The FSI’s Pauline shares her take on the impact of volunteers
When we started Small Charity Week in 2010 we didn’t include a Volunteering Day – that was a real oversight as much of the Small Charity Sector would grind to a halt without the army of volunteers that support a diverse range of causes. Our omission wasn’t intentional, just naive and it didn’t take too long before we realised that Small Charity Week just wasn’t complete without a whole day focussed on volunteering.
Why? Almost every person I have met who has volunteered to support a cause they care passionately about has felt that they got more out of the experience than they put in. And almost every charity I have spoken to say that they get more from the volunteers than they feel they give them back.
Volunteer or Charity who’s got it right?
There is no doubt that volunteering can be an incredibly fulfilling experience for the volunteer. Now more than ever before volunteering opportunities exist both locally and internationally, so it’s great to be able to make a difference in your local community, or on the other side of the world.
No matter how few hours you have to volunteer, no matter whether you volunteer in person or from home, no matter which cause you support, every minute spent volunteering focuses your attention on the big picture of how we all need to work together to make our world a better and safer place for all.
If volunteers ‘get something back’ for the work they do that’s great too. Of course the main motivation will be to give something back but it’s not unreasonable to also ‘get something back’. Volunteering helps you to meet new people, make new friends for life, experience new cultures and see society from a different perspective. Whether the payback is personal growth a new skill gained to put on your CV, or just keeping yourself busy, no matter what the payback as long as it’s meaningful to you, that’s great. What you get back is up to you and you should be clear about what you want so that everyone is clear from the beginning.
As charities we need to remember that recognition takes many forms and sometimes just telling someone that they are doing a ‘good job’ can inspire them, give them confidence and a sense of pride in what they are doing.
Volunteers have a unique perspective on the issues that face the causes they support. Whether taking the afternoon tea around the local hospital, planning the marketing strategy for a community charity or helping build a well in Africa they get under the skin of the issues facing society.
So in Small Charity Week 2014 let’s all celebrate volunteering and understand that ‘everything that goes around comes around’ or at least that’s what my Dad used to say!
For more information on Volunteering Day of Small Charity Week see the Small Charity Week website – all initiatives and activities during the week are free for charities with a turnover under £1.5 million.
Pauline Broomhead is the CEO of the FSI, the charity behind Small Charity Week. The FSI offers free training, conferences and support for small charities across the UK.