Part 2: The changing landscape for volunteering

29 Sep 2014

Nfp Synergy’s latest report, the New Alchemy, raises so many questions for those of us working in the voluntary sector. Parts 2 and 3 which looks at the motivation and trends around volunteering and its changes in the past ten years prompt me to challenge my colleagues inside Jewish Care and in the wider care sector to think more creatively.

Sonia says :

After reading the first three parts of this report, I await the next stage keenly as we are tempted with the thought that the final parts of the report will bring some solutions.

In the meantime though, I have a number of thoughts of my own about where we need to harness our energies going forward as a health and social care organisation, and one that is both faith based and communal.

For a start, do we have good and consistent data and information on our volunteers - do we really know what motivates them? In the words of the report, which of our volunteers are –

  • altruistic (just want to give back),
  • instrumental (clearly wanting something from the volunteer experience such as work experience)
  • obligatory (driven by a moral compass, such as religious belief)
  • And which are a mixture of all three?

Interestingly, with changing demographics and people who are time poor in the main, the report tells us that we can harness the altruistic volunteers to do the more mundane jobs if we can get them to buy into how this fits with the greater good. This gives me hope that as well as new opportunities for people to use their skills, we will continue to find those who will help the most frail in our society with their meals and befriend those most marginalised.

However, today’s volunteers have certain expectations that will retain them and keep them motivated. We all need to play a role in:

  • Understanding and managing the expectations of those who volunteer
  • Encouraging ownership and finding opportunities for volunteers to play a role in innovation
  • Ensuring our volunteers find satisfaction in their role and offer appropriate reward and recognition
  • Recruiting effectively and continuously so that we are using people’s skills and interests to engage them creatively with our work.

Much of this has been highlighted in our volunteer strategy but the question is how do we get those who come into daily contact with volunteers to understand how important this is to the future sustainability of an organisation such as ours that relies on the goodwill of around 3,500 people each year?

An organisation like ours should be impressed that 40% of people volunteer because they are asked. We are community based, with lots of local connections through our staff, current volunteers, family members and service users. The challenge for us is firstly to look at how we ask, so that people can see the benefit not just to the organisation but to themselves. The second challenge is to see every person we come into contact with as a potential asset to engaging more people in our work, that way we can retain and increase our numbers of volunteers but also create diversity of opportunities that will make us the best in our field.

We know that there is a changing demographic in volunteers, as ever we will need to change with this and only by understanding our volunteers and potential volunteers will we be able to keep pace with the change.

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.