Mobility Concern is a national charity that provides advice, equipment and grants for people with mobility-related disabilities. Their main organisation has around thirty staff working on core services and projects. They have a trading arm, Mobility Concern Trading Ltd., which operates charity shops across the UK.
The Director of the trading arm emailed a questionnaire to shop managers to gather views on the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of shop operation. She hoped that the results would help focus improvements and inform the process of setting up new shops.
The results showed that these were overwhelmingly linked to volunteer performance, and the relationship between manager and volunteers. Many managers reported problems: volunteers’ expectations, understanding of their responsibilities, and conflict between volunteers.
Worryingly, several of the managers reported incidents that could result in legal action under equality legislation. For example: one volunteer refused to serve a customer with a brain injury because she thought he was drunk, and did not accept that he had a disability. Another insisted on moving racks on the shop floor close together to save space, making it impossible for people with wheelchairs or prams to get around – and was angry when challenged by his manager.
The Director implemented new measures to clarify roles, responsibilities and expectations for volunteers. These included a new volunteering agreement, equality and human rights policy, and an improved induction process.
She also decided to consult and involve volunteers more, for example, on how the shops are run and how the new volunteer process should be developed.