“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.”
On International Volunteer Day, we share our gratitude with all our volunteers, and Reach volunteer Jeanne Davis tells why she volunteers and what a difference it makes on both sides.
Volunteering in my later life is far more fulfilling than I had ever thought. Recently retired from a long career in journalism and widowed, I needed to find something to do. I tried freelance journalism. It was not good. Assignments were few and far between and, working alone in my flat, I missed the camaraderie of a busy office.
Then a friend told me that the charity Reach Volunteering was looking for a communications volunteer at their office in London.
How have I used my skills volunteering at Reach? And benefited too? I write up the stories of how a Reach volunteer helped a charity succeed. These experiences help us particularly when we are looking for funding to show the impact that Reach has made. I help edit the annual review.
I have learned to spread the word about Reach through the new communication channels of social media, contributing to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
And the camaraderie. Reach has a small staff of six and a group of volunteers who like me are donating their professional experience. We take time for lunch and interesting conversation, often from diverse points of view. I have made new friends, meeting to go to the cinema and exhibitions.
Best of all, by helping to make Reach sustainable, I have in my small way, contributed to the success of many other charities. This year, we will place nearly 900 volunteers making a difference in over 600 causes as diverse as the environment, mental health and poverty relief.
I have been with Reach for 13 years and look forward to many more helping in whatever way I can.
“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.”
On 1st October, the UK celebrates Older People’s Day to coincide with the UN International Day of Older Persons, a day where a host of nations celebrate the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society. The organisers of the event hope by publicising the contributions of older people we can help to change the negative attitudes and outdated stereotypes to ageing.
What are these stereotypes? Surveys reveal that commonly held beliefs about older people include: Older workers are less productive than younger workers; sickness and disability come with old age; older people cannot learn; old age begins at 60; the majority of older people are set in their ways, unable to change.
But Nicholas Crace, the founder of Reach, knew otherwise. He was concerned that the skills of retired professionals from business and industry were going to waste, skills such as accounting, marketing, public relations and management. His brainchild was to match these skills to the needs of the voluntary sector, the charities and community organisations that could not afford to pay for such expertise.
Judging by the bookful of press clippings I found in our archives, the launch of Reach in 1979, was a resounding success, a news story with popular appeal that captured the public’s attention. Close to 100 organisations signed on requesting Reach’s help and as many volunteers eager to contribute their skills.
“Among the successful matches,” reported the Times, “is Guide Dogs for the Blind in Windsor, which wanted a coordinator for 18 months to plan and organise its Golden Jubilee in 1981: a 62-year old retired managing director who lives locally was delighted to contribute his expertise.”
“More esoteric skills can also be of use,” said another article. ”Mr. John Preston, a 68-year-old former Chief Fire Officer with a major supermarket chain, now works part-time for the Abbeyfield Society, which runs 700 homes for elderly people, as an adviser on fire safety standards. ‘It keeps me occupied and in touch with changing regulations,’ he said. ‘I’m helping people and it gets me out of the house.’”
Over 35 years later, people of all ages now join Reach to find a charity where their skills can help (last year we made 2639 introductions between charities and volunteers), but a good number of Reach’s volunteers are over 54 — over 20% of all our volunteers are over 65.
The impact of skilled volunteers
How do those 50-plus contribute to the success of charities and how does it benefit them? Here is one of their stories:
“It’s been a great experience. I’m very grateful to Reach,” says Loretta Balfour. Loretta is speaking about her work as a Reach volunteer with The Prince’s Trust, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged young people. After 35 years at the Estee Lauder Companies in executive roles, Loretta retired but ‘couldn’t go from being a workaholic to doing nothing’.
The Trust was eager to co-opt Loretta’s executive experience. She became chair of the Launch Panel, which reviews business plans and makes recommendations for funding and support. When new developments were made to the Trust’s Enterprise Programme, Loretta was asked to provide her input. A training programme, compulsory for everyone who is starting a business, was implemented and Loretta delivers the mentoring session.
What does Loretta get out of her work with the Trust? ‘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.’
And Nicholas Crace, founder of Reach, is still contributing. A few years ago, his story made the headlines in all the major press and on TV. Nicholas, aged 83, gave a kidney to a stranger. He was the oldest person in the UK at the time to have done so.
“It was an easy decision for me to take,” he said. “Giving a small part of me to someone else will make little difference to my life but a huge difference to someone else’s. I was lucky to be in a position to help someone else less fortunate than myself.”
I am often very humbled by the number and range of people willing to donate their time and expertise to charities. One feature of our new website is that for the first time the volunteers offering their time, expertise and skills are listed and can be easily seen. Volunteering opportunities are often listed but now you can see the huge amount of skills on offer from volunteers, and they really do vary: digital skills, financial expertise, copywriting, market research, business advice and strategic planning. And this is to name just a few.
I spoke to one of the first volunteers to register, Andy Cummins. Andy is Head of Technical Production at digital agency Cogapp and wants to share his expertise as a trustee of a charity. I spoke to him about why he wants to volunteer and what he has to offer:
Why did you sign up?
“After many years of working in the digital sector I have built up skills I feel I could definitely give to other people. In my role at Cogapp, I have worked with many charities specifically working on their digital requirements so I understand the amount of resources they have available. I feel I could bring digital and website skills and knowledge that could be of benefit.”
What sort of skills do you have to offer a charity?
“My background is very technical so I have lots of online expertise. I originally started as a computer programmer and have moved into web development and managing digital large-scale projects. I now lead a team here at Cogapp so I have all the experience that being a senior manager brings: career development, recruiting, managing high-level strategic projects, tendering and pitching for work, embedding organisational change, positioning and marketing, and facilitating workshops.”
“I have many non-profit clients in the arts and cultural sector; for example I have recently been working with Southbank Centre and for some of the largest museums and galleries in the world such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York and The Tate and the National Portrait Gallery in London.”
What sort of voluntary position are you looking for?
“I would like to find a trustee position where I can share my digital and web expertise and help direct how an organisation runs. I like to make a difference so an organisation with ambition is where I feel I would offer most benefit. I work in a busy, full time job and have a young family but I want to put my skills to good use and a trustee position would suit my lifestyle.”
“I am looking to get involved with a progressive organisation preferably in the cultural space in Brighton or London but I am not restricted and would be open to explore other organisations. I am also happy to wait until the right option comes along so I can make the most of my expertise.”
Andy is just an example of one of the many talented individuals in the Reach community who want to get involved with a charity. If you are a charity looking for skilled volunteers or trustees, sign up and speak to people like Andy about joining your organisation.
You can search and approach people who fit the skills you need. Likewise, if you are a volunteer you can directly contact the organisations with the positions that most appeal to you.
And don’t feel shy about getting in contact! This could mean approaching a charity that you really like the sound of, or contacting a volunteer with the ideal skills for your opportunity. This new function means you can communicate, collaborate and explore whether something is the right fit for both parties so make the most of it! You can find more advice on how to use the site on our website.
Remember to get in contact if you have any feedback about the site; we want to make this as useful a resource for the voluntary sector as possible. We look forward to working with you!
After many months of development and testing we are excited to announce the launch of Reach’s new digital service!
It connects charities in need of expertise with people who want to volunteer their skills and we believe that it will revolutionise skills-based volunteering in the UK. We are so pleased to share it with you.
Why skills-based volunteering can answer many of today’s problems
Why have we built this new service? It is a difficult time for charities: they must balance rising demand from service users with falling income. Pulled between the desire to do everything they can to help the people they were set up to help, and the need to manage the organisation wisely and sustainably, charities need a strong board of trustees, and effective management. And there are plenty of other challenges too. How to stay relevant, or even visible, in a fast evolving digital environment? How to address the change from grant funding to commissioning? Even small charities need to draw on a wide array of expertise to be successful today. Yet most charities are seriously undercapitalised.
Skills-based volunteering can help bridge this gap between need and resources. Of course charities need money to function – but donated expertise can make that money go a lot further. In fact, in our experience, donated expertise is often just as effective as paid for expertise, sometimes more so. And happily, there is an abundance of people willing to volunteer their skills. They just need to be asked. For example, a recent report from City Philanthropy found that 53% of London workers under 35 year want to volunteer more. And the factor that would most encourage them to do this? Someone to match their skills and experience to the appropriate charity….
Matching skills and experience
We’ve built our new online service to make it easier for charities to find, and to ask, skilled volunteers to help them. We’ve always been amazed by the fantastic calibre and generosity of the volunteers on our database, but sometimes they languished there, unasked but waiting. So we have created searchable public profiles for volunteers, and the ability for charities to contact suitable candidates directly. We hope that it will inspire charities to ask for a more creative range of help, and encourage people considering volunteering to make the leap.
We’ve also made it easier for professionals to find the right opportunity to volunteer their skills. You can get suitable roles delivered to your inbox, or create a profile and let charities find you. You can also ask questions of the charity before deciding to apply.
Increasing the impact
We want volunteering to be successful: for the volunteers to have a real impact on the charities they join, and to find the experience rewarding. For this to happen, it is not enough just to connect volunteers with organisations.
People come to volunteering with wildly varying attitudes and expectations – and that is true of both charities and volunteers. Charities vary hugely in terms of their size, culture and maturity. Our volunteers come from different industries, sectors, and stages of life. Add to this mix the fact that volunteer recruitment involves more negotiation than paid recruitment, and it is not surprising that misunderstandings and frustrations can arise.
And our solution? We have tried to tackle these problems in a number of ways. We have created a Knowledge Centre about volunteering and trustee recruitment, and we also offer one to one advice. To encourage follow through by charities, we have developed a system of online messaging with prompts and nudges. And we ask everyone – volunteers and charities – to sign up to the same community agreement, to help set mutual expectations. We will be watching with interest to see how this all works, and jumping in to help where necessary.
Of course, this is really just the start of the work. We will be developing, refining and extending the service on an ongoing basis. So please let us know what you think. We are keen to hear feedback!
And finally, thank you!
Building this online service has been a big project for Reach, and we’ve had a lot of help. Many volunteers and charities have given us valuable input at several stages, including the initial needs analysis and research, and several rounds of user testing.
An award from the Cabinet Office Innovation in Giving programme, and generous grants from Dulverton and The Clothworkers’ Company have financed the build. However, that is only half the story. Fittingly for a project which is all about fostering donated expertise, we have had pro bono support from IBM, Wildman and Herring, Nesta, and SAP via LawWorks.
The greatest contribution, however, has come from Reach’s own team of volunteers who have been instrumental in many key areas such as writing tender documents and database scripts, scoping the functionality, overseeing design work, organising the hosting set up, and much more… thank you!
We are very excited to have launched our new website and digital service. You are one of our early visitors – and we need your help!
Our new website is a new way of connecting charities and skilled volunteers and puts the power into your hands. You can search for volunteers, or for volunteering opportunities, and you can contact people directly on the website.
Reach vets every opportunity and volunteer to ensure that you’ll find only high-impact volunteering opportunities, and people with valuable experience that they are keen to share. We’re here to provide support – have a look at our Knowledge centre, or feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
We need your help
Our new website is currently in ‘beta’ which means we need your help to explore and test the different functions. You might stumble across a bug – please let us know if you do! We are keen to have all your feedback about what works well, and what doesn’t. We will be developing and tweaking the site regularly, and your input is crucial.
This platform has been developed with the help and input of many volunteers and charities, who have contributed to the initial research and through many stages of testing. With your help we can continue to develop and improve it, and enable many more charities to find their ideal volunteer.
We are giving our new website time to bed in these first few weeks. Once we start publicising it, we’d love your support in this too. We will post more news shortly so please keep an eye on our blog.
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.