Our recommendations to the Conservatives’ Green paper “A stronger society: Voluntary Action in the 21st Century”.
We are pleased to note the commitment to excluding any notion of compulsory volunteering and keeping the distinction between volunteering and other forms of community service.We are also pleased to note the commitment towards moving to a culture of three-year rather than one-year grants, although we believe this should be a first step towards five-year grants in recognition that the practical implications of recruiting staff, setting projects up etc means even three year funding rarely provides an effective three year project.
1. Direct funding for volunteer management
Effective investment and support in volunteer management is of paramount importance in developing volunteering. The majority of volunteer managers say that on current resources they could not support more than another 10 volunteers in their work (Management matters: a national survey of volunteer management capacity, 2008).
AVM does not believe that Government should permanently fund volunteer management, rather that it is for organisations to recognise that volunteer management is an essential part of their core business and to prioritise accordingly.
However, many organisations do not have a culture of volunteer management and therefore the ability to recognise the importance of volunteer management.
We recommend that a future Conservative government establishes a volunteer management ‘pump-priming’ fund, whose aim is not just to develop volunteering in a particular geographical area, with a particular client group or an under-represented volunteer demographic but also to assess the impact of having a volunteer manager so that the organisation has the evidence to prioritise its funding in the future.
This fund would partly replace current funding programmes that target specific under-represented groups to volunteer.
A properly skilled and supported volunteer manager has the skill and knowledge to involve volunteers from under-represented groups. Simply targeting under-represented groups does not always meet the needs of clients and fragments the volunteering population rather than developing volunteering as a continuum through a person’s life.
2. Provide an access to volunteering fund
Establish and continue to provide a fund to cover the additional costs, over and above any reasonable expenses, of adjustments that need to be made in order for disabled people to engage in volunteering.
3. Ensure policies and initiatives are ‘volunteer-management’ proofed
Volunteering has a role to play in helping deliver government targets and we envisage volunteering will become even more important during the current recession. However, too often, organisations are expected to deliver services, and involve more volunteers, without that necessary support. As a consequence, service delivery suffers, quality suffers and the volunteer experience suffers, thus making it less likely that they will volunteer again.
Government should therefore ensure that all policies and initiatives that involve and affect volunteering are promoted across Government are ‘volunteer-management proofed’ so that there is the volunteer-management infrastructure to support the volunteering development.
4. Develop a more volunteer-friendly society
Many people and organisations still find still find bureaucracy, regulations and attitudes one of the man obstacles to volunteering, for example, job centres failing to adhere to Department for Works and Pensions regulations that allow time for volunteering while claiming benefits.
Action is therefore welcomed to develop a society where volunteering is more accessible by:
- ensuring that there is proper cross-departmental working that ensures volunteering initiatives are not misapplied or misunderstood;
- ensuring that regulations, legislation and policies are understood and acted upon within the public sector;
- developing regulations, legislation and policies in consultation specifically with volunteer managers (not just the volunteering sector which normally means chief executives), so that there are no unintended consequences that discourage volunteering;
- where services are being commissioned, to ensure that commissioners recognise the ability of volunteers to deliver services and the added value that involving volunteers brings to a contract; and
- To lead by example by enabling and actively encouraging government staff to volunteer.
Our full response is here.