Part 1: The changing landscape for volunteering

27 Aug 2014

‘Volunteering at its core remains transformational, it takes up the most universal of human resources – time, so often squandered, and uses it to transform people’s lives. It takes a universal base asset and turns it into the human gold of changed lives’

– The New Alchemy, nfpSynergy, August 2014

Sonia says…

This really pertinent and thought provoking piece resonates so much with all I have seen and learnt over the past 17 years in Jewish Care – especially how volunteering and volunteers have changed; how the background of volunteers coming through is so different and with that change in background comes a change in expectation in the volunteers themselves in how they want to be utilised and managed.

However, for those of us providing services in health and social care there are a number of key conundrums for us to ponder in this changing climate.

We still need the backbone of services, but we need volunteers who will do this in a more inclusive and empowering way for those who need the support to say, to eat a meal, help someone get from a to b, or ensure that people traditionally seen as clients feel more included in life generally.

We will increasingly need these ‘backbone’ services as criteria for funding becomes more stringent and this will force us to be more creative in our design and delivery of service or fall by the wayside as larger charities deliver more and more universal services.

We need though, at the other end of the spectrum, to look for interesting and satisfying roles for those who have time on their hands but want to feel useful, and we need to approach how we support them in a more professional manner.

The nfpSynergy report highlights how important volunteers are in ensuring that services continue and how, in an ideal world, we would be creative enough to think volunteering in a way that future proofs our services. However, experience also tells me that the biggest stumbling block to this may not be the volunteers or even the potential volunteer pool but our attitude to both seeing the need to give more time to our volunteers and also to invest more resources, including financial ones so that we have the right structures and support to make volunteering successful. As the report highlights – ‘volunteering is under-resourced compared to fundraising, its testosterone-charged big sibling.’

If we truly believe, as we do in Jewish Care, that volunteering delivers us just under £10 million worth of added value, then it makes pure business sense that investment of time, and possibly money too, is something that has to be available to future proof volunteering and voluntary agencies for the future.

Sonia Douek is Head of volunteering and community development at Jewish Care and has developed a strategy for the organisation that has seen the growth of volunteers in the organisation reach 3,000 people.

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