08/10/18, Karen Ormiston

An unstoppable force: creating mutually beneficial volunteer relationships

Investors in People, Volunteers

An unstoppable force, millions of heroes and heroines across the globe volunteer their time, skills and expertise for the benefit of organisations, charities, causes and individuals. From mentoring young people in schools, colleges and universities to befriending the elderly and fostering pets, volunteers are often the backbone of successful organisations. Key to the success of the 2012 London Olympic Games, for example, were the 70,000 volunteers. In 2015/16, 14.2 million people formally volunteered at least once a month, with the value of volunteering estimated to be £22.6bn in 2015*. For maximum mutual benefit, it is vital volunteers are considered as part of an organisation’s people strategy and that they are supported to enjoy their role and meaningfully contribute.

Volunteers are integral to the National Trust for Scotland. Here Alison McAllister, Communications Officer, shares one particular success story and how the organisation supports and retains volunteers in order to foster mutually beneficial relationships.

Since 1931 our love for Scotland has fueled the National Trust for Scotland’s desire to protect the things that make it special. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we encourage people to connect with the things that make Scotland unique. In order to help protect Scotland’s heritage for future generations, we enlist the help of 4,000 enthusiastic volunteers every year who are an integral part of our organisation. We have a wide range of projects across Scotland that are suited to all ages, abilities and interests and our aim is to nurture an individual’s passion so that they get as much from volunteering with us as we get from them volunteering for us.

To celebrate the Year of Young People, we have caught up with one of our younger volunteers, Chris Linton, a Gardening Volunteer, to find out more about his volunteering experiences and what volunteering means to him.  

Giving responsibility

With a passion for horticulture and plenty of volunteer experience under his belt, Chris who has Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and attachment disorder, became a Gardening Volunteer at the House of Dun in 2012. He began by mowing the lawns and soon this became his weekly task – knowing this job was his responsibility gave Chris a sense of purpose and worth and helped him come out of his shell.


Staff that lead and support volunteers have a mentoring and buddying system they implement where they feel a particular volunteer would benefit from having their needs addressed individually. Gardener Andrea Cameron and Head Gardener Russel Shanks became Chris’ mentors and through their encouragement, patience and teaching his confidence grew. With their help Chris was able to develop his skills and benefit from a wide range of experiences at House of Dun.

Training and development

Chris also took advantage of the wide range of training opportunities available to Trust volunteers, which include online training, face-to-face sessions and management development programmes. Talking to Chris his mentors soon discovered that he was most interested in enrolling in training and development that would help him progress towards reaching his goal of working within the horticultural sector – forestry, path building and the general maintenance of the House of Dun Estate. And he did it! Chris now works as a gardener on the House of Dun Estate, he has become a mentor to other volunteers and continues to volunteer as well. Very many congratulations!


Chris was nominated for two awards as a result of his volunteering: Finalist in The Young Scot Award 2015 and Winner of the 2014 NTS Volunteer of the Year Award. These awards recognised his contribution, boosted his confidence and made him very proud of his achievements at NTS.

Go for it!

Volunteering embraces diversity and can suit anyone interested in trying new experiences, meeting new people, learning new skills, building CVs and seeing new places. To anyone considering volunteering, Chris says, “I would recommend volunteering to anyone. And volunteering with NTS – regardless of the position – is, in my eyes, the opportunity of a lifetime”.


If you are inspired to pursue one of your passions and become a volunteer, check out Volunteer Scotland.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities available at the National Trust for Scotland here.

For support on enhancing your volunteer experience, find out more about the Investors in People accreditation – the only international standard that aligns ambition and people. 

Enhance your volunteer experience

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