Robin, a key member of the team at Reach, has died unexpectedly. His funeral yesterday was a great tribute to a very well-loved father, friend and colleague. We will miss him greatly.
Robin volunteered at Reach for over 5 years and he was a much valued member of the team. He was wonderfully loyal and committed – he came in to the office, without fail, almost every week of that 5 years. He was a very good writer with a wonderful turn of phrase; he produced some great blogs and press releases for us, and he would follow up assiduously with press contacts to get us included in publications. Above all else, he was always willing to turn his hand to anything that needed doing, and would do so with enormous enthusiasm. He worked with two different Marketing and Communications Managers here, and both emphasised what a very supportive colleague and great team player he was.
The overriding impression of Robin was one of energy, enthusiasm and humour. He was fantastically well informed but wore his knowledge lightly. He was great company, and always a source of good stories – sometimes as subject rather than narrator. One of the joys of working with volunteers is that people often feel a little freer to let their eccentricities air, and Robin had a few eccentricities. You always knew when he was in the office – there would be a certain amount of infuriated huffing and puffing over a stubborn newsletter template or an email ‘that had just fired itself off unilaterally’. And he was always ready and waiting to debate the issue of the day, especially if it had a controversial angle. Almost every communication from Robin would include humour, and usually some topical reference. His dress sense was unpredictable, save that he was never without a hat – a trilby or baseball cap (sometimes two).
Above all else, Robin was always unfailingly kind and courteous. He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and took every opportunity to encourage and praise others. You always felt better for having Robin around.
Everyone at Reach misses Robin tremendously, and our thoughts go out to his wife, Magally, and his children, Patrick, Anna and Alex. The warmth with which he was loved shone through at the funeral, and we hope that his lovely send-off brought some comfort for their great loss.
Almost everyone makes a New Year’s Resolution. Many are of the “negative” variety to give up something be it smoking, alcohol, sugar, chocolate etc. As we know these are difficult to keep but if you do succeed there is a lot of satisfaction at one’s self-discipline and restraint.
Another type of resolution is to do something personal, e.g. daily swimming, jogging, yoga etc and again there is a boost if one can keep these up.
But for 2016 why not consider a third and perhaps the most satisfying type of resolution – namely to do something to help people and the community by volunteering.
All research shows that volunteers receive a significant boost to self-esteem and happiness through helping charities to thrive and fulfill their vital role as part of the glue that holds society together. There are millions of opportunities to volunteer in the UK and charities are always looking for new recruits.
Volunteers with professional career skills such as management, accountancy, law, marketing, IT, HR etc play pivotal roles at many charities and in some cases are responsible for the charity surviving at all.
We at Reach Volunteering have been working for more than 35 years as a matching service to place many thousands of professional skilled volunteering with charities – including many trustees.
We have found that more than 90% of volunteers placed by Reach say volunteering gave them the opportunity to use their skills to make a difference, while 98% of charities said their Reach volunteer had made them more effective in accomplishing their mission.
Here are a couple of responses from our files. Loretta Balfour was placed by Reach as a business mentor with the Prince’s Trust, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged young people. What does Loretta, a former executive with the Estee Lauder Companies, get out of her work with the Trust?
“It’s been a great experience” Loretta said. “Young people come in who have had difficulties in life, are set on a path or maybe not – and don’t necessarily know how to move forward. When you see how they progress, you know you’ve made a difference.”
Alan Flack said: “I wanted to put my management accountancy skills to good use,” when asked why he decided to volunteer. Reach put Alan in touch with a range of charities that urgently needed his particular financial, business development and project management skills.
Of the benefits of volunteering, Alan says, “I get to meet a wide range of people and to help organisations that can’t afford paid professional help. My involvement with the charities has opened up worlds I didn’t know existed.”
So why not make your resolution for 2016 to volunteer?
If you have professional skills you want to share with a UK charity, find out about our latest skilled volunteering opportunities on the website.
We are sure it will make you happy! And of course you can resolve to do a daily swim and give up chocolate as well!
You may have spotted we re-launched our website in the summer, making it even easier for volunteers and charities to find each other.
It now has a sleek fresh look and lots of swanky new functions, which makes the matching process more efficient than ever.
Here’s seven ways the new website helps to connect charities and volunteers:
With around 63 million of us in the UK, it’s fair to say that there is probably someone somewhere with the skills that your charity is looking for. Reach covers the whole of England, Wales and Scotland, helping non-profits find individuals to volunteer their expertise for specific projects, in an on-going capacity or as a trustee.
The process is simple; sign up, create an advert and search for volunteers. You can be as fussy as you wish. At the end of the day, it’s you who has the best idea of what your organisation needs, so it’s important that you carry out your own volunteer searches selecting the criteria that matters to you.
To start searching for your ideal volunteer, register on our website.
On the flip side, as a volunteer we can help you find the right opportunities to match your interests. We’re all about skills here at Reach, and if you have them it’s pretty likely someone needs them.
By providing us with a brief outline of your experience to date, you can register and begin your search for a role that suits.
It may sound pretty obvious, but a picture can speak a thousand words. An organisation is more likely to strike up a conversation with you if you have one on your profile. Not only does it show them that you’re committed, but it can show your personality as well.
At Reach we’re big fans of a picture. We like to see that you’re a human too, not just another computer entry.
Volunteering is rewarding on many levels. No one person will have the same reason for signing up and that’s what we like about the third sector. It’s dynamic and innovative, encompassing all people with all variety of skills.
Registering with Reach is completely free, all we ask is that you create a small summary about yourself, letting the Reach community know who you are, what you do and what you want from volunteering. Your profile will join the diverse range of others already registered on our website, showing the great breadth of skills and expertise that we have on offer.
To create your own volunteer profile, register here.
We know how important it is to find a person who ‘gets’ your organisation, has the skills to make an impact, and who fits in with your ethos. Conversely as a volunteer, finding an organisation that needs your skill-set, is in a convenient location for you (or where you can work from home) and works in a way which will enable you to shine, are key ingredients to a fulfilling and rewarding role.
That’s why, once you have registered, our website allows you to chat to one another directly. You can discuss experience, expectations and requirements for the role to see if it would work for you. Volunteers can approach a charity via the messaging tool where they can either ‘apply’ or ‘enquire’ about the role. Charities can also ‘suggest an opportunity’ to a volunteer whose profile fits the skills they need. Get chatting and find what works for you.
After all, it’s good to talk!
We’re a charity too and we know how far resources are stretched. That’s why we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to manage your applications through our website.
You’ll get an email notification first telling you that you’ve got a new application which will link you to the conversation pages on our website. There you’ll be able to see who has applied, respond to them and update their application status.
The final great new feature of the website is that you needn’t even worry about carrying out searches for volunteers or opportunities because you can set up a handy email alert that will do it all for you (if you want).
All you have to do is put in the search criteria which relate to you, be it the perfect Treasurer role in Norfolk or that you’re looking for a fantastic Graphic Designer in Ipswich, then hit ‘save the search’. When the right thing comes up we’ll send you an alert to inform you. Easy peasy.
It’s here! Giving Tuesday has arrived, the annual online phenomenon that encourages philanthropic giving in all its forms. To find out the latest activity, follow the #GivingTuesday hashtag on Twitter.
Whilst the day has traditionally been about donating money to charity, more and more people are realising that you can give a little extra – you can give your time, and you can give your skills.
We work with many charities who are looking for the skills of experienced people to help them make more of a difference in our communities. If volunteers and charities can find the right fit together, a skilled individual can make a huge impact at a charity.
If you want to give your skills, we can help you find a meaningful, and practical role. You can search by cause, location, type of role and on your skills and experience. Search for volunteer opportunities.
If you are thinking about volunteering but are not sure what to expect, read our guide for first time volunteers. It’s a practical guide to volunteering your skills, why you should volunteer, and how to choose the best role for you.
Today is a great opportunity to think a little differently and do something which challenges you.
Sign up today and give your skills to a charity.
While today’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become annual events in the last couple of years, its cousin Giving Tuesday is creeping across the Atlantic to UK shores a little more slowly.
Following the US holiday Thanksgiving, the Black Friday day of shopping, followed by Cyber Monday’s online shopping bonanza, gives way to Giving Tuesday, which this year lands on 1 December.
It’s an antidote to the previous two consumer-driven days and a welcome change in emphasis to something more meaningful. It started in America (from New York’s 92Y) in 2012 and is now in 68 countries with #GivingTuesday officially kicking off in the UK in 2014.
Giving Tuesday is intended as a way of giving to a cause you care about, whether that’s local, national or international. It’s a call to action to give something back to our communities.
Charities can harness the feel-good factor of the day and use the day to emphasise the people and causes they work with that need a little help, donations, funds or time.
So what can you give this Giving Tuesday?
Donating to your charity is a fantastic thing to do but what if you are feeling a bit short, give to charity already or just want to do something a bit different?
Giving Tuesday is a great time to consider volunteering. As the UK’s leading skilled volunteering charity, we at Reach (naturally!) recommend giving your skills to a UK charity where they could have more impact. You may have been thinking that you want to get more involved with a cause you love, or you want some development on top of your day job.
Now is the time! Sign up with Reach and donate your skills to a charity.
We have over a thousand skilled volunteer opportunities available – all charities that need a skilled individual to help them achieve a little more.
Your skills could be in governance, HR, IT, copy writing, social media, legal knowledge, engineering, medical. You could be from the private, public, or voluntary sectors. And you could be looking for a short-term role or an ongoing commitment. We’ll have the role for you. All we ask is that you have more than three years experience in your field. Search our volunteer positions now.
Use this Giving Tuesday to make that step and volunteer your skills. It could be the best thing you’ve ever done!
Trustees’ Week is a chance to celebrate and recognise the valuable work that trustees’ do. We want to highlight some of the people who want to help change our society through volunteering their skills in a trustee position.
With the introduction of our new online service you can – for the first time – search and view the skills of the people who want to contribute their time and expertise! This is huge benefit for charities as they can see the real people behind their CV’s and contact them directly.
Charly Young is a one of these potential volunteers signed up on our service and looking to be a trustee. We spoke to Charly about why she wants a position on a board:
Why did you sign up?
As the Director of a quickly-growing charity, I feel I am in the enviable position of both having a lot to offer and having a lot to learn! In 3 years we have grown The Girls’ Network from a small charity working with just 30 girls, to now provide more than 600 girls from low-income communities across the South East with a personal mentor for the year.
I am very excited both by the opportunity to share what we have learnt with others, but also to broaden my experience working with and learning from a charity in another sector or placing different challenges.
What sort of skills do you have to offer a charity?
From finance and fundraising bids to running workshops, volunteer management to writing policies, starting a new charity means you end up learning a lot about a lot very quickly!
As a former teacher, I know the way the education sector operates well, and now head up the Strategy and Expansion of The Girls’ Network. This ranges from creating target operating models and KPIs, to creating partnerships and fundraising.
We also manage more than 600 volunteers and run training for women and girls throughout the year, so I am skilled in development engagement strategies and addressing risk and quality assurance.
What sort of voluntary position are you looking for?
I am looking for a Trustee position in a charity where I can use my broad range of skills in directing a charity in a different capacity. I could be most hands-on if this were based in London (and I know from experience that good ‘hands-on’ Trustees are invaluable!).
My background is in education, so any charity in this space would fit comfortably into the networks I am part of, however I would be equally excited to share my knowledge and experience of growing a charity and planning strategy with an organisation in an entirely different sector, too.
Thanks to Charly for speaking to us about her background and what she is looking for. You can see her profile and get in contact with Charly directly via the website.
Andy Bagley is a management consultant who, for the past 20 years, has specialised in performance management and evaluation. As a Reach volunteer, he is currently demonstrating the value and relevance that skills like his can have in the voluntary sector. Andy is collaborating on the monitoring and evaluation of an ambitious scheme to improve the quality of senior management in charities. And he’d like to see more volunteers with his sort of background step forward to take up similar influential roles.
‘Management consultants may get a bad press, but I know that they can add real value’, declares Andy Bagley. ‘However, not everything is about money. And when I decided I wanted to give something back to the community I thought the best way to do that was by offering my skills to the charity sector.’
Andy put that offer into practice by becoming a Reach volunteer. And it was through Reach that he was introduced to Charityworks: a consortium of national and local charities of varying sizes which runs a unique, high-powered management training programme for first level managers. The aim of the scheme is to develop potential high-flyers who are already working in charities and also to attract high calibre newcomers into the sector through a graduate internship programme.
‘After our first year-long programme was completed, we felt that we had developed an innovative and highly effective new model for management training in the sector,’ says Helen Baker, spokesperson for Charityworks. ‘We thought it was an approach that could be adopted more widely to benefit charities all around the country. But we knew we needed to complete a thorough evaluation of our work, both to capture our learning and to demonstrate to others the value of what we had achieved.’
Helen admits that she and her colleagues were so immersed in the business of developing and delivering the Charityworks programme that it was no easy matter to step back and assess their achievements in a strategic way. That is why they were delighted when Reach introduced them to Andy Bagley, who agreed to work with them to monitor and evaluate the project.
‘It was miraculous to have someone from the outside to come in to help us think critically and ask the right questions’, Helen recalls. ‘Andy is pragmatic and calm and was able to help us focus rapidly on the key measures we needed to put in place. He took us back to basic principles, talked through the metrics and helped develop models of how we could measure key things like inputs, outputs and outcomes.
‘Overall, Andy is helping us think critically about our work in a focussed way. His contribution is proving invaluable.’
Having met with Charityworks to set the basis for the evaluation, Andy has continued to support the process remotely and will be reviewing progress at future meetings.
‘I have tried to help the organisation ask fundamental questions about why they are doing what they are doing and who benefits. They are now evaluating those benefits from a number of different angles by collecting data around agreed measures.’ explains Andy. ‘For example, they are measuring what savings their scheme has made in terms of recruitment costs, assessing what benefits participants have gained from the training and examining wider issues such as the impact the work is having on the reputations of the organisations involved’.
At a time when the government is talking about payment by results in terms of the Big Society, Helen Baker recognises that effective evaluation will play an increasingly crucial role.
‘A more mature and sophisticated accountability is what will be required,’ she says. ‘Charityworks is fortunate in having an expert volunteer like Andy Bagley to help us achieve this. Financing is very tight for us and we just would not have had the capacity to go to the market for the sort of consultancy support he is providing.’
In Andy’s view, many voluntary organisations have some way to go in catching up with the private and public sectors over monitoring and evaluation. He feels that third sector organisations need to implement a major shift in emphasis, away from measuring activity and work output, towards focussing on outcomes – the results of that activity and what it has achieved.
Meanwhile, Andy is appealing for more individuals with professional expertise in evaluation outside the voluntary sector to consider volunteering to work with charities and community organisations. He says there is a lot to be gained from the experience.
‘Working in the voluntary sector is fascinating and offers an opportunity to people like myself to broaden our professional experience’, says Andy. ‘Volunteers are likely to find that their contribution will be warmly recognised and appreciated. But in the longer term, we can make a difference to the people who are served by the charities we help. And that is perhaps the biggest reward of all.’
New commercial recruitment software will streamline Reach services to volunteers and organisations.
Matching the skills, experience and aspirations of volunteers to the specific individual needs of thousands of UK charities and community groups lies at the heart of Reach’s work. At its London offices on the south bank of the Thames, the organisation’s team of skilled and experienced ‘volunteering advisers’ devote their time to ensuring that the most suitable people are introduced to organisations in need of volunteer help. Now, with the introduction of new cutting-edge software, they are being equipped to provide a faster, more flexible and more responsive service to volunteers and organisations alike.
People like Jennifer Ayto, Reach’s most experienced team member, play a key role in successfully bringing together thousands of volunteers and organisations every year. She’s been a volunteer herself for the past decade and, as a former head of personnel at BT, her own professional skills and experience are ideally suited to her role at Reach.
Jennifer began bringing together volunteers and organisations just about the time that a new computerised system, designed specifically to assist in the brokerage process, was being introduced by the organisation.
‘At the time it was state of the art’ Jennifer recalls. ‘It had been created especially for us and represented a big improvement on the manual system that had been used previously. Without it we simply wouldn’t have been able to cope with the growth in demand for our services over the years. But over time we reached the limits of what it could deliver.’
In May and June 2010, Reach is re-equipping its volunteering placement team with a new professional software system known as RDB ProNet. The person responsible for overseeing the investment is Reach’s Head of Operations, Steve Szumski.
‘Our new software enables us to offer a more flexible and responsive service to volunteers and organisations’, says Steve. ‘Our previous system helped us deliver an effective service, this new system will allow new service standards to be set for the future.
‘With its replacement, we will be able to respond far more effectively both to changes in technology and volunteering itself. For example, we will be able to produce a skills list for volunteer applications which we will be able to constantly update and keep relevant. We will be including relatively new skills like web design for the first time and expanding the single category that previously covered all IT skills.
‘In terms of customer service’, adds Steve, ‘ we will now be able to give all the support that you would expect from a modern volunteer recruitment agency.’
Thanks to the new software, the registration for volunteers and organisations will be a simpler and clearer process. From June, web-based registration will be possible for our volunteers and, from August, organisations will be able to use it too. All registered users will be able to create their own online profiles which they can manage themselves. The system will give Reach the capability to accept CVs and offer additional services such as arranging interviews and providing volunteers with maps of where opportunities are based. And organisations will no longer be required to re-submit information about themselves every time they register a new volunteering opportunity.
‘There is no doubt that the job of finding volunteers for organisations will be done more effectively’, says Steve. ‘As this aspect of their work becomes more efficient, our volunteer matchers will have more time to offer support in other ways, perhaps helping organisations to target volunteers more effectively or following up on introductions.’
That is welcome news to Jennifer Ayto and her colleagues who were only too aware of the limitations of the old computer system. ‘Waiting around for things to work was becoming very frustrating,’ recalls Jennifer. ‘The process is being made faster and more efficient. I hope I will have the opportunity to use my knowledge and experience in a more proactive way, to go looking for good matches.
‘For example, I recently registered a computer expert as a volunteer whose skills I thought would be ideal for one of our organisations that provides computer assistance to disabled people. Although they did not have a vacancy registered with us at the time I contacted the organisation anyway and now both they and the volunteer are working together and are delighted I linked them up.
‘That felt very fulfilling’, says Jennifer, ‘and it’s the sort of thing I would like to do more of in the future’.