Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

5 benefits of using one-page profiles with volunteers

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Helen Sanderson of Helen Sanderson Associates, project Strategic Partner tells us about a recent meeting of project delivery partners.

Last month I met with a room full of managers, who lead voluntary organisations supporting older people living with cancer. My brief was to explore the potential benefits of one-page profiles for the volunteers. I think that the best way to learn about one-page profiles is to do your own, so that is what we did. Working in pairs, using the ‘FINK’ questions, people developed their own one-page profiles.

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Back row, L-R: Naomi Karslake, Keri Harrison, Pat McCarthy, Ben Sansum, Phil Vining, Karen Pierce Front row, L-R: Janet Cullingford, Marie McWilliams, Juanita Williams, Helen Sanderson, Dave Bradshaw

 How can one-page profiles be useful for volunteers? This is what we thought about together, here are the five potential benefits of using one-page profiles with volunteers:

1) Knowing what matters to the volunteer makes it easier to match them to the older person.

A one-page profile has a section describing what matters to the volunteer, what is important to them. You may learn about family and friends, hobbies, passions and interests. My friend Gill is passionate about football, and loves dogs.  She has a fluffy cocker-poo. Gill would be great to match with someone who also loves sports and animals, and they would instantly something to talk about, to start their relationship.

 2) It can help to build relationships quickly

Having shared interests and knowing more about the volunteer will make it easier for the older person experiencing cancer to develop a connection and a relationship. We joke that a one-page profile is like spending three nights in the pub with someone! The volunteers for this work with OPAAL will also have personal experience of cancer. Having a one-page profile demonstrates that they are more than their cancer experience, and they are not defined by it.

3) The manager knows how to support the volunteer

The last section of a one-page profile is how to support me as a volunteer. The Golden Rule – treat people as you would want to be treated – does not apply here. Yes, you want everyone to be treated with kindness and respect, but we also need to learn the very specific and individual ways that people want support.

If you want to contact me about something, the best way to do that is by email or text. If you want to contact my colleague Michelle, her preference would always be that you phoned her. We need to learn the best ways to communicate and support each others, and recognize difference. By treating volunteers in this individual way, they are are more likely to feel valued and supported and therefore stay longer.

 4) It helps the volunteers connect with each other

We have just had two new people join our team. We work acorss the country, so our new interns, Ross and Heather, will mostly connect with other team members over the phone and by email. It can be hard to quickly build trusting relationships when people are not based together or sharing an office. We try and help by having a ‘meet the team’ book in our office, which has all of our one-page profiles in it.  If volunteers had this information available about each other, even in they did not spend a lot of time actually in an office together, it helps people feel connected.

5) It helps the volunteer feel valued, as a person.

Taking time to talk and learn about what matters to the volunteer and how to support them well, will make new volunteers feel welcomed and valued.

 The managers were concerned about the amount of time it could take to develop a one-page profile. So my next task, as part of the OPAAL work, is to map the ‘volunteer journey’ from hearing about the organization, right through to induction, and see how we can ‘grow’ a one-page profile naturally.

Whilst I was finishing this blog I had a tweet from one of the managers at Knowsley Pensioners Advocacy and Information Service, It said

“The introduction to one-page profiles went really well, got everyone talking and will be a work in progress as we go forward!”

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We will share our work in progress as we go.

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Author: Marie McWilliams

OPAAL's National Development Officer

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