Dignity in Practice Toolkit for Volunteers

Volunteers play a vital role in delivering community food projects and many organisations that respond to food insecurity simply couldn’t do what they do without the contribution and commitment of volunteers. Similarly, when it comes to delivering community food activities with dignity, volunteers play a crucial role too.

Working alongside staff and volunteers from Community Food Initiatives across Scotland, we developed a toolkit in order to help support organisations when involving volunteers in the delivery of community food projects. It includes practical tools and guidance for community food providers that will help them engage and support their volunteers to embed the Dignity Principles in their daily practice. These tools are designed to compliment and build on existing Dignity in Practice resources and the support, development and training activities that are already used by volunteer involving organisations.

We have developed a range of resources that organisations can access and utilise at three different stages of the volunteer journey; Recruitment, Induction & Training and Ongoing Support & Development. We have also developed resources to embed dignity in the current crisis; Dignity during Covid-19. Click on the buttons below to explore the tools available!


Project Background


The aim of this stage of the Dignity Project was to develop practical guidance and resources to help community food providers build capacity in their volunteers to implement the Dignity Principles. Following on from previous rounds of the Dignity in Practice, Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Community set out to better understand what resources currently exist for the community food sector, the role that volunteers play and how community food organisations were engaging their volunteers in the promotion of the Dignity Principles. We considered the whole process, from recruitment to delivery, aimed to identify what good practice looks like and how volunteers are best supported to adopt and implement the Dignity Principles in their work.

The Dignity in Practice Volunteering Toolkit is based on this learning and the work we did with members of the Dignity Peer Network[1] in 2019/20.

What we did

  • Reviewed existing volunteering resources and use by the community food sector
    • Desk-based review and interviews with volunteer support organisations
    • Discussions with community food providers about their volunteer policies and procedures, including recruitment, induction and ongoing support
  • Developed and piloted activities for engaging new and existing volunteers with the Dignity Principles in Practice, with members of with Dignity Peer Network

What we learned

 Role of volunteers in restoring and promoting people’s dignity

Volunteers are vital to implementing the Dignity Principles in community food initiatives because they are involved in so many parts of the work. As well as growing, sourcing, collecting, preparing and sharing food, volunteers are vital to the wider work related to welcoming people, building relationships and promoting a positive environment. Many organisations explained that they simply could not operate without volunteer support, which means volunteers’ understanding and use of the Dignity Principles in Practice is critical.

 Existing volunteer resources and support

There are many online resources available to help community organisations build a successful volunteering programme, but none that provide guidance on putting dignity at the heart of work with people experiencing food insecurity. Volunteer support organisations like Volunteer Glasgow are also an important resource to community organisations in some parts of the country, but access to them differs depending on location. Without practical guidance on how to embed the Dignity Principles in volunteer recruitment, induction and ongoing support, even the most committed community food organisations feel there is a risk that dignity can be taken for granted.

Important features of volunteering in the community food sector

A common route into volunteering in the community food sector is through participation in the project or service itself, which differs from other sectors. Recruiting from existing participants can help organisations overcome common issues faced by organisations that recruit solely through formal channels (e.g. underrepresentation from groups such as people experiencing poverty, disabled people, refugees and asylum seekers or those who speak languages other than English).

 Sometimes our volunteers are people who have attended and want to contribute and give back or just do something while they are there that helps them feel valued – so they come on board.

There is a diverse range of approaches to volunteer induction, training and support in the community food sector, from informal to formal. While the informality of some processes is key to involving people who may otherwise be put off from volunteering, it can also leave some volunteers without the resources to handle difficult situations. Many people who participate in and attend community groups come from vulnerable backgrounds and experience multiple stresses in their lives. Volunteers themselves may also be vulnerable and experience hardship in their own lives. It is important that all volunteers have support and the necessary tools and knowledge to understand boundaries and what to do if they face a difficult situation.

Organisational dynamics are not static, particularly in the community food sector where there are high rates of staff and volunteer turnover. Community organisations reported that lack of time and long-term funding were the main challenges to integrating the Dignity Principles in volunteer recruitment, retention and support in the community food sector.

 Developing the Dignity in Practice Volunteering Toolkit

Following this background review, we worked with members of the Dignity Peer Network to develop, test and pilot a series of activities and exercises for engaging new and existing volunteers with the Dignity Principles in Practice.

This toolkit is designed to be:

  • Accessible online
  • Adaptable for different groups, contexts and situations
  • Easy to use and understand, even for someone who is new to the Dignity Principles
  • Used by community food development workers to support volunteers at every stage to embed dignity in their work with people experiencing food insecurity

[1] Dignity Peer Network members have participated in the Dignity in Practice programme and supported the development of this toolkit: Central and West Integration Network, EATS Rosyth, Fresh Start, Govan Community Project, Greener Kirkcaldy, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust, Maxwelltown Information Centre, Moray Food Plus, St Paul’s Youth Forum, Woodlands Community Café.