Rowlands Dry Bar

Rowlands Bar - Lawrence Alexander and Julie Smith

Rowland’s Bar triumphs in its treatment of volunteers

Lawrence Alexander (Director, Volunteer Centre Borders) and Julie Smith of Rowland’s Bar following last Thursday’s Volunteer Friendly Award presentation.


An alcohol-free bar that acts as a community hub for young people in Selkirk has become the latest organisation in the Borders to win a Volunteer Friendly award from Volunteer Centre Borders (VCB).

With its cafe, computer suite, pool table, juke box and choice of comfy chairs, Rowland’s Bar is a haven for anyone between 12 and 18 who wants to chat, chill or study. But it’s the volunteer staff who make it all happen, and now Rowland’s has passed the litmus test of volunteer management by proving to VCB that it follows best practice towards its 22 volunteer staff. Rowland’s (Selkirk), the company with charitable status that runs Rowland’s Bar, has also demonstrated that it treats its volunteers fairly, trains and supports them and rates their contributions to the organisation.  

“Rowland’s is a young people’s facility, however it is the volunteers who make it happen,” explains Julie Smith, Rowland’s Project Facilitator. “Their firm, fair, consistent and responsible approach helps create a culture of mutual trust and respect with the young people to the benefit of all.”

The bar moved to its current premises in what used to be Rowland Tait’s hardware shop on West Port in 2007. As well as regular events like the homework club, Rowland’s volunteer staff help young people to organise a growing array of activities and projects, from master classes on film making to collecting donations of clothes for youngsters and their families affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine. 

Rowland’s also boasts a refreshingly representative style of management: The Board of Directors is elected by members of the company who are as young as 16. And there’s a Youth Committee to voice members’ views, helps organise trips and make decisions about equipment.

“This Volunteer Friendly Award is a great achievement for us, because the volunteers themselves have done most of the work in producing a dossier of evidence to back the application. That requires a fair bit of effort and determination,” said Julie. Bottom of Form

Susan Swan, VCB’s Executive Officer, described Rowland’s Volunteer Friendly submission as “excellent”. “Rowland’s has shown a clear understanding of what volunteer management is about,” she said. “Their submission would make me want to volunteer at Rowland’s!”

“There are lots of benefits to having a Volunteer Friendly Award,” she added. “Managers will have better motivated volunteers, who will, in turn, have confidence that they are being looked after well. Volunteers can be sure that they are joining a group that will value and protect their interests. And having a Volunteer Friendly Award shows funding bodies that good practices are in place.”