Have you ever thought about volunteering but are short of time? Or maybe you run an organisation that is in need of some short-term advice?
We recently helped Citizen Foundation access the skills and support it needed to be successful during the course of a one-day project on their IT – a lot can be achieved in a day!
Citizen Foundation is a charitable organisation that focuses on developing young people’s citizenship skills. The charity inspires young people to take part in society as equal members; helping them understand the intricacies of law, politics and democratic life. They needed a bit of expertise upgrading their computer systems which is where we stepped in.
We provided 4 volunteers to Citizenship Foundation and spoke to both Ray Ayivor, Director of Finance & Operations about the project and Sammy Afriyie, one of the volunteers who provided expertise on the day.
“The primary background to the project was the need to upgrade our PC operating systems on a shoe-string budget” said Ray. “Like most medium sized charities, our funding make-up has changed significantly, with a resultant effect being the reduction in overhead budgets. We were still running Windows XP which Microsoft had just announced they were no longer going to support, so we had to move quickly.”
Ray said “The impact of this project was that we managed to increase the efficiency of our operations and reduce the security risk posed by running an out of date operating system on our PC’s. We will certainly be considering the usage of volunteers for short term/one day projects in the future.”
We spoke to Sammy Afriyie, IT worker about his involvement. “I enjoyed taking on this role. It was an amazing experience; I had a very warm reception from Citizenship Foundation and it definitely enhanced my networking skills.”
With no shortage of enthusiasm, Sammy continues “I was asked to upgrade their IT system; upgrade the operating system from windows XP to windows 7 across a range of desktops and laptops. I mapped all the computers, and installed and activated Microsoft Office 10 and other software over the network.
Sammy said, “I brought my networking and installation experience into play and the charity can now boast of currency in terms of its IT system. I was able to enhance my networking and team working skills in the process.”
What better way to enhance your experience and CV by volunteering your existing skills while also helping charities with their projects, and getting to know other volunteers like in this instance.
Could you spare a day to help a UK charity on a short-term project? Are you a charity in need of some help and assistance for a few days or from a few volunteers?
Visit our website to find out how we can help.
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.
As you may have read before, we are building a new online platform for our service, which will make it easier for charities and volunteers to connect. It will provide a better, swifter and more engaging service, and, hopefully, entice many more charities and volunteers to join up.
We believe that it will completely revolutionise skills-based volunteering: volunteers will find it easier to access interesting opportunities, charities will be able to connect directly with highly skilled individuals looking to make a difference; and everyone will be able to direct their own activity to suit their own purposes.
“We believe that it will completely revolutionise skills-based volunteering”
Most importantly, it will enable us to scale up what we’re doing so that we can provide charities with a bigger pool of talented professionals, and offer these professionals a greater range of opportunities to suit their particular interests and skills.
Those who have been following more closely might have noticed that we have been building this platform throughout 2014, and our original timing has slipped a little… What can I say? It is an ambitious project!
We are crystal clear about what we need the new platform to do, but there have been lots of complexities to resolve: for example how to cater for people who want to recruit volunteers and be a volunteer themselves? Or how can we best migrate opportunities which are mid-recruitment? These are just a few of the issues that have been exercising our collective brains.
Happily, the end is now in sight and we are aiming to launch in the summer. We will be in touch with more details nearer the time. In the meantime, I’m pleased to say that things are progressing well: feedback from initial testing has been very positive and our partnership with LinkedIn has flourished.
I am honoured to have spoken at the UK launch of LinkedIn’s Volunteer Market, part of their LinkedIn for good initiative, on Thursday 5 February. When we go live with our new platform, we will automatically cross-post all of our volunteering roles to LinkedIn, providing great exposure for the roles, and enabling us to reach a wider audience of people who may not have considered volunteering before.
It’s a very exciting time for us at Reach and we look forward to sharing the fruits of our labour soon.