Can the state foster volunteering?

In Third Sector magazine (23 January 2008) Nick Seddon argued it wasn't the proper role of the state to foster volunteering (Comment: The state can't foster volunteering').

AVM's reply, as 'letter of the week' in Third Sector (30 January 2008):

Nick Seddon is right to say that the state cannot 'foster the impulse to volunteer'. However, we are still too hung up on numbers of volunteers rather than looking at enabling volunteers to fulfil their potential, both for themselves and the organisations they volunteer. 

Volunteer managers play a crucial role in developing effective and sustainable volunteering – for example, one organisation found their volunteers were more likely to recommend volunteering when they had a volunteer manager (91%) compared to when they did not (66%). Yet too often investment is targeted just at recruiting volunteers rather than looking at the infrastructure to support, develop, train and consequently retain those volunteers.  

Despite the rarity of dedicated volunteer managers, short-term funding, low salaries (where volunteer managers exist) and a lack of support and recognition, volunteer management has improved significantly in the last ten years –  volunteers' dissatisfaction of how their volunteering is organised has dropped from 71% to 31% –  but there is still a long way to go. 

Policy-makers therefore need to be using their investment more strategically, to ensure better and more effective involvement of volunteers rather than simply chasing 'bums on seats'. And to achieve this, volunteer management must be properly recognised, resourced, supported and embedded within the infrastructure when developing and implementing volunteering strategies and funding. 

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