Delivering the programme

Decisions made during planning will influence what support is offered, to whom and for how long. These will also affect how the community volunteering programme is managed or led.  

Hospice UK Graphic showing a team of volunteers wearing white Hospice UK branded t-shirts with the title Community Volunteering: Delivering the programme.

Leadership approaches

This is a key consideration for community volunteering projects. All projects need some level of organisation whether staff or community led. Staff led programmes tend to have more traditional leadership approaches with volunteers managed and supported by a member(s) of the staff team.  These programmes tend to have clear boundaries.

Community or volunteer led programmes will necessarily be different. Although it is clear from the Analysis Report that all of these programmes are connected in some way to a hospice, these tend to have fewer boundaries and restrictions giving volunteers a higher level of trust, responsibility and freedom to act.  In describing the role of volunteers in Neighbourhood Network in Palliative Care in Kerala, Paleri and Sallnow describe volunteers as “owning” rather than “supporting”, as “leaders” rather than “followers”, “accountable to community” rather than to an organisation or funders, and “part of life” rather than “part time”. (pp160-161)


When an organisation is responsible for funding, running and referring people to their community volunteering service, they are accountable for all that happens in that programme.  They also have responsibility to regulators and so these programmes will necessarily require more structure and management than those led or initiated by community groups.  Volunteer and community led programmes also have to ensure that their activities are safe and effective and meet the needs of those they support. However, their accountability to the community and each other is different and enables them to be more responsive to changing and individual needs.

There is, however, no right or wrong approach to community volunteering. The Analysis Report suggests a continuum between staff and community volunteer led leadership approaches. The determining factors in leadership approaches arise mainly (but not solely) from the intention of the community volunteering programme, organisational culture and the readiness to embrace  such a programme.  For some hospices this may be a journey which starts with staff managed programme, moving gradually to a more empowered volunteer led approach. Indeed the final part of the journey may be for the hospice to relinquish the programme entirely to the community. 

What is important is that however the programme is structured, it meets the needs of those it seeks to support and that there is evidence to prove it!   

Are there activities that volunteers will not be permitted to undertake?

Volunteers in most hospice community programmes were not permitted to undertake personal care or give medication.  There were some additional activities noted by hospices.  The reasons for these boundaries were that the aim of community volunteering programmes was to

  • provide practical, social and emotional support
  • promote independence and neighbourliness.

More details on activities not undertaken by volunteers can be found in Analysis Report Section 9 and Case Studies

Managing boundaries

Boundaries emerged as a common theme that emerged throughout the Analysis Report. Many staff led services had strict boundaries around the activities of volunteers. Managing and maintaining boundaries was a concern for some.  In staff led programmes boundaries are often managed through training, supervision and support. 

Boundaries for community or volunteer led programmes are often fewer and more flexible.  Volunteers in these programmes have more freedom to act and are empowered to respond to any situation using their initiative, skills and experience. Peer and other forms of support are valuable in continually exploring responses to different circumstances.

Boundaries are important for keeping people safe, however, these must be proportionate, enabling volunteers to use their skills and initiative. Anecdotal evidence suggests that rigidly enforcing boundaries results in volunteers stepping beyond boundaries without informing staff. Co-creating boundaries may go some way to avoiding this as may ongoing dialogue and discussion about experiences and scenarios.  To read more about boundaries please see Analysis Report Section 6 Benefits and Challenges and Case Studies.

Managing Risk

The management of risk was an area that hospices raised throughout the study.  All organisations had risk management strategies in place. These included policy and procedures, training and supervision, risk assessment, systems for volunteers to check in before and after visits.  A small number of community led programmes indicated a more hands off approach to risk as volunteers had a more generic relationship with the people they supported.

For more information on Managing Risk please see Analysis Report Section 9 (particularly Table 11). Other information can be found in Section 5 Policies and Support and Case Studies.

“Start small and build gradually” (Hospice of St Francis, Case Study X)

“We see hospice as a behaviour – not a building” St Nicholas Hospice Case Study X

Further resources

Analysis Report Section 2 for information about support offered.

Analysis Report Section 3 for information on management approaches.

Analysis Report Section 6 for information on boundaries.

Analysis Report Section 9 for activities not undertaken by volunteers and managing risk.

Volunteering and end of life care: An evidence based toolkit:

Design and Plan the Service (pp10,11); Recruitment Risk and Boundaries (pp12,13).

Compassionate Neighbours: Type and range of support 

Risk Assessment: Running Your Service Together We Can

Befriending Networks UK 

NCVO Mentoring and  Befriending Services

Dealing with staff concerns: Volunteering Vital to Our Future Part 2 


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