volunteer. But you also need to make sure you get the information you need.

For mutual aid projects you probably need the following types of information:

  • Offer - what skills or services are people interested in providing?

  • Location - where are they? How far might they want to go?

  • Safeguarding - what do you need to ask to keep people safer?

  • Matching - what interests and hobbies do people have? This is particularly important if you using a strengths based approach and looking to build community.

You may also think of other things. But remember, you will be storing all this data so avoid asking for information that you don’t need.

Knaresborough Connectors began matching people to combat loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. They let people volunteer via a Facebook link, but soon found that it was very hard to keep track of what people offered.

They knew they needed to collect data in a more structured way using forms.

They wanted to:

  • give people free space to tell them about the skills they could offer

  • find out how people preferred to be contacted

  • get permission to store people's data

  • find out if they have DBS (criminal records) checks or belong to any specific local groups - to support safeguarding

  • make sure they knew where people were

  • find out about their interests and their needs as part of a strength based approach to mutual aid

They had to decide how much of that this information they would ask for in the form, and how much might be collected during follow up phone calls.

Some webform tools are more functional than others for adding links, information and images to the form. Knowing what you need to add to the form might change which tool you use. 

When they started using Google Forms Knaresborough Connectors didn’t include much information for people completing the form. When they reviewed their processes they decided it needed to include more information. 

They added information about:

  • How long it would take for applications to be processed

  • How busy a volunteer would be varied according to their location.

There are 4 main ways to collect information via a webform.

  • A form built into your website

  • A form from  your email marketing tool e.g. Mailchimp

  • A form form from your main software provider (Microsoft or Google)

  • A form from an online form or survey builder (for example: Jotform, Typeform, Survey Monkey)

You need to think about:

  • Cost - is there a monthly fee, and are there any usage limits?

  • Data protection - where is the data stored and is it secure?

  • Types of questions - can the form do what you want?

  • Reporting - what do you need to do with the data you get from the form and how easy is it to process?

Knaresborough Connectors chose Google Forms in conjunction with Google Sheets. They also use Google Maps.

They particularly like Google Forms because:

  • Submitted forms automatically populate a Google Sheet - its easy to see all submissions together

  • You can collaborate on form design with other people in your team

  • It is easy to publish your form

  • It is easy to set sharing settings among a small group of people - this aids privacy

  • The group of collaborators can update the Google Sheet and everyone can see the additions in real time

Knaresborough Connectors'  Data Protection officer tracks how data is stored and shared.

Your form will generate a sharing link. Publicise this in ways that reach your audience.

Knaresborough Connectors published the link on their website. They also shared it in their Facebook group.

Your criteria for matching volunteers will need to consider:

  • services and support offered and needed

  • location

  • safeguarding needs

  • financial issues

If you are taking a strengths based approach consider what everyone can do, offer and enjoys. For example, think about what community strengths exist to help you with safeguarding.

For more about taking a strengths based approach to offering support to people, see Knaresborough’s Guide: Offering people mutual aid using phone and Google Maps.

Knaresborough Connectors implemented a number of different “rules” to support the matching process.

They matched people by interest and hobbies wherever possible, emphasising positive connections.

They divided volunteers into “trusted” and “regular”. Trusted volunteers either had a DBS check or were known to a local community or faith group. Tasks such as picking up prescriptions or handling money for shopping were only given to trusted volunteers.

They changed who volunteers were matched with every few months. This meant people made more new connections. It also guarded against harm that can emerge from manipulative individuals over longer periods of time.

Most mutual aid groups will use a manual process to match volunteers. If you are handling a large support network, you might decide to use automation to help you with your matching.

However you go about it, once people are matched you will need to make sure the volunteer:

  • knows enough about the person they are matched with to help them effectively

  • doesn’t know anything about the person they are matched with that they don’t need to know

  • knows if there are any rules or limits on how they should behave or what they should do.

Knaresborough Connectors use a manual matching process, assisted by technology. A coordinator looks at the Google Sheet information and decides if the volunteer has “trusted” or “regular” status. The coordinator adds the volunteer’s location information to the protected Google map. Then they use the layers on the map to help them match the volunteer with people nearby that need help.

Once the match is made they phone the volunteer to tell them what is needed. They support the volunteer to make the initial connection with the person being supported.

They make sure volunteers understand what they may or may not do. For example, If there is shopping involved, they go through their financial recommendations.

Shopping should never be more than £40. This is the most they are allowed to spend before reimbursement is completed even across shops.

If the person being supported is comfortable and able to, they can give the volunteer money to spend.

If not, the volunteer pays and Knaresborough Connectors reimburse them. They claim the money back from the person being supported afterwards. 

Thinking about reimbursing volunteers? Read this Guide to helping people pay shopping volunteers using an app.

Make sure that your volunteers have a way to contact you if they have any problems. You may also want to provide them with updates about your project. This is particularly important if you have long quiet phases when volunteers are not needed.

Every few weeks, Knaresborough Connectors send a thankyou email to their volunteer network. These emails thank volunteers for their work and support to help their community.

Further information

Other Shared Digital Guides exploring online forms:

Want to know more about data protection?

For more on this guide, contact coordinator Nick Garrett on [email protected]