After many months of development and testing we are excited to announce the launch of Reach’s new digital service!
It connects charities in need of expertise with people who want to volunteer their skills and we believe that it will revolutionise skills-based volunteering in the UK. We are so pleased to share it with you.
Why skills-based volunteering can answer many of today’s problems
Why have we built this new service? It is a difficult time for charities: they must balance rising demand from service users with falling income. Pulled between the desire to do everything they can to help the people they were set up to help, and the need to manage the organisation wisely and sustainably, charities need a strong board of trustees, and effective management. And there are plenty of other challenges too. How to stay relevant, or even visible, in a fast evolving digital environment? How to address the change from grant funding to commissioning? Even small charities need to draw on a wide array of expertise to be successful today. Yet most charities are seriously undercapitalised.
Skills-based volunteering can help bridge this gap between need and resources. Of course charities need money to function – but donated expertise can make that money go a lot further. In fact, in our experience, donated expertise is often just as effective as paid for expertise, sometimes more so. And happily, there is an abundance of people willing to volunteer their skills. They just need to be asked. For example, a recent report from City Philanthropy found that 53% of London workers under 35 year want to volunteer more. And the factor that would most encourage them do this? Someone to match their skills and experience to the appropriate charity….
Matching skills and experience
We’ve built our new online service to make it easier for charities to find, and to ask, skilled volunteers to help them. We’ve always been amazed by the fantastic calibre and generosity of the volunteers on our database, but sometimes they languished there, unasked but waiting. So we have created searchable public profiles for volunteers, and the ability for charities to contact suitable candidates directly. We hope that it will inspire charities to ask for a more creative range of help, and encourage people considering volunteering to make the leap.
We’ve also made it easier for professionals to find the right opportunity to volunteer their skills. You can get suitable roles delivered to your inbox, or create a profile and let charities find you. You can also ask questions of the charity before deciding to apply.
Increasing the impact
We want volunteering to be successful: for the volunteers to have a real impact on the charities they join, and to find the experience rewarding. For this to happen, it is not enough just to connect volunteers with organisations.
People come to volunteering with wildly varying attitudes and expectations – and that is true of both charities and volunteers. Charities vary hugely in terms of their size, culture and maturity. Our volunteers come from different industries, sectors, and stages of life. Add to this mix the fact that volunteer recruitment involves more negotiation than paid recruitment, and it is not surprising that misunderstandings and frustrations can arise.
And our solution? We have tried to tackle these problems in a number of ways. We have created a Knowledge Centre about volunteering and trustee recruitment, and we also offer one to one advice. To encourage follow through by charities, we have developed a system of online messaging with prompts and nudges. And we ask everyone – volunteers and charities – to sign up to the same community agreement, to help set mutual expectations. We will be watching with interest to see how this all works, and jumping in to help where necessary.
Of course, this is really just the start of the work. We will be developing, refining and extending the service on an ongoing basis. So please let us know what you think. We are keen to hear feedback!
And finally, thank you!
Building this online service has been a big project for Reach, and we’ve had a lot of help. Many volunteers and charities have given us valuable input at several stages, including the initial needs analysis and research, and several rounds of user testing.
An award from the Cabinet Office Innovation in Giving programme, and generous grants from Dulverton and The Clothworkers’ Company have financed the build. However, that is only half the story. Fittingly for a project which is all about fostering donated expertise, we have had pro bono support from IBM, Wildman and Herring, Nesta, and SAP via LawWorks.
The greatest contribution, however, has come from Reach’s own team of volunteers who have been instrumental in many key areas such as writing tender documents and database scripts, scoping the functionality, overseeing design work, organising the hosting set up, and much more… thank you!
We are very excited to have launched our new website and digital service. You are one of our early visitors – and we need your help!
Our new website is a new way of connecting charities and skilled volunteers and puts the power into your hands. You can search for volunteers, or for volunteering opportunities, and you can contact people directly on the website.
Reach vets every opportunity and volunteer to ensure that you’ll find only high-impact volunteering opportunities, and people with valuable experience that they are keen to share. We’re here to provide support – have a look at our Knowledge centre, or feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
We need your help
Our new website is currently in ‘beta’ which means we need your help to explore and test the different functions. You might stumble across a bug – please let us know if you do! We are keen to have all your feedback about what works well, and what doesn’t. We will be developing and tweaking the site regularly, and your input is crucial.
This platform has been developed with the help and input of many volunteers and charities, who have contributed to the initial research and through many stages of testing. With your help we can continue to develop and improve it, and enable many more charities to find their ideal volunteer.
We are giving our new website time to bed in these first few weeks. Once we start publicising it, we’d love your support in this too. We will post more news shortly so please keep an eye on our blog.
We are excited to launch our annual review for 2014/15!
It’s been a jam-packed year where we have grown upon our success from previous years: we’ve seen demand from charities grow particularly in the trustee recruitment sphere, new partnerships were developed and a record number of matches made.
Many of our matches this year were trustees, in part due to our Matching service which in November 2013 was made free for charities with a turnover of under £1 million.
Here are some of the year’s highlights:
We are now looking forward to an even better year ahead as we await the launch of our new digital platform.
You may have seen in previous blogs (you can read more here and here) that we have been developing a innovative digital platform which will make it easier for charities and volunteers to find each other and put the power to search and connect in their hands.
We have been developing the new site throughout 2014 and we are pleased to say that we are on the home stretch so we look forward to delivering this to you soon.
You can download our 2014/2015 annual review on our website.
I hope you enjoy it!
Our new online service is almost here: we will shortly be up and running!
You may have seen in previous blogs we have been developing a new website which will make it easier for charities and volunteers to connect. Once launched it will give you the power to search for opportunities and skilled people, and make direct contact with the people who most interest you.
It has been a long (and sometimes hard!) road of scoping, prototyping, building and testing at every stage… but we are excited to say we are now in the final phase of bug fixing and data migration.
It is a complex project with many interdependencies, so there may be more time slip, but we expect to be live by mid-August. We will be running a reduced service throughout July, whilst we migrate data and prepare to go-live. Whilst we continue to forward applications from volunteers for existing opportunities, we stopped taking on any new roles on Monday 29th June and we stopped taking on new volunteers from Friday 3rd July. From the end of July (Thursday 30th July) we will close our current volunteer portal which means for a few days registered volunteers will not be able to apply for any roles.
When we launch in August, we will issue new logins to all our volunteers and charities (which have open roles). You can then log in, check details and start using our new service. You can also register as a new volunteer and and register new volunteering opportunities again.
Our Premium and Matching Plus TrusteeWorks services will continue to run as usual through the transition period.
We need your help
We’re doing everything we can to make this a smooth transition, but there may be some teething problems – so please bear with us. This is the starting point of the evolution of our service and we need our users to help us develop it. Please let us know what works well, what doesn’t and what new features would be useful. We really want to hear your feedback and we will be on hand to answer questions and offer support.
What will our new service look like?
These are some of the key features of the new website:
Better search tools – Our new search tool has more options than our old one. And for the first time, charities can search for volunteers.
Better ways to connect – Volunteers will be able to state what kind of opportunities they are looking for, and create public profiles so that charities can find them. Volunteers can also ask charities questions about their roles before applying.
Charities will be able to review the skills on offer within the Reach community before scoping their roles. They can also then search out people who fit their role, and ask them to consider applying.
Greater coverage – All our roles will be automatically cross-posted on LinkedIn, and to a growing selection of other sites.
Easier ways of managing your applications – Volunteers and charities will be able to manage all their applications and correspondence from one ‘dashboard’. This should make it easier to keep track of things, especially if you are dealing with several roles.
More support – We are developing a new Knowledge centre to offer advice on all things relating to skills based volunteering and board recruitment/ being a trustee. We are also piloting a new one to one advice service to help charities scope out great volunteering roles.
New community agreement – Both charities and volunteers will sign up to our new community agreement. This will focus on areas which often pose problems such as obligations and rights, ‘volunteers’ looking for remuneration and poor communication.
We’re really looking forward to our new service going live – we believe that it’s going to make a big difference to everyone using our service, and to increasing skills based volunteering in the UK.
We’ll keep you posted with further news and updates. We can’t wait for the launch and to have you join us.
We are delighted to be key partners for LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace. This UK roll out of their service, which enables charities to recruit volunteers from their vast professional network, was launched yesterday evening, and I was very honoured to be asked to speak.
‘Professional’ volunteering is coming of age…
For the past 35 years, we’ve have been connecting charities with people willing to volunteer their skills. In the last couple of years we’ve noticed an upsurge in interest from people wanting volunteering with ‘higher impact’- seeking to use their professional expertise to make a difference.
More charities too, are beginning to consider how they might better use this kind of pro-bono resource, and how to recruit trustees in a more open, purposeful way. Our TrusteeWorks service experienced a 60% jump in both demand and successful placements last year alone.
That said, we know that we are only scratching the surface. Thousands of charities have board vacancies, and how many more are struggling to deliver or innovate for want of sufficient resource?
The potential is huge
The untapped opportunities are huge, and this is what is so exciting about LinkedIn’s volunteer marketplace. With over 17 million members in the UK, LinkedIn can provide massive exposure for volunteering. People are always more likely to respond to an opportunity that fits them, than to a generic call for volunteers. For example, a graphic designer for an arts festival in aid of homeless people…. LinkedIn serves up volunteer positions like this to match member’s skills, enticing a whole range of people who might never have considered volunteering before. It’s what Alison Dorsey calls, ‘the puppy in the window’ effect.
Our experience of the Volunteer Marketplace
We have been piloting LinkedIn’s job posting and search tools to recruit volunteers since 2013, and have sourced over 500 applicants this way. Numbers aren’t the whole story though: by using the search tools our TrusteeWorks team have been able to find ideal candidates with very specific skills and expertise for board positions.
Of course, the Volunteer Marketplace is not panacea. It is really a tool – and how well it works for you depends on how effectively you use it. To recruit well, charities still need to think through what they really need, how to craft this into a good volunteer role, what skills and experience they are looking for, and how to create postings that will attract the people with these attributes. And most people did not join LinkedIn to volunteer, so they may need coaching through how charities differ, or the rights and responsibilities of volunteering. People who are job hunting with some urgency sometimes ignore the ‘volunteer’ tag, too.
Why our collaboration with LinkedIn is great!
LinkedIn themselves appreciate this broader picture, which is why they are so great to collaborate with. I confess that when I first learnt about their volunteer marketplace I was nervous; given LinkedIn’s size they could have blown us out of the water without even noticing. Happily, they absolutely get the value that brokers like Reach bring to the equation, and have made us, along with Do-it, key partners.
This means that charities can access the volunteer marketplace free of charge when they register through us. At the moment we can only post manually so we post just a selection (if you register a role with us and want us to include your opportunity in that selection, just ask.) When we launch our new platform this spring we will be able to cross-post all opportunities, giving great exposure to every volunteer role.
There is an abundance of great people out there, willing to donate their expertise. They just need connecting up with the right opportunity, in the right way; a combination of lots of promotion and well-honed volunteer recruitment processes. Through our partnership with LinkedIn we can offer both!
We are thrilled to work in partnership with a number of hugely inspiring and effective organisations helping them to access the skills needed to thrive. These partnerships help us to extend our service further.
One recent example is our TrusteeWorks service becoming an official partner and preferred supplier to the Carers Trust. The Carers Trust Network provides support and services throughout the UK to unpaid carers who look after family and friends.
Their vision is, ‘of a world where the role and contribution of unpaid carers is recognised and they have access to the trusted quality support and services they need to live their own lives.’
Carer’s Trust is now proactively promoting the TrusteeWorks services to its network partners and as a result we are now working with them in areas such as Kent, West Sussex, Hampshire and Oxfordshire.
Andrew Cozens Chair of the Carers Trust said:
“Carer’s Trust is pleased to have developed a partnership with TrusteeWorks to help our network partners source trustees with the expertise they need. This is a particular challenge for local charities and we are confident this will be a big boost.”
As TrusteeWorks manager, I am excited to be working alongside organisations like the Carers Trust to help them strengthen their boards and find the right people who will make an impact.
The next step in our collaboration is to meet Fergus Arkley, the Carers Trust Regional Manager, to review progress and I look forward to developing the partnership over the coming months.
At the start of the New Year, we are pleased to announce that we have a new trustee, Alice Memminger. Alice recently joined our trustee board and brings a wealth of third sector and social enterprise experience, working in the third sector as a consultant and senior manager for the past nine years.
Alice is currently the Chief Executive of UpRising, a UK-wide youth leadership development organisation. She was previously at Sue Ryder, where she worked as Head of Strategic Planning and Programme Delivery, and before that worked at Parkinson’s UK, Hammersmith and Fulham Circle and Age UK Barking and Dagenham.
We asked about what drives her, her thoughts about skilled volunteering and Reach, and what she will bring to the board:
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about being a catalyst for change to make our sector as efficient and effective as possible. By building capacity in organisations we can ensure they have the skills to strategically plan for the long-term and become self-sufficient.
Why did you join Reach?
I became interested in Reach when I was searching for skilled volunteering opportunities years ago. I believe there is untapped potential in the UK with a huge number of skilled people who do not know how to contribute their expertise.
Too often, skilled volunteers are not being engaged to their full potential; whereas the third sector is in urgent need of these skills. I believe that Reach has the ability to bring light to this untapped potential, bringing massive benefit to the charity sector.
What do you think you will bring to the board?
I believe the board will benefit from my diverse experience in the third sector. I have worked with numerous charities across the sector, big and small. I can contribute across all areas of the charity with particular expertise in strategy and social enterprise. I hope to have impact in these areas especially and I am excited about joining the board to help Reach grow and extend its impact.
We are delighted about Alice joining us and the expertise she will bring helping charities access skilled volunteers. The trustees and staff would like to extend her a massive welcome and as we enter 2015, a year we are certain will be very exciting for Reach, we are thrilled to have her on board.
Reach Volunteering has entered 2015 on a strong note following an excellent year in 2014 where it helped place more than 700 skilled volunteers.
It will introduce a new web-based platform which will increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the UK.
The new platform will build an online community where charities and skilled volunteers meet interact, and find their ideal match.
It will also create an increased number of matches and significantly reduce Reach’s transaction costs.
Reach Chief Executive Janet Thorne said:
“Last year’s placements – a 23% increase on the previous year – represent an estimated value of £10 million worth of skills transferred into the charity sector. And each month we registered over 100 new volunteers and over 100 new roles laying the basis for the future flow of placements.
“Demand also grew last year for Reach’s specialist Trusteeworks Matching Service which is free for charities with an annual turnover of less than £1million – with placements of Trustees up by 67%. And we have long-term funding secured enabling us to implement the new platform.
“Charities continually need to fill vacancies in key roles, particularly as Trustees. Reach, as the U.K’s leading skilled volunteering charity has been providing this invaluable and respected service for 35 years and we are looking forward to enhancing this in the years ahead. Our advisors are highly regarded throughout the voluntary sector for their expertise in supporting and guiding volunteers to utilise their skills in the Third Sector and help charities thrive.”
Posted in News
Governance – and good governance in particular – is vital for all charities. Reach was deeply engaged with Trustees’ Week which, as always, was a great opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work of trustees across the UK.
From issues of diversity and finance to strategy and recruitment, we are keenly aware of the many challenges faced by trustees in the difficult role of steering their organisations through a time of uncertainty and, in many cases, austerity.
Having met with countless charities who have demonstrated incredible resilience and innovation, we have been inspired to work with our partners, the Clothworkers’ Company, Prospectus and NPC to design a new and exciting award which recognises great governance in action.
We know that there are a number of governance awards already out there so, rather than create an award which replicates existing ones, we want to create an award which celebrates and showcases some of the inspiring stories that many trustees have to share. We really want to demonstrate, through stories and actions, how good governance in trying times can make all the difference. We also want to develop awards that will be really worthwhile to the award winners.
Of course, we realise that there may not be an appetite in the sector for another award, so we are appealing to you to let us know if this is something that we should proceed with. As such, we would be extremely grateful if you could let us know your thoughts by completing the survey below. It’s only a handful of questions so it’ll only take a minute, I promise!
Thank you for taking the time.
We recently said farewell to Madeleine Boomgaarden, our communications and marketing manager, and welcomed Sarah Tucker, to this vital post. After three years of impressive contributions to the success of Reach, Madeleine is taking a break from the world of work and setting off on a South American journey with her family.
I asked Janet Thorne, CEO of Reach, about Madeleine’s talents and skills that contributed so significantly to the numbers of volunteers and charities that we can help.
“Madeline jump-started our social media,” she said, “which is such a vital, new and growing tool enabling you to reach your audience. She also wrote the most engaging copy about volunteering. She took a story telling approach which was very good at conveying why skilled volunteering is of such invaluable benefit to both charities and volunteers.
“She brought a lot of new volunteers to us by posting volunteer opportunities through a number of new channels, like jobs boards. She linked us to national campaigns like Volunteers Week and Trustees Week.
“We shall miss her warm presence around the office and look forward to having Sarah lead our marketing and communications campaigns.”
I asked Sarah, formerly Fellowship Communications Manager at the RSA, what attracted her to the role at Reach. “I think initially it was the opportunity to mobilise the expertise of people who want to give their time to help the organisations that help local communities,” she said.
“I was staggered to learn that Reach has been going since 1979 and that it helps so many organisations (around 600) each year. I wanted to contribute to trying to increase the number of charities we work with so they can benefit from the services of Reach and increase their impact.
“I am also passionate about volunteering as not only does it open doors to new opportunities but it is a powerful way to further your own personal development. I particularly like that Reach practices what they preach and I look forward to working with our in-house team of marketing volunteers.
“Though Madeleine’s will be large shoes to fill, I am really excited about this opportunity to help Reach be the leading U.K. wide skilled volunteering charity.”
As someone who has been volunteering at Reach for the past nine years (and as this is my first blog) I want to take the opportunity to say why I got involved. With a background in journalism and marketing, and retired, I find it very satisfying to continue to use my skills for a cause I believe in.
It is lots of fun, too, working with the Reach team. I look forward to telling you more about the vital work that Reach does through my forthcoming blogs.
Volunteer Publicity Officer