posted 8 April 2016

As the shelters closed for the winter, we asked 419 of our 520 registered volunteers (some asked not to be contacted) to fill out an anonymous feedback survey. Over 20% responded, and the results are in.

Amazingly, not one volunteer gave the charity a negative mark: volunteers find staff easy to get along with, all said they would recommend the charity to friends, and no one was dissatisfied with their experience. Some did say they would appreciate hearing more from us. Note taken.

Some of the most interesting responses are harder to quantify. Many gave thoughtful and articulate answers when asked to put in their own words why they volunteer with Glass Door. We know how vital volunteers are to the running of the charity, but it’s illuminating to hear why someone chooses to give up evenings to scrub plates and eat at communal tables with those who have no home. Reasons don’t always fit neatly into categories, but we’ve chosen a few quotes to highlight our top ten reasons:

#10: It gives perspective

“It’s a reminder to all of us to take nothing for granted,” reported one volunteer. Another wrote: “I volunteer to do something useful and constructive and to get a sense of perspective about my life.” And another: “I see a side of life that I might not see otherwise; I see the benefits, the hard work, and some of the realities of the lives of the guest that Glass Door supports.”

Bonus: Research shows that focusing on someone other than yourself breaks tension-producing patterns. As a result, all this perspective can make you happier.

#9: Volunteers gain valuable experience

Volunteering can round out a CV or allow someone to learn more about a field. “I have worked with a homeless charity in a paid capacity, and find the volunteer ‘atmosphere’ provides me with another angle that enhances my knowledge and expertise,” said one volunteer. Another said: “Originally I volunteered because I was looking for a food related charity to volunteer with to enhance my c.v. but I have continued volunteering because I enjoy it and because Glass Door make an important difference to people's lives."

#8: Volunteers care about homelessness

Many specifically mentioned homelessness as a cause close to their hearts. Here are just three examples:

  • “I worked in homelessness for quite a few years in the past and believe it to be an area of life that needs our attention and support.
  • “I feel that no-one should be isolated and lonely through homelessness. A warm meal and a friendly chat helps a lot.”
  • “I wanted to help the homeless and was unhappy about street begging.”

#7: Volunteers believe in Glass Door’s approach

We wouldn't be able to afford to run shelters if we had to pay rent, and we only turn people away due to lack of space. Our open door policy coupled with our local church partnership model allows us to pool resources and good will in the community allow us to help the most vulnerable, and we're glad others see the benefits too:

  •  “I think Glass Door provides a very simple and good value service, compared to many large national charities I have worked for - shelter and a good meal provided in a non-judgemental setting, and utilising the huge potential of our church buildings are at the heart of a Christian message, and the volunteering is long-term and local, which I think works well.”
  • "This charity directs aid directly and so you can see who is helped in a very practical way.”
  • “Glass Door ticks all the boxes on how a nightshelter should be run.”
  • “I believe using Churches to help shelter the most vulnerable in London in a safe and hospitable fashion is a wonderful thing. Glass door makes use of spaces that stand at the heart of communities in a way that makes them relevant in today's society.”
  • “I like that Glass Door has a clear focus. It delivers shelter and help well. The night shelter is extremely well run and all the volunteers are briefed each week so they know what to do."

#6: It’s a way of putting skills to good use

Everyone appreciates feeling useful, and our cooks rightfully earn MVP status.

“I used to cook professionally so I knew I'd be useful in the kitchen,” one volunteer cook reported. Another wrote: “I have a specific role (cooking), which I enjoy, and can add value as I am an experienced cook.  It's the only hands on volunteering I do, and I consider it a privilege to be involved."

#5. It’s free time well spent

People who are retired or have free time can find volunteering a rewarding way to put their energy and empathy to good use. Some comments:

  • “I have retired and want to give back to society. I love the team and the guests are so kind.”
  • “It is a flexible commitment, which is important with family commitments such as baby/child sitting.”
  • “Volunteering with Glass Door has changed me as a person and enriched me beyond anything I had anticipated!”

#4: It brings people together

Volunteers make new friends. Many talked about the camaraderie that can form when working as a team. Here's what they said:

  • “I like the environment in the shelter; the team of volunteers that come get along well, the time flies by and the volunteering helps me disconnect from work and gets me into the weekend mode.”
  • “I have been volunteering for 11+ years now! It is a rewarding experience and has become part of my regular winter 'routine'. I thoroughly enjoy seeing the guests each week and catching up with my fellow volunteers, many of whom are now good friends.”
  • “The other staff and volunteers are so friendly, and hard working, its a great atmosphere and a pleasure to be part of."

#3: It’s fun!

This one overlaps a lot with number 4, but we had so many nice comments about the friendly atmosphere of the shelter, we wanted to include them.

  • “I volunteer because I really enjoy doing it.”
  • “It has proved to be enjoyable and friendly. As so often with voluntary work, I get back more than I give.”
  • "It has been such a great experience. Ian, Janet and Steve are so brilliant and set such great examples. It is a really enjoyable evening that I look forward to each week."

Bonus: Positive moods and emotions, like optimism and joy, strengthen the immune system. Research has shown that those who regularly volunteer actually live longer!

#2: volunteers want to give back

It's no surprise that volunteers are civic-minded. Here's the proof:

  • “I have retired and want to give back to society. I love the team and the guests are so kind…. The success rate this season is so high, I'll keep it up.”
  • “I wanted to get involved in my local community and contribute more time to helping others in need.”
  • “I want to make a difference to people who are less fortunate in their circumstances.”
  • “We don't have huge amounts of spare cash. My husband is a soldier. I'm a teacher. We're not rich. We can't afford to give loads of money to charity but we can volunteer our time, which seems to make a much bigger difference. We feel it is important to help others.”

#1: It’s a way of putting values into practice

We can't put it any better than this: 

  • “Volunteering at a night shelter once a month gives me a chance to offer practical assistance, living the kind of values I want to instil in the next generation and showing Christian kindness at its most simple. I find it both humbling and inspiring to do so and the charity gives me the safe parameters in which to do so in the most constructive way possible, for which I am grateful.”
  • “I felt I couldn't stand by and not do anything to help. It's easy to give money and forget about the problem but I felt a responsibility to do something more to ease their plight and get involved in the lives of those I wanted to help. Our guests are human beings like us but have found themselves in difficult circumstances.”
  • “You can never know where your life may take you and I'm always so grateful for all that I have. If I can help in any way an organisation that seeks to support those in need and provide the very basic of what should be every humans absolute right, then I am happy to do so!”

Thanks due everyone who gave our guests a warm welcome. Their actions let people know they matter: a contribution that is truly priceless.