Turbulence ahead for volunteering unless changes are made

Volunteers cropped

Red Cross volunteers in action

​There may be trouble ahead for the voluntary sector, it has been claimed.

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18th December 2014 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Volunteering faces a decade of turbulence if charities don’t act now, a new report says.

There are stormy times ahead for the sector is major changes are not made, says The New Alchemy – a study published by research consultancy nfpSynergy.

It found that volunteering is under-valued, under-prioritised and organisations could miss a huge opportunity by not responding to shifts in society.

The report states that “volunteers have too often been seen as cheap service-delivery and a slightly unreliable resource to be used for particular ends” by organisations not engaging with a changing world.

It also warns that when baby boomers, those born in the late 1940s and the 1950s, reach retirement, charities will have to compete with a whole range of activities to attract volunteers, who may prioritise hobbies from skiing holidays to cruises and weekend breaks. 

Volunteering is at the heart of the charity sector and it’s what separates it from corporations

As a result, it says the sector will miss out on crucial skills, experience and energy and that charities need to stop viewing volunteers as a means to an end or face a decade of struggle.

The report goes on to say that even if these new volunteers are secured, they are more likely than the previous generation to want to use their skills in more demanding voluntary roles.

In a call to the charity sector, it offers eight pieces of advice on how to attract, keep and get the best out of 21st century volunteers, including full support from senior management, providing more skills-based roles and treating volunteers in the same way as staff.

nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton said: “Volunteering is at the heart of the charity sector and it’s what separates it from corporations. However, with baby boomers reaching retirement and younger people volunteering in ever greater numbers, charities need to adapt to the needs of these new volunteers who are expecting something in return.

"The most successful volunteer managers will see their volunteer numbers and their satisfaction grow. Those who just leave their volunteering to muddle its way through will see their voluntary support stagnate or melt away.”