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.
Posted in News Tagged with: Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Corporate volunteering, Good practice in governance, Good practice in volunteering, Governance, Measuring impact, Reach in the news, Reach volunteering, Recession, Skilled volunteering, Trustee, Trustee Recruitment, Trustees' Week, TrusteeWorks, Volunteer expertise
Kirsty Palmer, Chief Executive at Kensington and Chelsea Volunteer Centre, responding to The Big Squeeze Survey, highlights that many local charities just don’t have the resources to handle the surge of volunteers that the Government and others seem to think will be the saviour of the sector. Kirsty talks about the well-meaning but wrongly-skilled volunteer manpower which may pose as many challenges as it does solutions.
If we are going to make use of the incredible goodwill that clearly still exists to volunteer for a cause then it is essential that charities are given access to the additional resources they need to take advantage of that commitment. That is more than a bit of time to recruit volunteers, it starts with helping charities work out what help they do actually need.
At this time when the sector most needs help Reach has found that they are often least able to take it. Many know what skills or volunteer resources they need but haven’t got time to articulate it to attract the people they need, many have no idea that they can source people with skills willing to help and often quite self directing once they understand the charity.
Our own research highlights two deeper issues:
Many people looking for jobs are offering their time as administrators to charities who, as LVSC’s report also points out, are not needed by most charities. Instead charities need skills. Our own research highlight this too.
Perhaps most interesting for me in Kirsty’s comments in today’s Guardian Blog was that those people offering themselves as administrators actually have the very skills charities need. So it would be great if some of the proposals coming out would do more than encourage mass use of apprenticeships and interns. The support needs to offer charities access to these people with great skills that see no opportunities for them and show this currently turned off pool of fantastic talent that they can be valued for their skills and experience.
I visited Shaw’s Corner with my mother yesterday and met a wonderful group of volunteers who were acting as hosts and guides on a very busy Bank Holiday Monday.
One of the volunteers I met was a new volunteer – Tom, who had come via St Albans Volunteer Centre. I was hugely impressed by his positive approach to volunteering. I was surprised to learn in conversation that he was very new to the House as he seemed so relaxed and was directing people with assurance. I was equally entertained later on when talking to some of the longer serving volunteers at how much they were enjoying having this young man as part of their team and how seriously they were taking his training.
They saw their role as guide and mentor. Without realising it, his role to them was a sense of value and inspiration.
As the chief executive of a volunteering charity I meet hundreds of volunteers each month. Many of them have great stories but few inspire me quite as Tom did. He may not have a paid job currently, he may be finding it hard to work out quite what to do as a paid role, but while he is sorting that out he has a positive outlook. He sees volunteering as a asset to his CV. He is so clearly enjoying being a Room Steward and, he says, quite unexpectedly sees volunteering as something for his future not just right now as a stop gap. He is a great example of why I love my job and why I think volunteering is important.
I’ll be going back this summer and I hope I shall see Tom again – though if an employer has snaffled him I will mask my disappointment with the genuinely felt delight that someone else will have seen what I saw – potential.
During difficult economic times it is perhaps not surprising that many leaders in the voluntary sector focus their attention on raising funds or cutting services. Nigel Kippax, Managing Director of KC Change Consultants argues that so-called ‘lean approaches’ can help organisations eliminate waste while protecting their capacity and capabilities.
Working more effectively and efficiently can become a significant source of reward for voluntary organisations, even small ones with limited budgets. By adopting ‘lean approaches’ they can help themselves make every penny count through understanding what really adds value to the services they provide.
Following the review of efficiency in the UK public sector, completed by Sir Peter Gerson in 2005, many Government departments sceptically turned to ‘lean’ techniques to deliver savings. Did they work? In general, yes. For example, one department achieved a budget saving of more than £30m and managed to maintain its services through implementing 14 lean improvement measures.
I am convinced that such techniques can work just as well in the voluntary sector. But how does one go about implementing them?
Lean thinking is rooted in five core principles:
Overall, the key message is: “Deliver the service your beneficiary wants/needs as efficiently as possible by reducing all non-value-adding activities”. Surely this is a valid approach for any third sector organisation. When used correctly, lean techniques make waste visible to your people and encourage action to improve.
Waste can come from a variety of sources, all of them contributing to your overall costs. Even in small organisations where our small staff team may make us apparently lean, we still do things which add waste to what we deliver. For example:
In terms of introducing lean techniques, I would argue that the first step is not simply to introduce them through training courses. Achieving results is dependent upon engaging with your employees and volunteers and providing the opportunity for them to practice their newfound skills. Simply training in a given tool rarely achieves the desired benefits and worse still, can lead to negative feelings if these tools are not implemented in a timely manner. Rather, the task is first to prepare the ground and create a readiness for change. Agree the key objectives of your organisation and cascade these so that everyone understands their direction and what ‘success’ looks like.
Do not become over-reliant upon external support and ensure you develop your own internal team of improvers to drive improvements across your organisation.
In time, good habits will become engrained, meaning improvements in all service delivery areas. In service organisations, it is quite possible to reduce operating costs by up to half while protecting the service you provide to your beneficiaries. And, with funding to the voluntary sector under enormous pressure, that is a goal which is really worth working for.
Managing Director of KC Change Consultants
The Big Society is a big idea. The budget deficit is a big hole. Can the two coexist and create action in the sector rather than inertia?
Reach, along with many in the sector, recognises both the challenges and opportunities posed by David Cameron’s Big Society initiative. We will maintain a close watch on how its developments impact on voluntary organisations.
In the meantime though, Reach thinks there are opportunities for action now. Whether you think it’s using some of the Big Society ideals or doing what the sector has always done well, local people and local voluntary groups can do things now. If nothing else they can prepare for the budget cuts rather than wait for them to roll in and stop great work in its tracks.
At Reach we can see that the need for volunteers at a local level, not driven by politics but by the demand from organisations on the ground, is growing.
The sense of potential change and upheaval has left our sector a little paralysed, many organisations are nervous about moving forward when so much is up in the air. I know that feeling myself. So what can we do to get out of that paralysis and take more control over our own destiny?
One obvious suggestion from Reach of course is to work out the critical things you want to do and think about using a skilled volunteer to help get started. An upside for the sector from the recession is the number of new skilled people offering their time. Last week members of the Reach team spoke to a career press officer, a highly experience IT software project manager, a market researcher, a qualified accountant, a training delivery manager, a social enterprise founder and a charity chief executive who all wanted to try their hand at a new type of volunteering in the sector. Two of them are coming to help us this autumn.
Getting the trustees engaged is another important action. They are the strategy setters but can often be the people who wait too long to act. We spent most of the day debating these issues as a Board yesterday. One of our trustees is taking a lead in watching the emerging Big Society dialogue and digesting what it means for Reach. Another trustee is bringing fresh eyes to our next marketing plan and yet a third is looking carefully with us at our new recruitment system and how we can use it better and exploit its benefits faster.
It may take months or even years until we properly understand the impact of the Big Society initiative. More damaging than any threats brought by it may be the time wasted waiting to find out what it all means.
Some organisations are hesitating to recruit skilled volunteers while there is so much uncertainty in the air.
It may be that the organisation has put projects on hold or even fears for its future. They perhaps conclude that they can’t cope with volunteers at the moment or that it is unfair on a volunteer to bring them in at a time of flux.
These are real concerns but they may not be barriers to accessing the help that a skilled volunteer can offer when times are hard.
Many of our volunteers have experience of upheaval and change, some have been made redundant themselves. If you are honest with them about your challenges, they will most likely be willing to accept an unpredictable situation. They will probably be able to offer you some guidance as to how to manage change if you are interested. They most definitely will be able to help shore up your organisation, plugging skill gaps left through lack of resources. They may even be able to have an impact on whether you are sustainable or not.
If you would like to have a chat about whether it is an appropriate time for your organisation to recruit a skilled volunteer, give us a call on 0207 582 6543.
While I’m hoping for easier times, some of the things that the recession has forced the voluntary sector to focus on have been good. Better plans, tighter control over our finances and the need for highly effective trustee boards are just three that I’ve personally observed.
Here at Reach we’ve had to look closely at these things for ourselves as well as getting requests to support other voluntary organisations tackle the challenges of the recession. It has been a sobering experience but as my trustees said at the final meeting in 2009, we’re actually a better organisation and they are better trustees now. Not at all what I expected from a tough year of recession.
So why has the recession has been good news as well as bad?
First we’ve gone back to basics …. what are we here for, what are the things we should do and do brilliantly, what can we afford to do?
Secondly, more people with the skills and experience are available as volunteers. People wanting to use their skills to help a voluntary organisation or good cause has been a life line for them not just the charity. If has offered them the chance to use their skills in a different context, show they are adaptable, it has rebuilt esteem and confidence and in doing so they have seen their contribution make an impact.
The unexpected outcome Reach has seen here is that people who started volunteering because their livelihood was threatened, have been converted to the value of skilled volunteering. I will be watching with interest to see if this response outlasts the recession. Personally, I think it will.
Thirdly, good governance has become an essential. Many people consider governance as the boring legal stuff with lots of red tape. To me this misses the fundamental point that governance is about leadership. It is about overseeing change and ultimately it is about transforming lives, saving our planet, eradicating disease and so forth. That’s why I am a trustee and I find the potential of being a trustee in that context exciting.
Most readers will share the hope that 2010 will see an end to the recession and an easing of the financial pressures that faced voluntary organisations and individuals alike last year. But while we may hope for easier times ahead, Sarah King argues that not all of the fallout from the recession was harmful.
Better plans, tighter control over our finances and the need for highly effective trustee boards or management committees. These are just three of the things that I have personally observed the voluntary sector being forced to focus on as a result of the recession.
Reach itself has had to look closely at these things as well as receiving significant requests for skilled support to help other voluntary organisations tackle the challenges of the recession. It has been a sobering experience but as my trustees said at the final meeting in 2009, we’re actually a better organisation and they are better trustees now. Not at all what I expected from a tough year of recession.
So why has the recession has been good news as well as bad? First and foremost I have seen voluntary organisations go back to basics and ask three questions:
These are questions we should be asking all the time as paid staff, trustees and anyone involved in leading and managing a voluntary organisation. This is what the organisation is here for and yet, when things are going well, these can become less central to our thinking. In a time of recession most organisations can only focus on their primary goals and many find they have drifted away from their heartland. Many of the Reach volunteers we placed in 2009 have facilitated exactly these conversations with organisations and we know just how enlightening these discussions have been.
Undoubtedly, more people with skills and experience have become available as volunteers because of the recession. The unprecedented levels of redundancy hitting senior and professional people, and many others wanting to keep their CV as alive as possible ‘just in case’, has generated a new demand in the world of volunteering. People want to use their skills to help a voluntary organisation or good cause in order to provide a lifeline for themselves and not just the charity. Volunteering has offered them the chance to use their skills in a different context and to show they are adaptable. It has rebuilt esteem and confidence and in the process they have seen their contribution make an impact.
The unexpected outcome Reach has seen here is that people who started volunteering because their livelihood was threatened have been converted to the value of skilled volunteering. I will be watching with interest to see if this response outlasts the recession. Personally, I think it will.
Another positive product of recession has been that good governance has become an essential. Many people consider governance as the boring legal stuff with lots of red tape. To me this misses the fundamental point that governance is about leadership. It is about overseeing change and ultimately about transforming lives, saving our planet, eradicating disease and so forth. That’s why I am a trustee and I find the potential of being a trustee in that context exciting. When I talk now about what it takes to be an effective board or management committee, I encourage such bodies to focus relentlessly on three things:
The legal bit is not difficult. Yes, you need someone with a good understanding and attention to detail but it isn’t difficult. Exercising leadership I have found is far harder for trustees. We are so used to rolling up our sleeves and doing, relatively few of us know how to show leadership as a group.
So for me, the recession has had its upsides. I’d happily not go through the summer we had in 2009 again but Reach is certainly a better place for it, both in the services we are providing and in the way we ourselves run. And the best outcome of all, we believe in ourselves so much more. We believe in who we are and how we can make a difference and that means we will get better and better and helping the voluntary sector access the skills and support it needs.
Best wishes for a happy and more prosperous year to you all.
Sarah King, Chief Executive, Reach
Volunteers are the lifeblood of so many charities. When pressures on voluntary organisations increase – as they are currently with an increased demand for services and constrained or reducing resources – giving the time to effectively support and engage good skilled volunteers is often difficult. At their best skilled volunteers can make a real difference to your organisation providing you with a resource which could improve your ability to survive.
You may already have volunteers and may just be interested in how best to manage them when pressures are increasing. There may be more that volunteers could bring to your organisation in terms of strategic advice or board support. You may not yet have taken the plunge and involved volunteers in your organisation. The following aims to offer some straightforward advice to guide you and provide you with some contact points for finding out more.
Improving the performance of your existing volunteers
A successful volunteer depends upon effective management. Here are some questions to help you get the most from your volunteers in pressured times:
Is the role clear?
Make sure that each volunteer is clear what their role is and that they are equipped to carry it our effectively. Many volunteers don’t have a clear role description and need more supervision as a result. This is not their fault. An hour invested in clarifying a role may bring quick results and greater involvement from volunteers resulting in less time managing them in future weeks.
Are they equipped for the role?
Many organisations have very good training plans for their volunteers especially where they have lots of people doing similar roles. However, a lot of organisations who find their volunteers aren’t helping as much as they expected can help themselves through proper induction and task training. This saves confusion, misunderstandings and useless, wasteful work later on. It can also help indicate which volunteers aren’t able to do the work at an early stage and give you and them the opportunity to take corrective action.
Does your voluntary organisation need the role?
If the work your organisation is doing is changing, contracting or increasing, make sure you keep reviewing the relevance of the role, that the skills needed have not changed and that the role itself is, in fact, needed. It is also important to consider the real cost of having that volunteer when determining if the role is still relevant. A volunteer may not seem to cost very much, but if they are doing something that you no longer need, then this is wasted money. There are not just the volunteer expenses but also the hidden costs of managing the role e.g. staff time, training, etc.
Remember, this decision is about the role not the person doing the role. Having made that decision, then ask if the person is right for the role, is training required to enable the volunteer to do the role or are new skills required? While you may not want to upset people the question that needs to be answered is: is it really right for your organisation to keep on covering the cost of that role?
If you no longer need the role, can you provide the volunteer with a new role? This is probably a good time to talk about alternatives. Can you can steer them towards a new, more useful role in the same organisation or to another organisation that has similar roles. You may be able to get free or discounted training for volunteers to use them in a new way.
Does your voluntary organisation you need the volunteer?
It may seem hard, but you are running a voluntary organisation that is trying to survive. Carrying volunteers who may no longer be able to do the role effectively or who do not buy in to the organisations strategy or values, can be more costly long term. Don’t under estimate the cost of actually having a volunteer. It may be that they can adapt and actually become an effective volunteer and that is usually the best outcome for the volunteer and the organisation. However, it may be that they cannot or will not adapt and this is the time to think very hard about retaining a volunteer or look for options on how an individual can be supported when leaving your organisation. Dignity is critical. These are often people who have given a lot over many years or for whom volunteering has a huge impact on esteem. They still matter even if it is time to move on.
Understanding the drivers for each volunteer role and the skill and capability of each volunteer will help the organisation decide objectively. Think about what needs to be put in place to manage the volunteer pool through a period of change – this will naturally involve managing some volunteers out of your organisation.
A review of all roles within the organisation or a department within the charity can be a good place to start. It depersonalises the process and can be a good point to encourage the whole organisation to rethink its contribution. However, if you know you have a volunteer who is not contributing then, just as you would for a paid member of staff, you should address this appropriately using a documented and fair process.
Increasing the impact that volunteers could make
It may well be that volunteers could impact on your organisation in a more fundamental way than you had anticipated.
Could a skilled volunteer help you?
In times of crisis, voluntary organisations often need help at a strategic level. Consultants are costly and few charities can afford their market rates. Concurrently, a financial crisis means that many companies are looking for ways to continue supporting the voluntary sector via the skills of their people rather than donating hard cash.
Could you make use of a volunteer with business or professional experience instead? You may be surprised at the skills you already have within your own volunteer team so its worth asking as a first step. There are several organisations offering online or brokered skilled volunteer placements for short or long term activities depending on the needs of your organisation.
Most skilled volunteers can impact quickly on an organisation. An external volunteer tends to be more detached and will often ask the searching questions that are really needed but often not voiced or noticed. While many small charities recognise the value of a skilled volunteer because they couldn’t afford these skills any other way, few medium and large organisations consider bringing in these skills. Using volunteers for skilled work often runs contra to the way they use volunteers to deliver their mission. This can be a lost opportunity as many skilled individuals are looking for stretching opportunities that use the depth and breadth of their skills and experience.
As the relatively new chief executive of a skilled volunteering charity, the benefit is obvious to me now. However, it was nearly four months before I realised that I could ask one of the skilled volunteers we already had at Reach to help me with a review of my organisation’s structure. Three months, a lot of soul searching and a tough board meeting later: I, the senior managers and the board have been taken through a top to bottom review of our organisational resources and structure and have started implementing the action points from the review.
If using skilled volunteers for strategic reviews is an untapped resource for you, give it a try.
Improving the performance of your trustees
In times of crisis, the board or management committee of a voluntary organisation often finds itself dealing with issues they may not have faced before. Some trustees will be less comfortable and some boards will find themselves unable to make effective decisions.
Trustees are volunteers and need to be supported and encouraged through this period. You may have a particular skills gap that needs to be addressed either by bringing a new trustee on to the board or through engaging a specialist to support the board through a particular decision making process or period.
Spend some time considering the needs of trustees. Talk with your chair or chief executive. Two good starting points for reviewing your leadership team are Hallmarks of an effective Charity or The Code of Good Governance.
Have you got the right skills on your board now?
A number of organisations exist that can help if you need to recruit new trustees. There are also some organisations available to help individual trustees or boards improve their confidence and capability as well as some excellent resources available.
What if I don’t have any volunteers?
This may be right for your organisation but it may also be a missed opportunity. Volunteers can be highly committed, effective and bring a new perspective. They can provide essential support to paid staff and get closer to users of an organisation’s services or beneficiaries often ways paid staff cannot. Volunteers shouldn’t be engaged lightly but when you are under pressure and need to prioritise your resources, the appropriate introduction of volunteers can make a real difference to your organisation and its ability to deliver.
You’ll need a volunteer policy, a role description, a named accountable person to oversee their work and the funding to cover expenses. A named person as the manager of the volunteer is important as are clear guidelines on what an effective contribution will look like from the volunteer. It may be helpful to use one of the online or active placement agencies to help you recruit a volunteer.
Engaging volunteers for the first time can be challenging, not least because it is new, but also because their recruitment can be a turning point for an organisation. So take some time to consider the type of person you need what you want them to help achieve, their skills, and their availability and then give it a try.
Sarah King was Chief Executive of Reach from January 2008 until January 2012