You may have spotted we re-launched our website in the summer, making it even easier for volunteers and charities to find each other.
It now has a sleek fresh look and lots of swanky new functions, which makes the matching process more efficient than ever.
Here’s seven ways the new website helps to connect charities and volunteers:
With around 63 million of us in the UK, it’s fair to say that there is probably someone somewhere with the skills that your charity is looking for. Reach covers the whole of England, Wales and Scotland, helping non-profits find individuals to volunteer their expertise for specific projects, in an on-going capacity or as a trustee.
The process is simple; sign up, create an advert and search for volunteers. You can be as fussy as you wish. At the end of the day, it’s you who has the best idea of what your organisation needs, so it’s important that you carry out your own volunteer searches selecting the criteria that matters to you.
To start searching for your ideal volunteer, register on our website.
On the flip side, as a volunteer we can help you find the right opportunities to match your interests. We’re all about skills here at Reach, and if you have them it’s pretty likely someone needs them.
By providing us with a brief outline of your experience to date, you can register and begin your search for a role that suits.
It may sound pretty obvious, but a picture can speak a thousand words. An organisation is more likely to strike up a conversation with you if you have one on your profile. Not only does it show them that you’re committed, but it can show your personality as well.
At Reach we’re big fans of a picture. We like to see that you’re a human too, not just another computer entry.
Volunteering is rewarding on many levels. No one person will have the same reason for signing up and that’s what we like about the third sector. It’s dynamic and innovative, encompassing all people with all variety of skills.
Registering with Reach is completely free, all we ask is that you create a small summary about yourself, letting the Reach community know who you are, what you do and what you want from volunteering. Your profile will join the diverse range of others already registered on our website, showing the great breadth of skills and expertise that we have on offer.
To create your own volunteer profile, register here.
We know how important it is to find a person who ‘gets’ your organisation, has the skills to make an impact, and who fits in with your ethos. Conversely as a volunteer, finding an organisation that needs your skill-set, is in a convenient location for you (or where you can work from home) and works in a way which will enable you to shine, are key ingredients to a fulfilling and rewarding role.
That’s why, once you have registered, our website allows you to chat to one another directly. You can discuss experience, expectations and requirements for the role to see if it would work for you. Volunteers can approach a charity via the messaging tool where they can either ‘apply’ or ‘enquire’ about the role. Charities can also ‘suggest an opportunity’ to a volunteer whose profile fits the skills they need. Get chatting and find what works for you.
After all, it’s good to talk!
We’re a charity too and we know how far resources are stretched. That’s why we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to manage your applications through our website.
You’ll get an email notification first telling you that you’ve got a new application which will link you to the conversation pages on our website. There you’ll be able to see who has applied, respond to them and update their application status.
The final great new feature of the website is that you needn’t even worry about carrying out searches for volunteers or opportunities because you can set up a handy email alert that will do it all for you (if you want).
All you have to do is put in the search criteria which relate to you, be it the perfect Treasurer role in Norfolk or that you’re looking for a fantastic Graphic Designer in Ipswich, then hit ‘save the search’. When the right thing comes up we’ll send you an alert to inform you. Easy peasy.
September 5 is the UN’s designated “International Day of Charity.” It is also interestingly enough “Be Late For Something Day,” an unofficial day observed by a US organisation which encourages people to take a break from their busy schedules and “wake up and smell the roses.”
An interesting paradox at first glance – however both ‘days’ encourage people to step off their personal-agenda treadmills and live life in a more outward-looking way.
Considering the state of the world around us, volunteering could have ramifications on all of us, ranging from happier individuals through to large-scale industry and more corporate volunteering programmes and even politics. The importance of volunteering is spread throughout our society. For example, in April this year, Prime Minister David Cameron talked about 3 days of paid volunteering leave for employees working for companies with a workforce of 250 people or more.
So why the 5th of September? If like me, you sometimes suffer from awareness day mystification I’ll explain. International Day of Charity is the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. On December 17, 2012, the UN designated 5th September as the International Day of Charity, which was first celebrated in 2013:
“Charity plays a significant role in the work of the United Nations and its agencies. On this International Day, I call on people everywhere to act on the charitable impulse that resides in every human being — to start giving and to keep on giving.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Charity, 5 September 2014
Quite simply, the International Day of Charity celebrates and raises public awareness of the good work that individuals and charitable organisations do and contribute.
Here at Reach, we believe that one way of encouraging people to make every day an international day of charity is through volunteer work and sharing your professional skills. There are plenty of ways to help, not only those less advantaged than ourselves, but small-scale charities and even larger non-profits that may need a little input in terms of IT, leadership, management, accountancy expertise, trusteeship etc.
Donating your skills and expertise to non-profit organisations increases their capacity and enables them to do a little bit more. Imagine, for example, what it could mean to an organisation if you were an accountant or professional marketeer and give two days a month (or more!) of your time…
At Reach, we have worked with over 10,000 charities supplying them skilled volunteers in order to flourish. For example, we have worked with these particular organisations since our inception in 1979: Abbeyfield, a national charity providing housing for the elderly; SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s’ Families Association) which helps military families and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). We also found volunteers for them this summer – that’s 36 years of working together! We are always looking to work with more charities and help even more fantastic and worthwhile causes.
If you are thinking about sharing your skills, take a look at our website and search the latest opportunities. Charities and non-profits are today looking for a range of expertise from skilled people so what could you contribute?
International Day of Charity encourages a more altruistic way of life, which reminds me of an old school motto “non sibi sed omnibus” (meaning not for oneself but for all). The idea that one should work not just out of personal interest but for the common good is, indeed, a potential game changer.
Happy International Charity Day!
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 to 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.
Reach’s focus on skills-based volunteering means we place highly-skilled volunteers into charities on a daily basis.
We ask about the impact our volunteers are making a few months into their role, but when we heard about the difference one has made nearly a decade after our initial introduction, we knew it was a story worth telling.
I spoke to Alison Butcher, the Founder of Agents of Change about her work and about May, the volunteer who joined in 2006 and the impact she has made.
The charity’s story – Agents of Change
Agents of Change is a small charity working with vulnerable people and those with special needs in Eastern Europe, primarily Romania. Founded by Alison Butcher, following her work after the 1989 Romanian revolution, the organisation empowers people to look after their own health needs through teaching and rehabilitation in the community.
In 2006, Agents of Change desperately needed extra help to do bookkeeping, accounting, auditing, and financial management in order to keep track of their income and spending; their work overseas made this particularly complex. Reach introduced Alison to May, a volunteer with financial and bookkeeping expertise. May has been there ever since – that’s nearly ten years!
Alison said, “May was ideal for our needs. The period after May joined us was such a learning journey for me! May’s auditing background meant she hugely professionalised our financial procedures; we could not have operated at such a high standard without her help.
May has overhauled all our processes ensuring bookkeeping, receipting and audit trails are all in place which massively reduces our risk. She is an absolute joy to work with and very professional.
The longer she was with us, the more we came to appreciate her. This is exactly how volunteering and working with someone should work – we have taught each other so much. The Reach service was fantastic though I never expected May to be with us for nine years. As a small charity with a very practical set-up, her help has been invaluable.”
The volunteer’s story – May
We spoke to May spoke to us about her near decade-long stint at Agents of Change, where she contributed her expertise to help people both in the UK and Romania:
“My experience in auditing meant I had worked in environments with high levels of control; I realised I had valuable transferable skills which could benefit a UK charity.
One of my initial challenges at Agents of Change was to teach Alison the financial processes needed to ensure best practice in the organisation. She had been doing everything on her own up to that point; I had to be very patient as we had lots to put in place. I set up a number of audit and trail systems to make the organisation more efficient.
Every transaction now has proper accountability. Alison can also implement what she has learnt when she is in Romania which means she can manage her relationships there more effectively.
Volunteering at Agents of Change meant I gained exposure to Romanian accounting procedures as well as conversion rates. As I developed professionally, I was able to benchmark how effective I was professionally, which greatly improved my confidence.
I love both teaching people and finance/auditing and was able to use both skill sets at Agents of Change. I have so enjoyed my nine years here and because of this the time has flown by!
It’s fantastic to hear about a partnership like May and Alison’s work so successfully for so long and for the charity to be doing such valuable work in Romania. However all good things must come to an end as May is emigrating, so Alison is again looking for a volunteer with financial skills to help at Agents of Change.
If you have financial background and want to share you skills (or know someone who does!) please let us know and we’ll put you in touch. Alternatively contact Alison directly to find out more about the role.
The Army of Angels is a military charity that supports members of the UK’s armed forces who have been physically or mentally injured while serving their country in conflicts around the world. New Reach trustee Andrew McCartney has made a big impact on its board in a very short time.
The charity, based in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, supports all services and ranks and includes veterans of wars in Europe, the Far East, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the Gulf. Many of the men and women have mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder or physical ones such as amputations.
Reach introduced business-experienced trustee Andrew to the charity just six months ago. Working at Gloucestershire Council, he’s gathered lots of contacts and has been able to introduce them to the work of the charity. One of the most important of these has been Gloucestershire’s Rotary Club.
The charity’s co-founder, Cathy Skelnar, says, ‘After Andrew made this important connection for us, our colleague Steve Valentine gave them a short presentation about our work and they are now fundraising for us. They’ve also named Army of Angels as one of their charities of the year. A fantastic result for us.’
Andrew also helped the launch of the charity’s new shop, which opened this year, go with a bang. He arranged the attendance of Gloucester Quays Rotary President, Paul Kerrod, and for local MP Richard Graham to cut the ribbon. The shop is already a useful source of income and is set to develop even further with Andrew’s ideas and savvy business sense.
It’s the behind-the-scenes work of trustees like Andrew which enables established projects like the Route 66 bike tours to continue. The charity has just helped 10 wounded ex-servicemen and women to take part in this global motorcycle trip. Sometimes riding pillion, their involvement often increases self-esteem dented following physical and mental trauma.
On a practical day-to-day level, the injured also regularly express their gratitude for grants to buy basic living help such as a microwave, kettle or furniture. One soldier ‘couldn’t express’ how grateful he was for his mobility scooter grant, giving him the chance to leave this flat after months stuck inside.
During Trustees’ Week and beyond, we celebrate the contribution of our volunteers like Andrew who are the backbone of charities such as Army of Angels. The unseen but guiding hand through challenging times and the creative spark for sustainable development.
When Reach asked Steph Senior to consider taking on the role of Development Funding Manager for the Kent MS Therapy Centre (artist’s impression pictured above) in Canterbury she admits that her initial reaction was not positive.
‘I’m certainly no ‘fundraiser’ in the traditional sense of the word,’ explains Steph. ‘For example, I’ve never organised an event in my life. But when I went to the interview for the development funding manager role, it soon became clear my concerns were unfounded.
‘What the Kent MS Therapy Centre needed was someone to help them approach trusts and charitable foundations. And the skills I have gained during 34 years in business are proving highly relevant to the job.’
Oxygen therapy patients Steph, a biochemist by training, has recently retired from a career in the medical diagnostics and chemical industries, where she held posts covering product development, marketing, sales and general management. In her new voluntary role, she is tackling the task of helping the MS Therapy Centre raise £1million to replace its ageing buildings. And she’s finding that her business skills are highly relevant to the task.
‘Bidding for funds has played a big role in my business career,’ says Steph. ‘Whether it’s tendering for research and development grants from the EU or applying for project funding to the board of a company, the basic skills involved are very similar. And it’s these same skills which I am now putting to work for the Therapy Centre.’
One of Steph’s first tasks has been to get the organisation to produce a full business plan and come up with detailed estimated costs for the proposed new building. She has also been helping management define and articulate its strategy.
‘We are adopting a classic business approach to the massive financial task we are facing, and I am pleased to see how valuable my business experience is proving to be for such a good cause,’ adds Steph. ‘I would never have believed that my professional background would prove to be so useful, or that my skills would be so easily transferable. Quite simply, I’ve come to realise that fundraising is not what I thought it was.’
If you asked most fundraisers what their main priority is, the answer is more than likely to involve securing some sort of cash donation. But a growing number of voluntary organisations are realising the value of ‘in kind’ donations such as free office space, discounted venues for events or used computers. It has been estimated that these sorts of donations were worth more than £11 million to the voluntary sector, helping organisations maintain services in the face of funding cuts.
Now, Reach is collaborating with a charity called In Kind Direct to make more organisations aware of the value of this different type of giving.
It could be toys needed to run a nursery, toiletries for residents of a women’s refuge or stationery for a charity’s head office. Whatever the product, In Kind Direct provides goods to enable voluntary organisations run their operations and provide their services. All the products sourced by In Kind Direct are supplied by UK manufacturers and retailers. They are new products that are often end of lines, in damaged packaging or customer returns. And they are made available to In Kind Direct’s network of charities by an online catalogue.
All that charities pay when ordering goods is a handling charge, which generally equates to between 10 to 30% of the normal retail price. This contributes to In Kind Direct’s costs, enabling them to source more goods and help even more charities. As a registered charity itself, In Kind Direct understands the importance of making budgets go further and aims to help organisations achieve that goal.
BME Concern in Nigeria handing out Mothercare baby clothes sourced by In Kind Direct’BME Concern, a charity that supports disadvantaged communities in the UK and in Africa, has been part of In Kind Direct’s charity network since 2005. It reckons that, as a result, it has saved well over £100,000.
Anne Phillips, the charity’s founder, says: ‘Fundraising is getting so much more difficult and we wouldn’t be able to offer the services we do if it wasn’t for In Kind Direct. They have saved us so much money – cutting our costs by around 90%.’
And the benefits for charities do not stop there. Organisations can also use the difference between the handling charge and the retail value of the goods as ‘matched funding’ when applying for grants. This enables them to access pots of funding they might not otherwise have been able to obtain.
Dumfries Welfare Rights received lottery funding after demonstrating that they can make their funds go further through using In Kind Direct. Programme Coordinator, Fiona Buckley, explains: ‘The people we support are living in temporary accommodation, either because they have recently been released from prison or because they are living in a refuge after leaving domestic abuse situations. They have little or no money and cannot afford the very basic items they need, such as toothpaste and washing-up liquid. The starter packs, which we manage to make up through the goods we get from In Kind Direct, help us in our outreach work to break down the barriers people often put up.’
To order products from In Kind Direct, charities must first register online to join the In Kind Direct charity network. To register for free, visit www.inkinddirect.org
A survey of 570 voluntary organisations throughout the UK has highlighted the most significant challenges they are facing and the skills they need to meet them. The research, carried out by Reach Volunteering, identifies three priority areas in which the sector is short on skills: income generation, strategic decision-making and trustee boards. Now, charities are being challenged to think more creatively about using skilled volunteers to plug a potentially damaging skills gap. And Reach is developing initiatives to support them.
In the current tough economic climate, it is perhaps not surprising that funding the future is rated as far and away the most critical issue facing the sector.
Among the hundreds of organisations that responded to Reach’s survey, more than three-quarters said they regarded funding as critical, with close to 20% more identifying it as a priority. It is also the area where the sector’s biggest skills gap is focussed, with more than three out of five organisations reporting that they need additional skills to meet the challenge of income generation.
Sarah King, Reach’s Chief Executive, comments:
‘There’s a huge demand for skilled volunteers who can work on income generation among the organisations we support. Our survey provides firm evidence of the breadth and seriousness of this skills gap.
‘We are going to encourage more volunteers to consider applying their highly transferable business skills to a range of disciplines that can help the voluntary sector address its funding challenges.
‘At the same time, we’ll be working with charities to help them broaden their thinking beyond traditional notions of fundraising. We’ll also help them to better define interesting and challenging income generation roles which will appeal to skilled volunteers.’
Trustee boards are another area where voluntary organisations are facing a significant skills gap. More than half of the organisations in Reach’s survey said they needed to recruit more skilled trustees to meet the challenges they face.
A third key area of skills shortage highlighted by the survey concerns strategic decision-making and implementation: 86% of organisations identified change management as a major priority and 68% reported that they were facing difficult decisions about where to direct resources. Around one in three said they needed additional skills to equip them to deal effectively with these challenges.
Armed with more detailed information about the sector’s skill requirements, Reach is now developing initiatives to target them. New efforts will go into identifying and recruiting volunteers with skills in finance, business and strategic planning, research and change management. Efforts will also be made to respond to the need for volunteers who can help organisations move from decisions and ideas to implementation; ‘doers’ who can put plans into action.
Reach has already established a specialism in recruiting skilled trustees. It now plans to further develop its TrusteeWorks service to increase the access that charities have to its specialist support.
‘We’ve got the skilled help that charities need and we want them to come and get it!’, says Sarah. ‘Thousands of people with valuable career skills are prepared to volunteer their time and expertise. Sadly, too often charities are’t taking up the offer because they don’t recognise how relevant that experience is or that it’s available. I want to challenge and support charities to think more broadly about the skills they need and the people that have them.’
However, although the skills gap is large, it can be bridged extremely cost-effectively. ‘We estimate that the value of the skills needed in the three priority areas is £25m,’ adds Sarah. ‘But, for just £500 donated to us, we can provide a volunteer who will be worth £14,000 a year for their charity.’
If you’re a company, professional body or other ‘skills champion’ who can help Reach bridge priority skills gaps with expertise and funding please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What are the skills that are needed to meet the funding challenges and opportunities ahead? That is the key question that Richard Gutch believes voluntary organisations must address in order to survive and thrive. In the wake of Reach research highlighting the skills gap in income generation, he provides some pointers to the type of skills that the third sector needs to harness.
Broadly speaking, modern charities have four major potential sources of income: fundraising, public service delivery, trading and enterprise, and finance and investment. I would suggest that every organisation has the potential to exploit at least one of these areas more effectively than they are doing at present and take their income generation efforts to another level.
What often holds them back from doing this is a lack of confidence, capability or capacity … or a combination of all three. As Reach’s recent survey has shown, the skills necessary to take advantage of new funding opportunities are all too often in short supply, especially among smaller organisations.
Reach has seen a steady growth in the number of charities crying out for more hands-on fundraising support.
There are certainly potential volunteers out there with skills that are directly transferable to the business of planning and making the ask. For example, a corporate client account manager might make a great corporate fundraising advisor.
But, with charitable donors becoming ever more sophisticated, there are fundamental issues that must be addressed in order to underpin the fundraising effort. These entail enlisting a broad range of business skills to drive income generation forward. Fortunately, these skills are highly transferable. And I would suggest that many voluntary organisations could access them by enlisting the support of volunteers with the right kind of professional backgrounds. For example:
Any foray into developing new income streams will need to involve trustees, which is why it is important that organisations ensure their boards are equipped with the skills to make complex strategic decisions. For example, collaborative working with private and public sector providers is becoming more common, especially when tendering for large contracts. Recruiting highly skilled volunteers on to the board with commercial experience of negotiating joint ventures or strategic business partnerships is one way to ensure that such challenges are tackled effectively.
I am firmly convinced that there is a world of new opportunities out there for the voluntary sector when it comes to income generation. But an organisation’s ability to flourish will depend on its ability to access essential skills every bit as much as the quality of the frontline services it provides.
Richard is an associate at not-for-profit recruitment specialists Prospectus, Secretary of the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Funding Commission and a former Chair of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.