The Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing issued its final report, Decision Time last week.
Within two decades, one in four of us will be over 65 and the report points out that this should be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem. Huge numbers of over 65s already volunteer and the report calculates that if people hitting 65 keep donating their time, expertise and experience at the same rate as today’s older population, it’ll be worth the equivalent of billions of pounds to the sector over the next 20 years.
However the report found that many parts of the voluntary sector are not currently ready to grasp this prize with some seeing elderly people more in terms of a looming social care crisis than an invaluable resource. Or they view older volunteers as an army of little old ladies, fulfilling basic tasks but not to be engaged at a more detailed, substantive level.
To counter this the report says there is need for more skilled volunteer roles and consultancy-style internships which will be attractive to people looking for new opportunities to use the store of professional knowledge and experience they have built up over long careers.
This is very much where we at Reach come in. For 35 years we have been providing skilled professional volunteers to a wide range of charities of all types and size and in every part of the UK. We look forward to continuing this work for the years ahead helping to meet the challenges and opportunities for the voluntary sector set out in the report.
Janet Thorne, Reach’s CEO contributed to the work of the Commission as a member of one of its Discussion Groups:
“For us, older people are a huge asset: they offer an abundance of valuable expertise to charities. Older people have breadth of experience, highly developed skills and seasoned judgement; crucially this is accompanied by more stable lifestyles and more time to give. Almost 40% of our database is made up of older volunteers – and they are almost twice as likely to take up an assignment as younger people, and to stay in the assignment for longer.
We support the findings of the report – especially that charities will need to create interesting and creative opportunities to volunteer if they want to truly harness the potential of this important group. In our experience, charities vary widely in how effective they are at engaging volunteers. Some are poor at recognising the value that volunteers bring whilst others fully appreciate the contribution of their volunteers, and therefore make the most of their skills. Indeed, over 90% of our volunteers are pleased with their placements.”
The research from the report suggests that new generations of over-65s are unlikely to accept the negative stereotypes of life over 70 (think of some charity posters showing lonely and isolated older people) so readily.
Charities and the voluntary sector should be at the forefront of discussing later life as a success story, retraining and recruiting older workers. Decision Time also identifies some important changes from outside the voluntary sector that could help. The Treasury could think about helping individual donors give away their cash as annuity pots are drawn down, for example, and the cabinet office could consider whether reference to “need because of age” in the Charities Act is helpful.
But the voluntary sector must lead the way. There is work to be done.
To capture the spirit of Volunteers’ Week Reach has published an Annual Report celebrating the achievements of skilled volunteers over the last year.
Reach specialises in making high impact volunteering happen by connecting charities of all sizes with skilled people.
This new Annual Review celebrates the successes of charities, volunteers and Reach alike, all in a compact and succinct format.
Janet Thorne, Chief Executive of Reach, said: ‘We felt it was really important to publish this report during Volunteers’ Week, as everything Reach does is about the value and impact that volunteers have.
‘The country is currently celebrating the tens of thousands of people up and down the country who are making a difference to their communities with their talent and time. We hope we can inspire even more to join them over the next year.’
Highlights for Reach over the last year include
Looking ahead, the report also talks about how Reach is transforming its services over the coming years to help even more charities and skilled people come together to make amazing things happen.
You can download the report, which is optimised for online viewing, from our publications library now.
Today we’re launching our new survey for charities with whom we have made placements during 2011 and up to February 2012.
We’re looking to review how effective our work has been for these charities, with the aim of showing the positive contributions Reach’s volunteers have on the voluntary sector.
By collecting examples of the long lasting impact volunteers can have, and adding them to our regular reporting, we hope to develop compelling stories and evidence that can promote and carry forward the work we do in the future.
The answers from this survey will be reviewed at the end of June, and we aim to send similar surveys on a quarterly basis in the future.
If your organisation has used Reach’s services in the last year, please visit the survey here:
This confidential research study seeks to understand more about the performance of Boards of Trustees (‘the Board’) of UK charities and how Board effectiveness influences charity performance.
This questionnaire solicits opinions from Trustees and Chief Executives to find out what your perspectives are about your board and its impact on charity performance.
Responding to the questionnaire should take no more than 15–20 minutes of your time. Your participation will assist greatly in providing valuable and beneficial knowledge and information for your board and boards of other charitable organisations in the UK. Neither you or your charity will be identified in any publications resulting from the study.
An electronic copy of the final research report will be sent to all who request it and provide their e-mail address. This will be of particular interest to your board in its quest to continually improve board and charity performance. The final ‘benchmarking’ report will be more meaningful to individual charities if the Chief Executive and as many Trustees as possible can take part in the survey.
Trustees and Chief Executives can take part in the survey by going to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CDQZKLJ
All information that you provide over the Internet is done so safely using a secure, encrypted connection. The information obtained for this research will remain confidential. Only the researcher is able to access the information through a password-protected database.
The name of your charity is required, but this will be anonymised in the final report.