July 21st, 2014 by Madeleine Boomgaarden

We will soon be launching a ‘match.com’ for skilled volunteering – a new web-based service which will dramatically increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the UK. It is due to launch in summer 2015. Here’s an update on the project.

The background
The new service will be an online hub connecting charities with talented professionals who want to donate their skills. The service will offer charities access to a pool of motivated skilled volunteers, and give them more effective ways of finding and recruiting the right person. Volunteers will find lots of help to discover the right opportunity, as well as exciting new ways to offer their talents.

We are basing the design of the new service on our experience of brokering skilled volunteering, specially commissioned research and our user testing.

We won a Cabinet Office-funded Nesta Innovation in Giving Fund award, and, together with a grant from the Dulverton Trust, we have secured sufficient funds to contract a digital agency to build the site.

Drawing on the skills of our (internal) volunteers and staff, and with additional pro bono expertise where needed (including IBM), we have just passed the prototype stage and are now moving into the final build phase.

Between now and go-live (and, no doubt, several weeks past that date!), we will be enlisting the help of you, the volunteers and charities who use our services, to help iron out any glitches and ensure the platform meets the needs of all our users throughout the UK.

We’d like to thank everyone who has shared their time and talents to help us reach this point in this really exciting project.


Now let’s talk detail


Your knowledge centre
When you log on to our new platform in the autumn, one of the most useful changes, for charities and volunteers alike, will be our new knowledge centre. In this wide-ranging section of the website, you’ll find detailed information on all aspects of recruiting and becoming a volunteer or trustee and how Reach will support you in that process. Just some of the topics include legal issues, volunteer interview questions, board roles and responsibilities, choosing the right role or volunteer and success stories. With your help, it will build into the comprehensive tool kit for the skilled volunteering community.

Your own personal dashboard
Volunteers and charities will be able to manage all their applications and correspondence from one ‘dashboard’. You’ll be able to receive advice and help throughout the entire process, for example, on identifying your transferable skills, how to gracefully reject a role or becoming a trustee (if you’re a volunteer). If you’re a charity, you’ll be able to manage all your roles and applications from one dashboard, referencing previous role descriptions, sharing recruitment tasks with colleagues and being reminded to respond to any outstanding applications.

Searching for what you need
We’ve got a great new search tool which is much more efficient and flexible than our old one. If you’re a charity, you’ll be able to actively search for volunteers so you can see the kind of skills on offer before scoping out your role. As a volunteer, you’ll be able to be as precise or broad as you like when searching for the perfect role.

Talking to each other
Volunteers can ask direct questions of charities, to clarify what a charity is looking for or explore if there is some flexibility in how it is done. In turn, charities can contact volunteers to ask if they are interested in a role.

More roles and volunteers = more choice
For volunteers, with the increased scale that the new platform brings, there will be more opportunities to choose from as well as a broader range of projects and roles. We hope it will draw in people who could not volunteer easily before as well as charities who hadn’t previously considered recruiting for a skilled volunteering role.

Rest assured that we will carry on vetting and advising charity registrations as usual to make sure that only well-defined, skilled opportunities are listed on the new platform. The platform will increase the number and quality of volunteers available through Reach so there will literally be more to choose from.

If you’re a charity, you’ll have a higher chance of finding a volunteer who is local (or prepared to work virtually), with the right skills and sufficient time, who cares about your cause.

Your charity will be able to secure a wider range of donated expertise. As well as regular ongoing roles and trustees, you’ll be able to find volunteers for short-term projects or receive advice on recruitment issues through the new volunteer advisory panel.

Great one-to-one advice
Our new Reach advisors’ panel will give one-off advice to charities about their recruitment and skills gaps and to volunteers about finding the right role. They’re experts on all things skilled volunteering.

New community agreement
Both charities and volunteers will agree how all users will behave on the website. They 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.

Over the coming weeks, we will be contacting every volunteer and charity on our database to ask your help in helping us create something that will benefit every charity and skilled volunteer in the country. At this point, there are some simple things to update as we move towards the new website. The platform is still in development but we hope that with your help, it will deliver really crucial expertise to charities like yours, when you need it rather than when you can afford it.

Because the site is based on self-service and proactive behaviour, we believe it will be possible to achieve a much greater transfer of talent to the sector than has ever been possible before.

Madeleine was Reach’s Marketing Manager until August 2014

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Spark of creativity
October 30th, 2013 by Janet Thorne

We were very pleased to be invited to participate in the Parliamentary Inquiry on Growing Giving held yesterday, chaired by the Rt Hon Mr David Blunkett MP, which explored how to increase the giving of time and money across all generations, with a particular focus on how older people can ‘give the gift of giving’ to younger generations.

This is a subject close to our hearts: older people are a crucial asset for us.

Not only do they have a lifetime of skills and experience to give, but they have more time and are less likely to leave due to change in circumstances. In fact, of all the people who register with Reach, the over 60s are almost twice as likely to actually take on a role with a charity. And if they are pouring their time and talents into volunteering for a cause they care about, they are bound to be talking about this with family members. What better way to sell giving across the generational divide?

I was very encouraged that volunteering, and in particular, skills-based volunteering, was given some real air time. And, for once, the debate did not just centre on the supply side (“How do we get more people to volunteer?”).

There was recognition that charities must be more creative in their ‘ask’ and need support and encouragement to invest more time and thought in how to engage with volunteers more effectively.

There was general agreement that volunteering must shake off its ‘worthy’ image by adopting what Dr Suzanne Richards, in the presentation of her research, termed a ‘social marketing’ approach – all music to our ears! I have never been to a parliamentary inquiry before so was unsure what I was in for.

I enjoyed the unexpected frankness (the acknowledgement that some charities risk being run in the interests of their volunteers rather than their beneficiaries) and the animated discussion about living legacies. Who would have thought they would be so inflammatory?

Here’s Third Sector’s take on my comments. I look forward to seeing the final write-up and recommendations.

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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Scrabble tiles spelling wonderful
June 5th, 2013 by Janet Thorne

‘That’s very ….. worthy’ was the polite response by someone I met recently, who had asked me what Reach does. I swallowed my indignation long enough to hear how he was sure it was all a good thing, but that the problem with volunteers was that they never really did anything of substance.

This image of the ‘worthy’ volunteer, and all the associations which come with it –  fusty, dutiful, conventional and ineffectual – is widely held. Yet, in my experience, volunteers are usually quite the opposite – independent minded, sometimes unpredictable and usually very productive. Volunteers’ Week seems a good opportunity to overturn the  stereotype and celebrate how volunteers bring something quite different to party.

As a group volunteers are a mixed bunch – just like employees – with motivations, backgrounds and aspirations are as numerous as  the volunteers themselves. But there is one (very obvious) thing that they have in common: they all choose to donate their time and talents for free. This creates a unique dynamic. In a world where almost everything is mediated by the market, volunteering runs against the status quo. As Michael Sandel said recently, “In a market-driven society like ours, work that is not rewarded with money tends to be undervalued and unappreciated”.  Volunteers subvert this by choosing to give their expertise freely, irrespective of market price, seeking a return based on their own individual and independent values.

Sadly not all charities who engage volunteers manage the same revolutionary thinking. A recent example that struck me was where volunteers frequently turned up to find insufficient desks, and to spend hours on inefficient administrative tasks. This charity would undoubtedly have automated these jobs if it was their paid staff doing the work, but because there is no direct financial cost associated with this wastage the charity didn’t feel the same sense of  urgency in solving the problems.

Its easy to see how it happens, but if you step back for a moment and consider that this is effectively a charity not valuing its volunteers because their time has no financial value, then it looks very wrong.

Liberated from the financial contract that comes with a salary people  choose to engage for far more personal, individual reasons.  This is very evident at Reach itself.  Working in an office where volunteers outnumber staff by more than 4 to 1 creates an unconventional working environment. There is a more human feel to the office – no-one feels impelled to present a bland work persona. The atmosphere is purposeful and there is certainly no clock-watching given that a bored volunteer can just leave.

What there is is an unusual frankness.

Volunteers feel free to say what they really think, or let loose a little eccentricity. Not constrained by considerations of career or paying the mortage, they have been at the forefront of challenging decisions, giving senior management a grilling, or giving more time or expertise to get us out of a difficult place. This is not just the long standing volunteers – the consultants who have delivered the most for Reach have all done it pro-bono.

Maybe it’s because there are no other issues to complicate the agenda such as the need to demonstrate their value for money. It’s just about their interest in the project, and the difference they can make. This Volunteers’ Week the emphasis is on celebrating volunteers’ contribution and thanking them. The best way of thanking volunteers is by valuing their work properly.

To illustrate my point, I recently bumped into a couple of volunteers who I had worked with some 14  years ago, to set up a credit union. My involvement was both fleeting and paid. More than a decade later, these volunteers had made over £4m of loans in one of the poorest parts of London. They are the last people to blow their own trumpets, but these are the people who really make a difference. Setting up and running a mutually owned, community-managed financial institution in one of the largest social housing estates in Europe.

Worthy? Or subversive?

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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Small Charity Week Team
May 14th, 2013 by Guest Contributor

Conchita from The FSI guest blogs in the run-up to 2013’s Small Charity Week.

Recent research by the FSI into the skills gaps within the small charity sector has shown that charitable organisations with an annual turnover under £1.5 million continue to struggle in key areas which impacts on their ability to deliver services.

The full report shows that as small charities prioritise the use of funding to deliver frontline programmes, they are increasingly unable to train or develop staff and volunteers. 66% of respondents stated there was no funding available for training and development, while 37% said there would be no room to improve their charitable services, which could impair the quality delivered to beneficiaries.

Small charities reported that impact reporting, long-term strategic planning and marketing were the areas in which they were struggling to plug this skills gap in their organisation. To see the full report, please click here.

Small Charity Week 2013 will be taking place between the 17th-22nd June and aims to address some of the issues raised by small charities as areas in which they struggle. Small charities can sign up to six days of free initiatives and competitions, including cash prizes, pro-bono advice and guidance from third sector and business experts including, the FSI, Reach, Oxfam and Credit Suisse to name a few. Also available will be opportunities for small charities to engage with policy makers and influencers when Nick Hurd, Minister of Civil Society hosts a cross-party event at Westminster on Policy Day.

Small charities have told us they continue to rely heavily on volunteers to support their activity and for the first time the FSI are including a Volunteering Day into the week’s programme to help small charities to promote their volunteer opportunities and find the skills they need for their organisation. We are excited to be working alongside Reach to support charities on this day.

The full breakdown for the week is as follows:

  • I Love Small Charities Day – 17 June: Three competitions to win funds for your charity
  • Big Advice Day – 18 June: Pro-bono advice on any charity topic of your choosing will be available from experts across the sector and business leaders either face to face or via phone or Skype
  • Policy Day – 19 June: Local and national events will be held to support engagement between small charities and policy makers and influencers
  • Volunteering Day – 20 June: Showcase your small charity volunteering opportunities and register for free events including a Media Trust speed-matching event.
  • Fundraising Day – 21 June: Take part in a number of competitions and initiatives to raise vital funds for your small charity for FREE, including the chance to win a share of £1,000 from the Vodafone Foundation, to raise funds from eBay users during Small Charity Week or receive your quiz toolkit to run your own community event.
  • Celebration Day – 22 June: Book your free charity stand to engage with the public at a mini festival held in central London, or why not run your own event to celebrate your amazing work.

Small charities can sign up to all of the free activities of Small Charity Week through the website smallcharityweek.com and follow news through twitter @SCWeek2013 or the Facebook page

Conchita Garcia is Head of Projects and Development at The FSI. Here she blogs in a personal capacity.

Guest contributors are invited by Reach to give their own take on issues related to skilled volunteering and trusteeship. We hope you enjoy their articles.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer and may not reflect those of Reach.

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Beacon Counselling
May 2nd, 2013 by Jeanne Davis

Beacon Counselling, a charity that helps people affected by mental or emotional distress in the North West, was keen to improve the way they wrote and targeted funding bid approaches.

They saw an advertisement about Reach’s services and very quickly we helped them to recruit volunteer Alan Smith who has dramatically raised their fundraising game.

James Harper, the charity’s general manager says:

“Alan’s input has transformed our service. As a result of his input, we have a much more strategic approach with most of our funding bids now successful when before it was very much hit or miss. We are now helping more than a thousand people a year – up four fold from 2008 – and have obtained more contracts with the NHS and local authorities in Lancashire and Cheshire. He played a very big part in helping us to win the coveted GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Award in 2012, beating 351 other applicants.”

Reach volunteer Alan retired a few years ago from a successful and busy career in engineering and as a company director.

He says:

“I was looking to use my business skills in a positive way when I saw an advertisement about Reach. Their staff were very helpful and efficient in researching where I could help and quickly put me in touch with Beacon Counselling – since when we have never looked back!”

A retired writer, Jeanne is Reach’s Volunteer Publicity Officer. You can read more about Jeanne in her series on the Laterlife website.

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Using a computer
January 22nd, 2013 by Reach

As many as four in ten charities lack in-house IT support, either paid or voluntary, according to a recent report.

With more than half of the 140 organisations polled cited cost as the main barrier to recruiting IT help, maybe Reach can help.

If you’re currently one of those charities that needs practical IT support, help with setting up and running your online services or assessing your systems, why not ask a Reach volunteer?

We have wonderfully talented IT professionals with at least three years’ experience who are committed to helping a charity like yours through any computing challenge! It’s a totally free service.

Simply register your role with us and let us do all the hard work. Or if you’re someone with an IT background who would like to volunteer their experience, please make yourself known!

Reach Volunteering: connecting people, skills and good causes.

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Man working at a laptop
November 5th, 2012 by Madeleine Boomgaarden

Reach Volunteering is developing a new web-based platform which will dramatically increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the UK by building an online community where charities and volunteers will meet, interact, and find their ideal match.

The platform – provisionally called iReach – will be developed over the next three years following Reach’s successful application for an Innovation in Giving Fund (IIGF) grant of up to £50,000.

Over the coming years the grant will help the platform to be developed, tested and brought to operational readiness using the skills of volunteers and staff supplemented with additional expertise where it is needed.

Reach Chief Executive Janet Thorne said:

“We are very pleased to have received IIGF support and are excited about implementing the new platform. Our research with charities and skilled volunteers has shown that only a fraction of the skills-based volunteering that could happen actually does so – currently, 60% of charities need professionally skilled volunteers and 48% have a board vacancy.

“There is a strong need for an online platform which allows charities and volunteers the independence to flexibly recruit and volunteer, encourages dialogue and enables them to find each other in different ways. At the end of its third year, iReach will have enabled 10,000 volunteering opportunities, helping thousands of charities across the UK fill their skills gaps.

“Charities will discover a pool of motivated, skilled volunteers, more effective and flexible ways of recruiting the right person and support and inspiration to increase the impact of skills-based volunteering on their charity. Volunteers will find loads of help to find the right opportunity as well as a radical increase in the range of ways they can offer their talents.”

Madeleine was Reach’s Marketing Manager until August 2014

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Registration form
February 20th, 2012 by Janet Thorne

Well, that is what quite a few charities have said to me in a moment of frankness, but it’s not a point of view you often hear in the public discourse about volunteering.

The Big Society, the Giving White Paper, RockCorps etc all focus on getting  more people to volunteer through initiatives  such as rewards for volunteering, micro volunteering, employee volunteering, as though drumming up an army of volunteers is a solution in itself.

However, as anyone who has either worked with volunteers, or been one themselves, knows, it’s not quite as simple as that. Many people have had a negative experience of volunteering – a project jeopardised by an unreliable volunteer perhaps, or conversely, the frustration of waiting around feeling  under-utilised.

It’s not that charities don’t need more volunteers – for example almost half all charities have at least one vacancy on their board (and that vacancy means not only a role unfilled but pressure on remaining board members) and over 50% of charities we surveyed struggle to access the skills they need. And it’s not that volunteers can’t do wonderful things – many charities could not survive a day without them.

At Reach we are inspired on a daily basis by what volunteers do for charities, including our own where they do everything from service delivery, IT maintenance and software development through to market research, communications strategies, and much, much more.

The problem is that recruiting, training and managing volunteers requires a big investment of time, an investment which can outweigh the benefits a volunteer might  bring. The stakes are even higher in skills based volunteering where there is a greater initial investment (identifying requirements, shaping them into a viable volunteering role, and then attracting and selecting the person with the right skills, availability, motivation and location) and also greater benefits (increased capacity, an injection of valuable skills and expertise, a fresh perspective drawn from experience in other sectors, to name but a few).

It can be tricky to get it right (it can be so difficult to turn down that kind offer of help, even when you know deep down that you should…) and if you get just one part wrong, and sometimes even when you do it all right, you can find yourself having to re-recruit whilst covering for the absence of a key volunteer. So many charities conclude that it’s just not worth the bother.

What the sector needs is a more balanced approach to volunteering,  one which broadens the focus from increasing the supply of volunteers to stimulating demand and raising the quality of volunteering – helping and inspiring charities to identify which roles volunteers could effectively play in their organisations and more flexible and effective ways of recruiting those volunteers. Most volunteers are still recruited by word of mouth, for example, a system that might work well for some charities blessed with good networks, but does nothing for the less well connected -or for diversity.

We have fantastic volunteers on our own register, languishing for want of being asked, and it seems a crying shame to see such great potential going to waste, but until there is more focus on supporting charities to engage volunteers better, and more investment in matching supply and demand better through more flexible and effective recruitment tools, volunteering will not fulfil its potential.

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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Don Hunter
February 2nd, 2012 by Guest Contributor

As a company director with executive responsibility for the human capital of a multi-national organisation, I was well attuned to dealing, among other matters, with senior-level recruitment across five continents.

This globe-trotting role had been my ‘life’ for many years. Therefore, as I approached ‘retirement’ and relocation to Surrey, I was rather apprehensive about how I would fruitfully use the time that was to suddenly become available to me.

After making enquiries with a number of professional contacts, I was advised to contact Reach – a not-for-profit organisation focused on matching skilled and highly experienced executives with charities and trusts who had a recognised need for their particular skills. After acting on this advice, I was delighted when Reach suggested that I consider a role with them – as an executive recruiter in the not-for-profit sector.

To my great relief, my current role and responsibilities have proven to be hugely satisfying, both personally and professionally. On one hand Reach is providing a valuable service to its broad client base across the UK, on the other, the skilled volunteers are inspirational to work with.

My current project is the recruitment of experienced and inspirational business mentors for the Crossroads Care Association (CAA) – an organisation which provides support for carers in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. CCA is undergoing a major revision of its service delivery model and is looking to the broad business community for strategic thinkers who have a clear understanding of the service-delivery environment and a hands-on approach to management. I am anticipating strong interest from executives in business and government in this challenging, short-term role. Take a look at the business mentor role here.

Don Hunter is a Volunteer Placement Adviser with Reach. He blogs in a personal capacity.

Guest contributors are invited by Reach to give their own take on issues related to skilled volunteering and trusteeship. We hope you enjoy their articles.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer and may not reflect those of Reach.

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The Young Foundation/Age UK Lambeth
November 9th, 2011 by Guest Contributor

The Young Foundation and Age UK Lambeth have teamed up to provide innovative self-help, peer-support groups for people 65 years and over in Lambeth.

The ‘Full of Life’ project aims to enhance important life skills and increase the wellbeing of older residents so that they feel more able to deal with day to day challenges in their lives.

The groups will meet weekly for eight weeks, starting in November, and will cover topics such a coping with change; identifying personal strengths; strategies to increase mood and wellbeing; and understanding how thoughts and beliefs impact on mood and behaviour.

We are looking for individuals or groups who would benefit from attending/holding the meetings.

Perhaps you have friends or service users who would gain from participating in a group, or a group that could really gain from the emotional resilience skills training.

We would like as many people to benefit from this exciting project so please spread the word to anyone who it may be helpful to.

Nina Mguni is from the The Young Foundation

  • For more information and to register interest in attending please email Nina or phone her on 020 8821 2844.
  • You can find out more about the project on the website.
Guest contributors are invited by Reach to give their own take on issues related to skilled volunteering and trusteeship. We hope you enjoy their articles.

Opinions expressed are those of the writer and may not reflect those of Reach.

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