Sustrans + Assemble: Bringing visibility to volunteering



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Sustrans’ mission is to make it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle, ensuring that the benefits of these activities are enjoyed by everyone.

They work for and with communities, helping them come to life through walking, wheeling and cycling to create healthier places and happier lives for everyone. For Sustrans, a liveable city or town has social connection at its heart, and clean air and green space for all to live and play in.

As custodians of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans take care of a UK-wide network of over 12,000 miles of signed paths and routes for walking, wheeling, cycling and exploring outdoors.

Volunteers are central to Sustrans mission. They are the voices on the ground and enable Sustrans to remain connected to the communities in which they work. In fact, volunteers helped set up the National Cycle Network in the 1990s and remain essential in maintaining the network today.

We recently spent the day with Adam Jukes, Volunteer Implementation Lead, to understand how Assemble is helping Sustrans to support over 3000 volunteers in their work around the UK. It’s evident that the team has an incredibly progressive and innovative approach to their volunteering, that aligns with their organisation’s goals. This is coupled with a collective passion for the continual development and diversification of their volunteer programme and ensuring a great volunteer experience can be easily accessed by all.

Adam shares his story with Assemble so far.

Volunteering at Sustrans

“We have more than 3000 people volunteering to support our work around the UK. Many people volunteer to support the upkeep and promotion of the National Cycle Network.

People volunteer to cut back vegetation, install temporary signs, litter pick, survey wildlife and survey artwork among many other things. We also have people volunteering to support our work in schools and communities, helping children develop their cycling skills, running led walks and supporting their community to create more liveable neighbourhoods.

Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for everyone to support our aim to make it easier for people to walk, wheel and cycle through volunteering, whatever that engagement looks like. We want them to feel connected to our mission immediately and throughout their time with us, and ensure they have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.”

Why Assemble?

“Prior to implementing Assemble we managed volunteers using a series of antiquated systems and processes that were very inefficient. A lot of time was spent by colleagues managing volunteers and volunteer recruitment across these systems.

With our volunteering data at Sustrans across several systems and platforms it was very problematic and one of the many challenges we had with this was remaining GDPR compliant. We looked at a number of software products when finding a volunteer management system. We wanted one that folded in as many of our separate processes as possible.

When looking for a volunteer management solution, the recruitment functionality of Assemble was a big draw for us when we assessed the market. Its functionality is really intuitive, and the staged process is something our Volunteer Coordinators really appreciate.”

Early impact of Assemble

“After our initial implementation phase, which consisted of consulting, collaborating and testing with our Volunteer Coordinators and volunteers, we launched Assemble over a two-week period in February 2023. By the middle of May we hit our engagement target of 33% which was where we hoped to be by then.

Assemble has already played a big part in bringing visibility to volunteering and volunteer management at Sustrans. This has given us a better idea of the issues and opportunities with our volunteer offer and strategy.

Visibility has encouraged the team at Sustrans to engage with Assemble and experience exactly what the volunteer journey looks like. It gives others the opportunity to see a highly professional and consistent approach that is taken seriously by Sustrans.

A key outcome of implementing Assemble therefore has been the ability for us to deliver years three, four and five of our five year volunteering strategy. This would not have been possible otherwise.

Assemble has also enabled us to begin creating new, more informal volunteering opportunities utilsing easy recruitment and good analytics to track engagement and impact. This is really exciting for us and we hope this will enable a more diverse range of people to volunteer with Sustrans.”

Getting the most from Assemble’s features

“We have really embraced the recruitment feature – this is by far the part of Assemble that we couldn’t live without. The visibility of our opportunities is really important to us and Assemble offers a great point of entry for volunteers. The experience from arriving on our embedded opportunities page, through the applicant portal and beyond, demonstrates how integral Assemble has been to our volunteer journey and engagement.

We also love the news feature. We’ve replaced newsletters with this part of Assemble and we’re seeing lots of engaging content going up and being read by volunteers.”

Getting into the analytics

“We are beginning to explore the analytics feature and have recently used it to conduct a 6-month review of recruitment on Assemble. Tracking opportunity views and applications submitted is proving really useful to use and supporting the evolution of our offer. We can now build a much better understanding of the extent to which certain opportunities are proving more attractive to people than others. We have a clear idea of our conversation rate from views to application, which is invaluable.

We can also now clearly see, using the analytics feature that there is a clear correlation between volunteer manager and volunteer engagement with Assemble, so this will form part of our strategy going forwards.”

The future of volunteering at Sustrans

“Assemble is going to play a big part in evolving our volunteer offer at Sustrans. The visibility of volunteering that it provides means we are in a much better position to understand what is working well and what needs improvement.

We are also in the process of developing an API (application programming interface) to link Assemble with our online mapping software, ArcGIS . This is a hugely innovative piece of work for us.”


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