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.
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.
Volunteer Publicity Officer
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 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.
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.
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.
Posted in News Tagged with: Big Society, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Fundraising, Good practice in volunteering, Governance, Improving performance, News, Reach volunteering, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, TrusteeWorks
Felicity introduces the discipline of Operational Research
Operational research (OR) is the discipline of applying appropriate analytical methods to help make better decisions.
I have recently taken up the role as OR Pro Bono Project Manager at The OR Society. Having worked in the third sector for six years and having never heard the term OR, I can really see the need to raise OR’s profile in the sector.
The idea of providing pro bono OR support to the third sector has been discussed among ORS members for a number of years; a pilot scheme run by volunteers has been successfully running since 2011. Please click here for case studies.
How can OR help you?
Third sector organisations face extremely complex decisions about the direction they should take and how to allocate scarce resources. These are some of the issues the organisations we’ve worked with have faced:
Without the tools to model different scenarios and understand the consequences of them, it isn’t surprising that many organisations tend to rely on gut feelings.
An OR practitioner comes armed with an array of analytical tools plus the skills and experience to identify the critical factors and issues, explore the different options and explain the impact of them in real terms.
It won’t make the decisions for you, but it provides some of the head to your organisation’s heart and, when you combine the two, you are more likely to act in the interests of your organisation and its beneficiaries.
We have already helped several third sector organisations and are keen to work with many more.
If you work for a third sector organisation, would like to discuss pro bono support or need more information, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org quoting ‘OR in the third Sector’.
Felicity McLeister blogs in behalf of the Operational Research (OR) Society
It’s Volunteers’ Week in the UK and, in the spirit of our previous post about the best way to keep volunteers happy, we at Reach have been asking the volunteer staff across our own organisation exactly how it feels to be thanked for their efforts- from the kinds of “thank you” they find the most truly moving, to the kinds they sort of don’t…
“The main thing about a thank you is that it must be sincere, genuine,” said Anoop, Reach’s resident social media expert. “There is no value in being thanked in a routine and mechanical manner, a letter that is computer generated or a bulk email that has gone out to ten thousand other people… In some cases saying the actual words, ‘thank you’ isn’t necessary if the attitude and reaction to a person’s contribution are polite and respectful.” He added: “I would rather someone always treated me as a valued equal without saying thanks, than if someone continually acted discourteously and thought a few words once a year demonstrated gratitude.”
Bilwa, a volunteer in Reach’s HR department, pointed to a particular gift given to her by a charity she volunteered with- a diary- in appreciation for her efforts. “I really feel good,” she said, of being thanked. “It makes me feel belonged, a part of… [they] don’t just look at you as a person available for free, they do look at you as, you know, a person.” Little things like giving away a tangible gift can be extremely effective when it’s a gift specifically picked out to fit the volunteer’s personality- something that can make them feel acknowledged on an individual level.
Brian Mills has been volunteering at Reach since 1996- so something about it certainly appeals to him! But Brian was quick to note that, while it is always nice to be thanked, “there’s a distinction between routine thanks and regular thanks.” Brian added that, while it was always “nice to have,” thanks, there was a palpable difference between genuine praise meant to prop a volunteer’s spirits, and more “ritual,” thanks, usually produced off the cuff by a boss “breez[ing] into the office.”
Brian suggested that the most genuine, effective thanks were the most obviously distinguishable from more token gestures- thanks bestowed “for a particular thing… [so]you know they’re grateful that you did it.” The more precise the thank you, the more resonant its results- because it lets the volunteer know they’re being appreciated for something they’ve done with their specific skillset, as opposed to just being thanked for turning up.
As we may have previously mentioned, every volunteer is different, and that individuality is an important asset to their service. So, wherever possible, it’s important to remind volunteers that they’re appreciated above all as individuals. In that spirit, as Volunteer Appreciation Week draws to a close, we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the vital contributors who make up Reach’s staff- one at a time. Here is a list of all the volunteers who make our offices go round, with a very special thanks for each and every one (just mouse over the names to see).
And to all the other skilled volunteers who’ve come through Reach – and, really, everyone else in the world who has ever given their time up for charitable good, please forgive us for being a little generalist just this once- we don’t know all your names. But be assured, as Volunteers’ Week draws to a close, we really do sincerely mean it when we say…
‘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?
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.
“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!”
Posted in Success Stories Tagged with: Charity awards, Creative volunteer engagement, Fundraising, Good practice in volunteering, Improving performance, News, Organisations, Reach volunteering, Skilled volunteering, Volunteer expertise, Volunteers
This Trustees’ Week we learn that over five million young people would consider becoming a charity trustee.
That research is no surprise to Luke, our TrusteeWorks Manager and Young Charity Trustees Ambassador. “Young people bring fresh perspective, new ideas and professional skills to the board”, he says.
Luke will be taking part in the Guardian’s live debate on the changing role of trustees and charity boards on Tuesday 6 November. Join in to become part of the conversation.
Meanwhile, over on YouTube, Alex talks about being young and on the board.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Charity boards, Good practice in governance, Governance, Improving performance, Third Sector, Trustee, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
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.”
Posted in News Tagged with: Big Society, Charity boards, Corporate volunteering, Creative volunteer engagement, Improving performance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
Reach, the skilled volunteering charity, has appointed two new Trustees – Simon Hebditch, a social organisation consultant, and Andrew Jenkinson a Board level insurance specialist.
Reach’s Interim Chief Executive David Collins said, “Simon and Andrew bring a key range of management, financial and professional skills to Reach’s work. We are very pleased to have them on board as Reach embarks on its next phase of delivering an enhanced and more effective service to charities and professional volunteers.”
Simon Hebditch said, “Having worked for many years in the voluntary sector I have been aware of Reach and the invaluable and unique service it provides and I look forward very much to helping it develop its services and thrive for the future.”
Andrew Jenkinson said, “Reach is a highly regarded organisation and I look forward to contributing my financial and business experience to further improve its services to charities and volunteers.”
Liz Maher is standing down as a Reach trustee after nine years of service.
David Collins said, “Liz has made a very strong contribution to Reach and has been an inspiration to the our Board, staff and volunteers. We wish her well for the future.”
Simon Hebditch has worked in the voluntary and community sector for many years, specialising in policy analysis, strategic planning, campaigning and external relations. He is a Trustee of the Small Charities Coalition and was the first chief executive of Capacitybuilders from February 2006 to March 2008. Previously he had been external affairs director of the Charities Aid Foundation and assistant director of NCVO.
Andrew Jenkinson is Non Executive Director, Consultant and Interim Manager at Andrew Jenkinson Associates. He was formerly Group Finance Director at Barbon Insurance Group Ltd and Chairman of Friends of Hertfordshire Youth Music Groups.
Liz Maher is Director of Centurion VAT Specialists Ltd, a Council Member on Newport Board at South Wales Chamber of Commerce, Treasurer of Friends of Newport Cathedral Choir and a member of the CBI Enterprise Forum in Wales at CBI.
The current board of Reach Trustees is:
Posted in News Tagged with: Charity boards, Good practice in governance, Governance, Improving performance, Process improvement, Reach in the news, Reach volunteering, Staff Changes, Trustee Recruitment