David Grout, who heads up Fundraising Volunteering at Marie Curie, shares his thoughts on the future of volunteer-led community fundraising
When we think of fundraising, we often think of an office bake sale, supporting a friend who is running a marathon, or popping our spare change into a collection tin. Many perhaps don’t think about the army of volunteers behind so many fundraising activities, all sharing their personal skills to give their time in an enjoyable way to support their favourite charity.
Fundraising is a fantastic volunteer experience, with a huge array of opportunities available, allowing everyone to find the role which suits their ambitions, skills, interests and the time they have to give. Volunteers often tell us it is a rewarding way to give their time, and they take great encouragement from understanding the impact of what they raise.
Some people choose to volunteer as part of a local fundraising group, while others choose to volunteer in a more independent role, perhaps by looking after collection tins in their area, or giving talks about their charity to local groups. Some volunteers choose roles which are quite public, while others choose roles in the background, such as volunteering in their local fundraising office. While some look for a role with a regular time commitment, such as a weekly shift in a local charity shop, others look for ways to give their time in short bursts when they can, such as cheering at a marathon.
It is up to fundraising teams to provide a range of well supported, rewarding opportunities for all. All fundraising has to be legal and safe, and fundraising through a volunteer network provides a great framework for the charity to ensure this. From providing templates and event ideas for volunteers to use, to ensuring effective background processes are in place, strong volunteer management is an essential skill for community fundraisers.
Volunteers need easy access to good resources and training, a clear line of contact to the charity and, most of all, to feel appreciated. Community Fundraisers will tell you that their favourite days are those where they speak to their volunteers and hear their new ideas, unrivalled enthusiasm and insights into their local community.
We know that people volunteer for a variety of reasons, and often the main incentive is simply to support our chosen cause or causes. In fundraising, we can quickly see the impact we make in the money raised, with a caveat.
Last year, volunteer led fundraising raised £6m for Marie Curie with 5,000 volunteers forming a strong network across the UK. These volunteers have a massive impact, not only through the amount they raise but through the additional impact they have by raising the profile of the charity and encouraging support from others.
The last eight weeks has meant a pause to many traditional volunteer fundraising activities. A quick scroll through twitter shows this hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of volunteers who have taken their meetings online, calculated how many laps of the garden make up a marathon and encouraged their friends and family to donate their unused commute money.
The explosion of volunteering throughout this crisis should give us great hope for the future. Many people are volunteering for the first time and they will need new ways to channel that energy when our needs as a society change. With charities facing an uphill struggle to recoup lost income and us all looking for ways to come back together after the loneliness of lockdown, volunteer-led fundraising provides great opportunities for our recovery.
David Grout has spent 33 years working with volunteers in Scotland. after escaping from the banking sector. Of those, he spent 15 years as Chief Exec in Outdoor Education, followed by nine years with Macmillan, and nine years with Marie Curie, where he heads up the UK Fundraising Volunteering programmes.