By Hazel Finney, Lead for Volunteering, Community Impact Bucks
Public acknowledgement of a pressing need
As Lead for Volunteering at Community Impact Bucks, the nationally accredited Volunteer Centre for Buckinghamshire, I was thrilled to read in the recent report, Stronger charities for a stronger society published by the House of Lords, that support for volunteer management was a key recommendation:
“Funders need to be more receptive to requests for resources for volunteer managers and co-ordinators, especially where charities are able to demonstrate a strong potential volunteer base. We recommend that Government guidance on public sector grants and contracts is amended to reflect this and set a standard for other funders.”
Based on a submission from the Association of Volunteer Managers’* (AVM) response to the Select Committee’s call for evidence last year, this recommendation is excellent news, and in the words of Debbie Usiskin, Chair of AVM, “Communicating the value and need for volunteer management as a recognised discipline is at the core of what AVM was set up to achieve. Having such high profile confirmation of this is very welcome.”
The committee’s own evidence gathering supports AVM’s submission by revealing the difficulty faced by small charities to find funding for volunteer managers – which is certainly an issue encountered by the myriad of small charities and community groups in Buckinghamshire.
The role of volunteers – key findings
The report also examines the changing nature of volunteers and volunteering, and I list some of the highlights below:
- Karl Wilding, Head of Governance and Policy at NCVO (who was the keynote at one of our recent Trustee Conferences): “We have moved away from what you might call a substitute labour model, where people give 35 or 40 hours a week to the same organisation over the course of their life, to one that is much more flexible and footloose and is based on the idea of micro-volunteering where people give relatively small amounts of time”
- Younger people are placing greater importance on volunteering as part of gaining skills to help their employment prospects – “self-interested altruism”. This takes the form of one-off actions and digital volunteering rather than traditional volunteering activities of older generations, however, there are opportunities to encourage younger people to participate in more traditional volunteering, in order to boost their credentials for employment
- Martin Sime from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said: “if you could persuade the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to remove all barriers to unemployed people volunteering, you would do charities a favour because we would be able to get a whole lot of people engaged in our work in a way that was good for them and good for us.”
Trustees – key findings
The report emphasises the importance of trustee skills and experience for good governance, against the backdrop of new funding models, digital tools and increased expectations of accountability and transparency. It is imperative that a wide range of skills are represented on trustee boards, with finance and fundraising being a high priority – this is something that I encounter often in my work with charity and community group boards in Buckinghamshire, which frequently struggle to recruit treasurers. In addition, a key role for today’s line up is a “digital trustee” – in the words of Sarah Atkinson from the Charity Commission, “Digital trustees can contribute significantly to making sure boards have the skills they need.”
A concern is raised about the lack of diversity among trustees, which in turn limits boards’ experience and knowledge. So great is this concern, that the report recommends that the Government holds a public consultation on the possibility of introducing a statutory duty to allow employees of organisations over a certain size to take a limited amount of time off work to perform trustee roles. This is coupled with the assertion that employers should be encouraged to give greater recognition to trustee roles in recruitment and progression of their staff.
Interested in finding our more about the roles and responsibilities of trustees? You may find our CPD-accredited course on 31 May in Monks Risborough of interest.
*AVM is an independent membership body that aims to support, represent and champion people in volunteer management in England regardless of field, discipline or sector. It has been set up by and for people who manage volunteers. A member of AVM for several years, I would strongly recommend that anyone who manages or co-ordinates volunteers should consider joining this organisation which boasts a growing network of nearly 500 members. As well as running a highly successful annual conference in London boasting speakers of international repute, there is an events’ programme throughout the year, monthly newsletter, active LinkedIn forum and much more. Information on joining can be found here.