“As a passionate believer in the worth of volunteering, my involvement with Reach for over 20 years has given me a particular insight to its vital role in both local community organisations and the charitable sector.
Reach has continuously provided expertise and skill, at no charge, to organisations that desperately need these but could in no way afford them.
At the same time Reach provides the means for individuals to consider becoming involved as volunteers and then connecting them to one or more organisations that truly value their voluntary contribution. A virtuous circle.”
“I have undertaken several reports on the voluntary sector for the Government – most notably a statutory Review of the Charities Act 2006. This work has shown me the tremendous contribution made by the sector to the life of the country.
But it has also shown me that voluntary groups, like all of us, can always do better. The trustees and volunteers who run them may lack the necessary range of experience, skills and up to date knowledge.
Further that too many donors see their relationship with a voluntary group in purely economic terms. Of course these groups need money but they also need to learn how to deploy these funds to maximum effect.
This is where Reach can help. It provides access to a range of individuals of varied ages, skills and experience who are prepared to ‘get their hands dirty’ to help voluntary groups achieve their goals.”
“Reach Volunteering services provide an excellent platform for volunteers and charitable organisations to find a match of skills and opportunities, as I know from my personal experience using them when I started to seek volunteer roles in the charity arena.
They cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and types of charities, as well as providing helpful support both to the third sector and to those of us wishing to be a part of it.”
“Skills-based volunteering is an essential ingredient of a well-functioning third sector and a well-functioning economy. As the leading skills-based volunteering charity in the UK, Reach Volunteering does tremendous work in helping both charities, volunteers and societies fulfil their potential. I am proud to be an Ambassador for their important work.”
Here at Reach we understand the role digital solutions have to play in enabling civil society to expand its reach and respond to the needs of communities and individuals.
For this reason, Reach was delighted to contribute to the Review of Civil Society in London, commissioned by London Funders, working closely with Greater London Volunteering and the London Voluntary into Service Council.
Our own digital journey and its impact features as a case study in the final report from the Review, The Way Ahead: Civil Society at the Heart of London and is reproduced below. Our digital journey continues iteratively, we have not so much as arrived at an end destination, but charted a course that allows us to respond to the needs of charities and volunteers alike in the future.
Reach Volunteering has used digital and online approaches to increase the scale of skills based volunteering and the impact of such volunteering on civil society organisations. For example, the launch of its online platform has enabled Reach Volunteering to support a 50% increase in activity since its launch in Summer 2015 without needing to grow its service team.
Another example is its partnership with LinkedIn. Prior to the launch of LinkedIn’s new volunteering service, Reach Volunteering worked with them to trial an approach to finding skilled volunteers by adapting the existing jobs function on LinkedIn to bring volunteering opportunities to the attention of those who had not previously come forward.
The partnership continued after LinkedIn launched its volunteering service, and is enabling Reach Volunteering to make the most of LinkedIn’s several million members in the UK to extend its volunteering offer. The initiative has attracted the attention of potential volunteers whom Reach previously had been unable to target.
For example Oxfam were recently looking to recruit Health and Safety Auditors in Aberdeen, an initiative for which Reach Volunteering would have previously struggled to find suitable volunteers. Via LinkedIn it was able to identify scores of potential volunteers. Currently 150 skilled volunteers a month join Reach through LinkedIn. When Reach’s own digital platform came online in summer 2015, this was synched with LinkedIn to streamline operations.
Reach Volunteering’s Chief Executive Janet Thorne said: “This has been an invaluable initiative that has enabled us to scale up our work in a way which was not previously possible. We have been able to achieve so much more and reach so much further.”
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