Today, we got official public confirmation from Guardian Jobs that it intends to cease its service of allowing organisations to post volunteering opportunities on Guardian Jobs from 1st July 2014.
Back at the end of March, there were reports that people were being told a decision had been taken. When challenged at the beginning of April, Guardian Jobs said the decision was still under review:
At the end of last week, Third Sector published an article and managed to get an informal briefing from a member of the Guardian’s press office who said:
some job-seekers looking for paid work were complaining that there were too many volunteering roles compared with paid positions, “which was affecting their experience in looking for paid work on the site”.
Guardian Jobs twitter feed was still silent on this today, and in ‘good cop’ ‘bad cop’ style left it to sister stream Guardian Voluntary to deliver the bad news:
This confirmed the line that the change is “in response to significant jobseeker feedback” that flagged up dissatisfaction with the mix of volunteering opportunities alongside paid jobs. They went further:
recent feedback from jobseekers searching for paid work has indicated that they were seeing too many volunteering roles compared to paid positions. We tried to address this with a filter to enable users to exclude ‘volunteering’ positions, but the feedback remained the same and users stated that it was affecting their experience in looking for paid work on Guardian Jobs.
The technicalities of this issue don’t really seem to fully explain the move. In terms of a filter – there already is a filter.
When a user searches you can restrict the search to paid jobs only simply by clicking “Job Vacancy” in Listing Type.
The solution, therefore, would be to switch this on by default and demand the user explicitly opts in to viewing volunteering opportunities. Incidently, the Guardian also posts internships which are expenses only, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do about these.
But I suspect this decision has not been made purely on the technicalities. This is about the issue of perception and how the Guardian Jobs service is perceived by users.
The thinking may have gone something like the following: a job site to compete and be effective needs to look and feel like a job site. Too many volunteering roles (and describing them as volunteering jobs probably didn’t help) popping up in a user’s searches runs contrary to expectations of what a job site is and should be.
And this is where it gets interesting.
Are job sites and volunteering opportunities incompatible?
Charity Job has listings for both paid and voluntary work. So it’s not like it’s unheard of – but Charity Job have clearly worked harder to distinguish between paid and voluntary roles. LinkedIn certainly sees potential to run the two together with its launch of the Volunteer Marketplace.
Moreover, don’t hibrid sites complement volunteering opportunity-only sites like Do-it, vInspired or Reach? To go to a volunteering only site – the user is already actively searching for volunteering. Whereas job sites with volunteering opportunities, like Guardian Jobs, are uniquely placed to engage jobseekers who may never have considered volunteering.
It provides that precious opportunity to reach people when they are jobseeking, at a time when they are both particularly responsive to volunteering and potentially have so much to gain from volunteering. Whether they are out of work or considering a career change, there’s a synergy between jobseeking and volunteer opportunity seeking. It feels like a huge shame that the needs of one segment of the jobseekers trump the needs of another segment of jobseekers.
And it’s not for lack of evidence – the Guardian will know better than anyone in the sector how many organisations have used their service to post volunteering opportunities, how many volunteering opportunities it has posted and how much interest each volunteering opportunity generates. You’d suspect with volunteering opportunities currently representing roughly 10% of the jobs on Guardian Jobs and volunteer recruiters reporting such a high level of satisfaction, that the figures would be in rude health. According to what the Guardian themselves say: “Volunteer roles advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk receive on average 564 page views and 37 applications.”
It’s hard to ignore the obvious difference: that one segment is much easier to monetize than the other. And so charities are reminded, if one was needed, that services offered for free cannot be sustained indefinitely (read the small print), when commercial imperatives sooner or later can no longer be held in check.
All in all, the significance for those in volunteer management of the Guardian’s decision is that it signals the withdrawal from the UK’s volunteer recruiter’s ecosystem of a platform with unparalleled mainstream profile. In the UK, those in volunteer management are fortunate to have such a vibrant volunteering opportunity infrastructure, particularly with ivo.org announcing a revamp for Do-it later this year.
However, with the Guardian’s profile and positioning, it’s not surprising many organisations have reported Guardian Jobs as a particularly important way of reaching a different type of volunteer.
According to Quantcast, the Guardian is their UK number one site with over 12 million people visiting a month (over 1 million visiting Jobs Guardian monthly in the UK). In other measures the Guardian is in the top 15 sites in the UK (only after the tech multinationals and the Daily Mail).
According to Guardian itself: 109,000 monthly unique users of Guardian Jobs, work in the charity or voluntary sector and Guardian Jobs carries more charity roles than any other publication or job board.
This is a story about the UK’s self proclaimed number one job board for charities turning its back on listing volunteering opportunities.
So may be we should not ignore how the statement today by Guardian Jobs appeared to leave the door ajar:
We appreciate that volunteering listings are important and we are therefore investigating how we can adopt a different approach for this in the future, and we will keep jobseekers and the sector updated on these plans.
If you haven’t already, write and tell those at the Guardian considering the new approach why the service has been important to your organisation and the volunteers who found your opportunities through them (contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Interesting comment thread on the Third Sector article
A Storify timeline of the wider discussion mainly on Twitter
Top reasons to use Guardian Jobs
Guardian Jobs list ads for volunteer roles free of charge: As of November 2010 any volunteer role advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk is completely free (excludes Trustees, Chairs, Honorary Board Members, Internships and Non-Executive Directors)
Volunteer roles highly sought after: Volunteer roles advertised on guardianjobs.co.uk receive on average 564 page views and 37 applications.
A huge reach online: 207,000 voluntary/charity sector professionals use guardianjobs.co.uk a month
A strong reach in print: 89,000 voluntary/charity sector professionals use the Guardian’s print recruitment supplements every week
Quality response: 82% of voluntary/charity or public sector roles advertised with Guardian Jobs result in a Guardian candidate filling the role
Source: The Guardian