September 5 is the UN’s designated “International Day of Charity.” It is also interestingly enough “Be Late For Something Day,” an unofficial day observed by a US organisation which encourages people to take a break from their busy schedules and “wake up and smell the roses.”
An interesting paradox at first glance – however both ‘days’ encourage people to step off their personal-agenda treadmills and live life in a more outward-looking way.
Considering the state of the world around us, volunteering could have ramifications on all of us, ranging from happier individuals through to large-scale industry and more corporate volunteering programmes and even politics. The importance of volunteering is spread throughout our society. For example, in April this year, Prime Minister David Cameron talked about 3 days of paid volunteering leave for employees working for companies with a workforce of 250 people or more.
So why the 5th of September? If like me, you sometimes suffer from awareness day mystification I’ll explain. International Day of Charity is the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. On December 17, 2012, the UN designated 5th September as the International Day of Charity, which was first celebrated in 2013:
“Charity plays a significant role in the work of the United Nations and its agencies. On this International Day, I call on people everywhere to act on the charitable impulse that resides in every human being — to start giving and to keep on giving.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Charity, 5 September 2014
Quite simply, the International Day of Charity celebrates and raises public awareness of the good work that individuals and charitable organisations do and contribute.
Here at Reach, we believe that one way of encouraging people to make every day an international day of charity is through volunteer work and sharing your professional skills. There are plenty of ways to help, not only those less advantaged than ourselves, but small-scale charities and even larger non-profits that may need a little input in terms of IT, leadership, management, accountancy expertise, trusteeship etc.
Donating your skills and expertise to non-profit organisations increases their capacity and enables them to do a little bit more. Imagine, for example, what it could mean to an organisation if you were an accountant or professional marketeer and give two days a month (or more!) of your time…
At Reach, we have worked with over 10,000 charities supplying them skilled volunteers in order to flourish. For example, we have worked with these particular organisations since our inception in 1979: Abbeyfield, a national charity providing housing for the elderly; SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s’ Families Association) which helps military families and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). We also found volunteers for them this summer – that’s 36 years of working together! We are always looking to work with more charities and help even more fantastic and worthwhile causes.
If you are thinking about sharing your skills, take a look at our website and search the latest opportunities. Charities and non-profits are today looking for a range of expertise from skilled people so what could you contribute?
International Day of Charity encourages a more altruistic way of life, which reminds me of an old school motto “non sibi sed omnibus” (meaning not for oneself but for all). The idea that one should work not just out of personal interest but for the common good is, indeed, a potential game changer.
Happy International Charity Day!
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.
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.
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 from The OR Society returns to dive deeper into the impact that operational research could have on your charity.
No matter what size or at what stage your organisation is, no matter what kind of decision, problem, or opportunity you face, there’s probably a way for Operational Research to help.
Pro Bono OR from The OR Society consistently delivers significant value – strategic to tactical, top-line to bottom-line – to the organisations and executives who use it.
Benefits of OR include:
Here is what a few of the organisations who’ve received Pro Bono support had to say:
Crimestoppers: ‘We’ve benefited hugely from your work and support in all areas of the project, and from an organisational perspective you’ve enabled us to take a highly professional approach to increasing the efficiency of our charity.’ (Performance Manager)
Participle: ‘I have just started to digest the work you did for us and wanted to say a huge thank you. This will be so critical to our growth and I am very grateful indeed for your time and expertise. The team have described you as “a joy to work with”.’ (Principle Partner)
The Cardinal Hume Centre: “We valued the opportunity to work collaboratively and without doubt benefited from the analyst’s expertise and commitment to the project.” (Operations Director)
We currently have three projects underway with the RSPCA, Work for Us and Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service and a further project about to commence. We have 60 volunteers across the UK who are currently available to work on projects. This puts us in a great position to offer Pro Bono O.R. the third sector organisations across the UK.
Felicity McLeister is the Pro Bono Project Manager at The O.R. Society. You can find her on twitter @FMcLeister.
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.
‘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?
Conchita from The FSI guest blogs in the run-up to 2013’s Small Charity Week.
Recent research by the FSI into the skills gaps within the small charity sector has shown that charitable organisations with an annual turnover under £1.5 million continue to struggle in key areas which impacts on their ability to deliver services.
The full report shows that as small charities prioritise the use of funding to deliver frontline programmes, they are increasingly unable to train or develop staff and volunteers. 66% of respondents stated there was no funding available for training and development, while 37% said there would be no room to improve their charitable services, which could impair the quality delivered to beneficiaries.
Small charities reported that impact reporting, long-term strategic planning and marketing were the areas in which they were struggling to plug this skills gap in their organisation. To see the full report, please click here.
Small Charity Week 2013 will be taking place between the 17th-22nd June and aims to address some of the issues raised by small charities as areas in which they struggle. Small charities can sign up to six days of free initiatives and competitions, including cash prizes, pro-bono advice and guidance from third sector and business experts including, the FSI, Reach, Oxfam and Credit Suisse to name a few. Also available will be opportunities for small charities to engage with policy makers and influencers when Nick Hurd, Minister of Civil Society hosts a cross-party event at Westminster on Policy Day.
Small charities have told us they continue to rely heavily on volunteers to support their activity and for the first time the FSI are including a Volunteering Day into the week’s programme to help small charities to promote their volunteer opportunities and find the skills they need for their organisation. We are excited to be working alongside Reach to support charities on this day.
The full breakdown for the week is as follows:
Small charities can sign up to all of the free activities of Small Charity Week through the website smallcharityweek.com and follow news through twitter @SCWeek2013 or the Facebook page
Conchita Garcia is Head of Projects and Development at The FSI. Here she blogs in a personal capacity.
Posted in Blog Entries Tagged with: Big Society, Charity boards, Charity Governance, Charity Trustee, Creative volunteer engagement, Fundraising, Governance, Skilled volunteering, Third Sector, Third sector leaders, Trustee Recruitment, Volunteer expertise
A recent ICM survey commissioned by the Mayor of London revealed the truly impressive extent to which last year’s Olympic Games catalysed volunteer interest across the capital. According to the survey, an overwhelming 91% of Londoners see volunteering as an important part of bringing communities together, and 86% regard it as generating vital work skills.
Why, then, with 86% of Londoners* recognising the tangible benefits of volunteering, do so many charities have to put such enormous effort into attracting volunteers? Surely they should be kicking down the doors!
Well, no, for fairly obvious reasons- just because people acknowledge the potential importance of volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be motivated to actually do it. After all, it’s perfectly possible to recognise the benefits of regular early morning exercise, and still choose to sleep in (I, for one, would rather die than jog). Volunteering can seem like an even harder workout, what with the troubles of picking an appealing charity from the masses, making contact with it, working out a schedule… and that’s before even getting started!
Services like Reach work hard to minimise this effort and enhance its benefits, but by giving us empirical data on volunteer statistics in the wake of the 2012 Games, the ICM survey reveals another highly effective way of energising people into taking the leap- and it’s simply by giving them an Event, capital E. The pageantry, play and national pride of the Olympic Games encouraged 42% of those surveyed to volunteer for the first time, with a total 68% having been involved in some form of volunteering over the last twelve months. That means the majority of those Londoners volunteering over the last year were compelled to do so because of the Games.
This is an especially interesting contrast to an nfpSynergy poll on the same topic conducted on a national scale, which found the Olympics’ countrywide impact on volunteering to be much more negligible. Why should there be such a dramatic difference in results generated by these two sample groups- national and capital? One possible explanation is proximity.
For the citizens of the capital, the Olympics were inescapable, sucking Londoners in like a giant, multi-ringed, medal-generating black hole. The Games offered the city’s population a rare, pervasive scale of exposure to volunteering, volunteers, and the benefits thereof- and as the ICM survey shows, this clearly left a lasting impression. It seems that the general public does indeed harbour a generous willingness to volunteer- but this urge is only galvanised into mass action when given the push of a significant Event.
So, what can we take away from this? Obviously, charities can’t hold an international Olympic tournament every time they want to attract volunteers. Nevertheless, it underlines the importance of high-visibility events of all kinds, on all scales, to keep communities and charities connected. Every jumble sale makes a difference. Of course, truly big Events are expensive, and difficult to arrange- which is why the best chance charities have of pulling them off is by working together, and pooling their resources.
The Olympic legacy has left a clear lesson: It seems the surest way to get the public volunteering is to keep reminding the public that volunteers exist, as loudly as possible, and preferably with fireworks.
* The survey had a sample group of 1,000.
The recent Grant Thornton report on good governance emphasised the need to recruit and maintain a diverse and effective Board of Trustees with a broad range of trustee skills, knowledge and experience.
This will help charities to be fair and open in the way they deliver services and to be more accountable for their actions all serving to increase confidence in their work.
The report based on a study of the Annual Reports of the UK’s top 100 charities highlighted many good examples of diversity – not least the 31% representation of women on their Boards compared to 22% on the Boards of the UK’s top 100 companies.
It also highlighted the important connection between having polices for good governance and being accountability though providing full information about these in Annual Reports. Being seen to adhere to good governance principles and practice can be as important as good governance itself. There is a symbiotic relationship with the discipline of having to describe in the Annual Report the system for good governance compelling charities to concentrate on how they can bring about and maintain good governance in the first place.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for good governance and good operational practice in areas such as Board succession planning and sets out ideas for what should be covered Annual Reports such as:
All charity trustees would learn something of benefit about how to make their charity even more effective by reading this well-researched and presented report.