Small Charity Week 2016 logo
May 24th, 2016 by Lucia das Neves

In partnership with the FSI during Small Charity Week, we are offering small charities a special one-off telephone Advisory Panel on Friday 17 June, Volunteering Day.

What advice can we offer?

  • – Scoping and designing skilled volunteer roles that will have the most impact.
  • – Presenting your roles in the most attractive way to recruit the right volunteers.
  • – How to support volunteers so they can make a real difference to your organisation.

The Advisory Panel is made up of skilled volunteers who are part of our Service Team.

Consultations usually last 15 minutes.

Book your session

To book a phone consultation on Friday 17 June, please email theodora.panagi@reachskills.org.uk putting ‘Small Charity Week phone advice’ in the subject line.

Please include some information that will help us prepare for your session:

  • – a short description of your advice needs
  • – a brief description of your organisation
  • – any preferences for the time of day for your session.

This will allow your advisor to prepare and provide you with the best possible information.

We will then contact you confirming a consultation time. We will try to accommodate your preferences, but it may not be possible due to demand.

You can also call us to book an appointment on 020 7582 6543.

Further information

Many of the topics covered by our Advisory Panel can also be found in our Knowledge Centre, our online resource with hints, tips and advice about skilled volunteering.

Please contact us if you have any questions, we look forward to talking to you on Volunteering Day.

Lucia is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Reach Volunteering.

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People in a meeting
November 4th, 2015 by Luke Strachan

The importance of etiquette and best practice in the recruitment of volunteers has been a long overlooked feature of volunteering, despite its importance, not only to the individual volunteers and charities but to the sector at large. As a specialist in trustee and volunteer recruitment, etiquette is an issue I see often and it is one which I believe has a bigger impact on the spirit of volunteerism than many might suspect.

I’m sure that most people would agree that volunteers are the lifeblood of the charity sector and that without them the majority of charities would flounder or run aground completely. Why is it then that every week my colleagues and I find ourselves consoling extremely capable and highly-experienced, prospective volunteers following a negative experience regarding a volunteer recruitment process?

The most common cause of disgruntlement among many aspiring volunteers stems from a simple lack of communication: a volunteer has applied for a role and simply never heard back. Often the case is slightly more personal however. For example, I have spoken to many volunteers who have been acknowledged by the recruiting organisation, who have discussed the role on the phone and, in many cases, have even been interviewed for the role. Imagine then, after this investment of time and energy, how a prospective volunteer might feel if they were simply forgotten about?

The knock-on effects of poor communication with applicants to a voluntary role are further-reaching than you might think. At best, the charity sector’s competence has been undermined and the organisation concerned suffers negatively as a result of word-of-mouth interactions within the volunteer community. At worst, the sector at large may have lost a valuable asset: someone who desires to contribute their free time and energy to a good cause has been irrevocably dissuaded from volunteering.

As an intermediary between volunteers and charities, we at Reach are often on the front line of such grievances and are left apologising on behalf of charities for having been left hanging by an organisation they were excited to contribute to. This is a sad state of affairs, particularly when you consider that many volunteers are reaching out to the sector in the hope of contributing their valuable spare time in aid of a cause they genuinely care about.

Many such people who have been treated with indifference or left in the cold during a volunteer recruitment process feel jaded, their good intentions and willingness to offer their time and expertise having been spurned. In many cases, not only has their confidence in the organisation concerned been shaken but their faith in the charity sector at large has been undermined and, in many cases, their appetite to volunteer is significantly diminished or gone altogether. It’s completely understandable. It is also completely avoidable.

Communication is nine-tenths of the law in any recruitment process and this is no less the case when it comes to volunteers. Whether you’re working toward appointing new trustees, skilled professionals to bolster your organisation’s infrastructure or you’re looking for the next Great British Bake-Off finalist to raise some valuable funds, the need for clear communication and an acknowledgment of the volunteers’ generous offer to help is not just essential, it’s good manners.

Bearing this in mind, it’s worth considering a few easy steps any organisation can take to ensure that their recruitment process is as considerate and empathetic as the volunteers who are offering their expertise and time:

  1. Acknowledge every application: all this takes is a standard email template which can be sent out to all applicants. This should thank the volunteer for their interest in the opportunity and inform them of the time-frame to which the recruitment process is working. It should also give them an indication of when they are likely to hear back from the organisation. Often, volunteers won’t mind waiting awhile as long as they know when they can expect to hear back.
  2. Update all applicants regarding short-listing: once you have chosen a number of applicants who you would like to take forward you will undoubtedly let them know, however, don’t forget those that were not successful. Again, a brief and grateful email acknowledging their offer of support is a gracious way of wrapping up loose ends as well as retaining the interest of those you would like to interview.
  3. Post Interview/meeting correspondence: Once a volunteer has visited your premises or spent some time on the phone with the recruiting parties, make sure you follow up with a “Thank You” and let them know your decision in a timely fashion. This also helps keep the door open should you require the future support of a candidate who was not successful but ultimately a good connection and potentially an asset to the organisation in a different capacity.

It’s worth remembering that the sector relies of the good will, passion, expertise and experience of our volunteers and, as fellow charities, it’s essential that we consider the bigger picture when it comes to the gracious and grateful handling of those people who make our work possible. By fostering positive interactions with prospective volunteers, we enable their transition to other charities in the future and reinforce the positive spirit of volunteerism across the entire sector.

Volunteering is itself the perfect metaphor for this approach as it embodies that essence of good will that underpins the invaluable work that the sector contributes, reminding us that we are indeed all in it together.

For more guidance around working with volunteers, visit our new Knowledge Centre.

Luke heads up Reach’s TrusteeWorks team

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Resource leaflets
October 29th, 2014 by Jeanne Davis

You may be aware that we celebrated our 35th birthday recently and I have been digging into the archive to see what past resources we have created for volunteers. We have produced a number of publications since we launched in 1979. You can see one of our many publications above (from our non-digital days!)

Searching through these, I realised, as well as the number of resources we’ve produced over the years, that there are a number of tangible things you can do to make the most of any volunteering opportunity. I wanted to highlight some of these points so here’s a whistle-stop tour of some of the DOs and DON’Ts of skilled volunteering.

DO:

  • Find out about the organisation. You need to be enthusiastic about its aims and activities.
  • Do go there. Do sense the atmosphere. Do keep an open mind.
  • Be selective about the role and the working environment. Personal satisfaction is even more important in a voluntary appointment than it is in a paid one.
  • Be flexible. Be ready to do things yourself where you may be used to having other people do them for you.
  • Find ways to use your management skills. Often it is the professionals trained mind and ability to use resources effectively that are likely to be needed, rather than a particular expertise.
  • Be prepared for a new work style and attitudes. It will probably be more informal and less structured than you are used to.
  • Agree a trial period. Fair to both parties, it gives the opportunity to withdraw gracefully if the appointment is not working out.
  • Sort out the practical details – things like expenses, travel, hours and insurance.
  • Aim to keep on learning. Take advantage of every opportunity to increase your own knowledge. You may well have to take the initiative in acquiring background information essential to the performance of your role.
  • Consider home-based opportunities, where offered. Many will involve contact with colleagues too.
  • ENJOY YOURSELF. Voluntary work is not only worthwhile but it should be satisfying and fun.

DON’T:

  • Over commit yourself – very easy in the first flush of enthusiasm. Decide how much time you can offer and stick to it. The organisation must be able to rely on its Reach volunteers.
  • Expect the same facilities. Most organisations exist on very tight budgets and have to keep their costs as low as possible. You will be unlikely to have back-up staff and equipment and office accommodation may be cramped.
  • Try to move too quickly or assume too much responsibility at the very beginning. Even though you may see considerable scope for improvement in the way things are done, premature attempts to implement your own methods may not work.

More than ever before, charities are desperate for skilled volunteers. In these tough economic times, their budgets have been cut and at the same time they have been asked to provide additional services to help those in need. Skilled volunteers can fill the gap here.

And why do skilled volunteers want to get involved? Our volunteers register with us for many reasons; some are retired or on career breaks, others are working full or part time. Some volunteer to build their CV and career, others to give back to their communities. We have skilled volunteers from across the UK, many working to help in their own communities. Volunteering can be hugely rewarding and your skills will mean that you can make a real difference to an organisation.

If you have experience in professional skills such as management, IT, marketing, accountancy, project management, HR, business or mentoring and want to apply your expertise to a good cause, visit the Reach website.

Jeanne Davis
Volunteer Publicity Officer

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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Pauline Broomhead
May 13th, 2014 by Guest Contributor

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.

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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Ticking a survey
March 20th, 2014 by Madeleine Boomgaarden

How does skills-based volunteering affect leadership skills?

This is one of the questions that Niraj Saraf is seeking to answer through research with the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability. The research aims to uncover the motivations for volunteering and capture how volunteering enhances skills and abilities.  It will provide valuable insights into a growing area of volunteering.

We at Reach, the only UK organisation which focuses exclusively on skills-based volunteering, are supporting Niraj’s project and it would be great if volunteers with professional skills were able to help him by completing the survey and sharing their experiences.

It closes on 31 March and takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Madeleine was Reach’s Marketing Manager until August 2014

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2014 Calendar
January 22nd, 2014 by Madeleine Boomgaarden

Reach Volunteering has entered 2014 on a strong note! We have secured long-term funding from institutions like GlaxoSmithKline and City Bridge Trust and plan to introduce iReach, our new web-based platform. This will dramatically increase the volume, range and quality of skilled volunteering across the U.K.

iReach will come into service this summer, building an online community where charities and skilled volunteers meet, interact, and find their ideal match. It will create an increased number of matches and significantly reduce Reach’s transaction costs.

Reach had an excellent 2013 helping to place 20% more skilled volunteers than in the previous year, representing an estimated value of £8mn worth of skills transferred into the sector.

A Reach highlight was the decision to make our Trusteeworks Matching Service free from 1 November for charities with an annual turnover of less than £1mn. This led to a 150% increase in demand for the service.

There was a huge surge in volunteer registrations in the second half of the year, with an average of 167 new volunteers joining the Reach register every month, double the amount for the same period last year!

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 service for more than 30 years. Our placement advisors are widely respected for their expertise and enthusiasm in finding the right match between skilled volunteer and charity.

Madeleine was Reach’s Marketing Manager until August 2014

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TrusteesWeek
November 4th, 2013 by Luke Strachan

The recruitment of trustees is something that all charities do differently. However, there are a number of mistakes which, as a recruitment expert in the field, I see cropping up again and again.

Trustees’ Week is a great time to examine them.

1) Sparse or weakly constructed role description
This is probably the most common problem with a recruitment process. The most qualified professionals seeking trustee roles can be as discerning as they like: they look for role descriptions that stand out from the crowd and many will only apply to those roles that are carefully crafted: grammar, clarity, purpose, incentive, interest and scope are all aspects of your role which will be judged.

Many organisations now create attractive information packs to ensure that their role catches the eye of prospective trustees and this is a very effective tactic. Remember, the quality of your role description reflects the quality of the organisations work.

2) Unwillingness to spend money on the recruitment process
It is a common misconception that volunteers work for free.

Of course, volunteers are not paid but that doesn’t mean that they don’t consume resources: expenses, training, management time all contribute to a cost. A lot of charities believe that, because a trustee is unpaid, their recruitment should also incur no cost, despite the fact that it takes time to draft a role description (and even more to create an info pack). Equally, dealing with applications, shortlisting, interview and induction all take a toll of resources.

As such, organisations should not see investing in good trustees as wasted resources but rather, a solid investment which will pay dividends if done right.

3) Thinking outside the box
Charities who struggle to find the ideal candidate are often looking at their applicants without creativity. For example, a charity seeking a fundraising trustee may overlook candidates who have an extensive back ground in marketing, yet, in many instances, fundraising is a form of targeted marketing.

In short, flexibility and a view to recruiting people with transferable skills and determination may often prove as effective (and sometimes even more so) than a candidate who ticks all the boxes but has limited time or passion for the role.

Luke heads up Reach’s TrusteeWorks team

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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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TrusteeWorks
October 23rd, 2013 by Madeleine Boomgaarden

Reach’s Trusteeworks Matching Service will be free from 1 November 2013 for charities with an annual turnover of under £1 million. Reach believes that removing the entry level charge of £75 for smaller charities, who have limited funds for recruiting, will make a big difference by helping them to strengthen their boards.

Strong boards, with a sufficient breadth of experience and skills, are crucial for charities facing difficult decisions in an uncertain economic climate. The ability to recruit outside a charity’s immediate networks by using a service like Reach is an important factor in this process.

The Trusteeworks Matching Service provides a free, high-quality introduction to skilled volunteers. The trustee role appears on Reach’s register of available trustee opportunities, and Reach’s recruitment teams search their extensive register of available volunteers, sound out candidates and forward suitable names to the charity.

In addition to the Matching Service, Reach offers the Trusteeworks Matching Plus Service and the Trusteeworks Premium Service which provide additional features such as preparing advertising copy for the role and in-depth screening and briefing of candidates.

Reach is the biggest recruiter of trustees in the UK having placed nearly 750 with charities all over the country since the launch of Trusteeworks in October 2009, including 185 in 2012 and 142 so far this year. Overall, Reach placed 500 volunteers in 2012 representing an estimated value of £9 million worth of skills transferred into the charity sector, and registered over 1,000 new volunteers and more than 1,100 placement opportunities with charities.

Madeleine was Reach’s Marketing Manager until August 2014

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Sheila and Nicholas Crace
October 17th, 2013 by Janet Thorne

Free flowing wine, delicious snacks, gossip and banter. Last night we had a great party for over 50 of our volunteers, past and present.

How, in these straitened times, you might be wondering , could we justify such largesse?

Well, as well as marking the occasion of kicking-off our thirty-fifth year helping the charity sector, we were left a generous legacy specifically for the purposes of holding a party for our volunteers. How often, in the charity sector, are you effectively ordered to spend money on having a good time? Our generous donor was a long-standing friend of Reach, who therefore knew that volunteers are absolutely central to us, not only to what we do, but how we do it.

Volunteers outnumber staff by over four to one here, and do everything from delivering service to maintaining our IT. We couldn’t survive a day without them, and nor would we want to. Not only do they bring expertise and experience far beyond our means but they are such a lovely bunch that working with them is a joy.

Volunteers volunteer for a range of reasons, but generosity of spirit, a passion for the work and being independent minded are common traits. Think about it – who wouldn’t want a team with those characteristics? Charities who don’t engage with volunteers are missing a trick.

As people wended their way home (helped by brandy courtesy of a travel souvenir from a volunteer’s trip to Georgia) the main comment was ‘such a lovely bunch of people’. This was the first party we’ve held for while, but we are now keen to repeat it as soon as possible. Donations welcomed!

Janet Thorne leads Reach as Chief Executive

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