Media mentions

Analysis: will the Olympics effect continue? (7 May 2013) – Third Sector

The early response to Join In from existing volunteering organisations has been wary. Why has a new organisation been set up, they ask, when the serviceable network of existing organisations is drastically underfunded?

Debbie Usiskin, vice-chair at the Association of Volunteer Managers, says she welcomes the creation of an organisation to encourage more volunteering, but thinks it would be more helpful for the government to invest in existing services, where there is already a wealth of expertise. “I don’t think we really need new organisations,” she says. “What we need is proper investment in the organisations that already exist.”


The year in volunteering: 2012 (17 December 2012) – Third Sector

A report published in March showed that charities are increasingly relying on volunteers. Volunteers Count 2012, published by Agenda Consulting and the Association of Volunteer Managers, found that the number of charity volunteers rose by about 9 per cent in 2010/2011.


Analysis: Alzheimer’s Society aims to recruit one million volunteers (13 November 2012) – Third Sector

About 5,000 people registered their interest in the project on the launch day alone. Debbie Usiskin, vice-chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, says one of the risks of making a big announcement is that people might not sign up because they think everyone else is doing so. But she believes the Alzheimer’s Society has the right model to ensure the project gets “the right number of people in the right places” because it has local groups in touch with their local communities.

But Usiskin says details of the project are not informative enough. “The charity hasn’t been clear about who it is looking for and what these people need to do,” she says. “I think anyone who plans to volunteer wants to have an idea of what they would do before they commit to it.”

She says it is not enough for the charity to say it is looking for Dementia Friends: it needs to be more specific and say it is looking for people to educate others about dementia.


Analysis: Universal credit and the prospects for volunteering (8 October 2012) – Third Sector

Kate Bowgett, director of the Association of Volunteer Managers, believes the restriction might have a positive effect on volunteering by raising awareness of it as an option for jobseekers. She says that the specification of a time limit is “unfortunate”, but very few people volunteer for more than 17.5 hours a week, so the change will not make much difference.

“Theoretically, it would be great if there were no restriction, and that would be what we would back as the best possible option,” she says. “But I don’t think there’s going to be a massive impact on people. It could actually have a positive impact because it is an opportunity for Jobcentre Plus staff on the ground to be educated about volunteering and what the rules are.

“They might then be a bit more proactive about suggesting it as an option and stop giving people misinformation.”


Analysis: Do you know a volunteer who reminds you of Captain Mainwaring? (29 May 2012) – Third Sector

Peck’s proposal of taking on volunteers for renewable fixed terms finds favour with Ramsey of Age UK on the grounds Kate Bowgett that this would give volunteers an opportunity to leave if they want – something some find hard to do – and time to discuss the issue. But Kate Bowgett, director of the Association of Volunteer Managers, says charities should check regularly whether the arrangement suits both the charity and the volunteer, rather than leaving such talks until the end of the contract. Rob Jackson, a consultant specialising in volunteer management, points out that fixed-term contracts do not prevent problems between staff and their employers: “It is not in itself a solution.”


Number of charity volunteers rose by 9 per cent in 2010/11 (2 March 2012) – Third Sector

Alan Murray, head of volunteering at the RSPB, says there is often more volunteering in times of economic hardship

The number of charity volunteers increased by 9 per cent in 2010/11, according to a new annual benchmarking study.

Volunteers Count 2012, a report published by Agenda Consulting and the Association of Volunteer Managers, is based on data supplied by 50 self-selecting large and medium-sized organisations over a 12-month period.

The organisations, which had between 32 and 160,000 volunteers, provided information on various aspects of volunteering, including recruitment, retention and return on investment.

It is hoped the exercise will be repeated annually so that charities can compare their performances with each other.

Alan Murray, head of volunteering at the RSPB and a director at the AVM, said the 9 per cent increase in volunteers matched his own charity’s figure.

Murray said the RSPB had benefited from providing “more flexible volunteering opportunities” that suited people’s needs.

“We have also been offering more roles for a shorter time period,” he said. “And I think other big national charities are also being creative in terms of the volunteering opportunities they provide.”

Historically, he said, there was often more volunteering in times of economic hardship and that, although many people were short of money, they weren’t necessarily short of time.

“Some people have been volunteering with us to keep their skills up and keep active,” he said.

The study also found that 67 per cent of volunteers were female and the average age was 50.

It found that the average volunteer gave 10 hours a month and the most popular areas of involvement were direct service provision, followed by communication and marketing, then fundraising. Organisations recruited an average of 35 per cent of their volunteers in the past year.

The study found that organisations spent an average of £255 for every 1,000 volunteers recruited. But there was a lot of variety, with a quarter of organisations spending nothing and another quarter spending more than £2,300. The top source for recruitment was word of mouth.

The average volunteer turnover rate in the year was 23 per cent, and the main reason that volunteers left was that they did not have enough time because of a change in home or work circumstances.


Managing volunteers on a tight budget (13 January 2012) – Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

Mike Gale – director, Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM)

Resources: Make sure you research and access as many of the free/low cost resources available to volunteer managers. For example, membership of UKVPMs, the Association of Volunteer Managers, Volunteering England and your local Volunteer Centre etc. UKVPMs is an online support group for volunteer managers and coordinators with a number of useful templates and members.


Charities invited to take part in benchmarking study on volunteering (19 August 2011)  – Third Sector

Study by the Association of Volunteer Managers and Agenda Consulting will enable organisations to assess their performance against those of their peers

The Association of Volunteer Managers and Agenda Consulting have launched a benchmarking study that will enable charities to measure the performance of their volunteers and volunteer management against their peers.

So far more than 80 organisations, including NHS trusts, police authorities and charities such as Diabetes UK and St John Ambulance, have agreed to take part.

Participants will submit data about their volunteering functions by the end of next month.

Agenda Consulting, a consulting and benchmarking company based in Oxford, will then compare performance in areas such as the profile of volunteers, performance management and learning and development. The results will be published in November.

Roger Parry, director of Agenda Consulting, said the study will help organisations “identify areas where they are lagging behind other organisations and areas where urgent action is needed to ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency”.

It costs AVM members £490 plus VAT to participate in the project. Non-members pay £590 plus VAT.

Nikki Squelch, a director at the AVM, said: “Volunteer management is a critical success factor for organisations, and benchmarking is vital for any organisation wishing to compare their practices with their peers in the sector.”

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is holding an information session about the study on 21 September.


Volunteer managers challenge Francis Maude (7th July 2011) – ivo.org

Cabinet Minister Francis Maude recently caused some controversy by declaring that public sector workers who are made redundant should volunteer to manage other volunteers. In his statement he suggested that charities had an excess of volunteers that they could not involve due to a shortage of volunteer managers and that public sector staff who have just lost their jobs should step in and help.

There has been a strong reaction from the volunteering sectior and others who see his comments as derogatory to the volunteer management profession.


Male volunteering soars at British Heart Foundation (1st April 2011)  – Third Sector

Debbie Usiskin, vice-chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, told Third Sector there were more men available for volunteering roles than before because of rising unemployment levels.

She said charities should take advantage of this by taking a strategic overview of volunteering.

“They need to think about the roles that would appeal and also the right marketing messages that would appeal to those people,” she said.

She added that it was important to remember how diverse our society was when planning different volunteering roles, and to consider roles that would appeal to different age groups and ethnicities as well.


Why we need more learning (29 March 2011)  – Third Sector

Julie Wilkes has the unenviable task of trying to persuade voluntary organisations to invest in skills and training. Training budgets are most commonly the first casualties of economic downturns, so Wilkes, chief executive of Skills – Third Sector, has a difficult job persuading people to protect them. “We know it’s absolutely horrendous for a lot of organisations right now,” she says.

Nevertheless, Skills – Third Sector, which the Labour government set up to address skills gaps in voluntary organisations, is pressing ahead with plans to develop the not-for-profit workforce. It has devised a national skills strategy and has created an apprenticeship framework to help charities benefit from the coalition government’s drive towards more vocational learning.

These are ambitious activities for a relatively low-profile and lightly funded organisation. Sheffield-based Skills – Third Sector was awarded £2.5m from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Office for Civil Society when it was established as a sector skills council in 2008. Funding is due to expire in March this year. The organisation went on to become a charity in 2009.

It plans to take on a more active role by stepping into the void created by the demise of the quango Capacitybuilders at the end of the month. The infrastructure body’s remit includes skills. For instance, it funded consortia of prominent charities and umbrella bodies to provide eight ‘work streams’ in areas such as performance management, leadership and governance, and marketing and communications. The consortia, which received £16.8m from 2008 to 2011, were expected to cascade learning across the sector.

The model is not dissimilar to the one Skills – Third Sector is now establishing. It has created four ‘skills networks’, covering volunteer management, governance and leadership, skills for business, and measuring effectiveness and impact.

Prominent charities and umbrella groups will work in consortia in each network. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Volunteering England, the Association of Volunteer Managers, New Philanthropy Capital, Navca and Sheffield Hallam University are among those involved.


Analysis: Are volunteers entitled to any workplace rights? (14 February 2011) – Third Sector

Kate Bowgett, one of the directors of the Association of Volunteer Managers, also thinks the appeal court got it right. Volunteers “don’t exist legally”, she says, but it would be hard to legislate for an activity that varies so much and greater clarity would make things more difficult.


Fall in volunteering numbers ’caused by lack of opportunities’ (4 February 2011) – Third Sector

Patrick Daniels, one of the directors of the Association of Volunteer Managers, said creating the right opportunities was about balancing the needs of the volunteers and the organisation.

“There has generally never been a lack of volunteers, but good quality opportunities do cost money,” he said.

Daniels said the government should improve the situation by investing in volunteering infrastructure and raising awareness among other funders, so they understood that managing and recruiting volunteers effectively cost money.