Small Charity Week

Why volunteers are gold dust

Blog post   •   May 16, 2016 12:20 BST

Richard Lane, Managing Director of Ansvar Insurance – a sponsor of Small Charity Week – explores why volunteers are more precious than ever, where to find them and how to keep them safe and happy.

Most charities are only as good as the volunteer force that supports them. Each year 20 million people contribute £40 billion worth of time an effort towards our economy*. The reality is, the majority of not- for-profits and many of our public services couldn’t exist without the hours that people donate to their communities every week.

With the recent spending cuts and plans for a Big Society, volunteers are more vital than ever. However in difficult economic times, numbers decline and volunteers are like gold dust.

So where can you find those gold dust volunteers?

A good place to start is your local CVS (Councils for Voluntary Service). There’s a national network of CVS’s that offer a huge database of volunteering opportunities and local people looking to volunteer. As well as being a volunteer goldmine, they can help you with training, advice and support.

There is also a really useful toolkit on the Small Charity Week website here and you can also advertise volunteering opportunities for free in the run up to and during Small Charity Week here.

Once you have tracked down your volunteers, how do you keep hold of them? A volunteer’s time is precious and organisations have to value their commitment.

Understanding what motivates people to volunteer in the first place can really help; research has shown that 75% of people want to see the difference they make in people’s lives, 65% of younger people want to improve their skills and job prospects and over half of the 60+ age group believe it helps them make friends**.

Every volunteer is different, so it’s vital that charities recognise what individuals want from their volunteering experience. Organizations should be committed to ensuring they deliver on the skills and personal enrichment people are hungry for.

Equally, it is just as important to understand what puts volunteers off. One national survey discovered that almost half the people they spoke to were worried about risks and liabilities***. As insurers we regularly witness the distressing consequences of poor volunteer management through the claims we receive.

Often these consequences are financial. A series of claims will affect your organisation’s insurability and if poor management means you can’t get insured, your organisation’s livelihood and existence could be on the line.

Most upsetting, however, are the human consequences of poor management – do you have appropriate training and safety mechanisms in place? People can be injured or worse in supporting your organisation and how could you ever compensate for changing the course of someone’s life in a tragic way?

A reputation for carelessness with your volunteers is something you want to avoid at all costs. Which brings us to the crucial question, how do you take care of the people you rely on?

It is important to always be prepared, to carry out risk assessments, have health and safety policies in place and to make sure children and vulnerable adults are protected. Those are just the beginning of a long list of measures you can take to help keep your volunteers and the people they come into contact with safe and coming back for more. A good insurance broker can provide you with helpful guidance on this.