By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead


VOLUNTEERS – the glue that holds so many charities and organisations together, and are more often than not their lifeblood. Everyone wants them, but are there enough to go around?

It is a thorny subject that has been tackled from many angles down the years and still, there is no magic, one size fits all answer to the question of how do we find volunteers, motivate them and keep them?

Many papers have been written on the subject among them the latest to tackle the issues around volunteering, The Vision for Volunteering which is a collective 10-year aspiration for the future of volunteering in England.

The Vision seeks to bring about change in how volunteering looks, feels, and runs in England – to make it brilliant for everyone, everywhere. The aim is to build a movement of people who are inspired by the five big shifts we want to see over the next decade:

  • Awareness and appreciation
  • Power
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Collaboration
  • Experimentation

All fine words, but not worth the paper they are written on unless they can be put into practice at a grassroots level. And it is important that they are as, once again, pressure mounts on the sector in the latest of a series of crises – the cost of living crisis.

As is often the case, the voluntary and charity sector is leading the way in dealing with the fallout. For that, organisations across the board need volunteers prepared to step up to help their friends, relatives and neighbours in their times of need.

The Government have also announced that they are concentrating on volunteering as a focused way of getting more people, in particular the over 50’s, back into work, which is great news, but is it an influx the sector is well equipped to deal with?

It would be interesting to know how many organisations and charities would grind to a halt without volunteers and the answer is probably the majority. They fill so many roles, more often than not behind the scenes, Out of sight, but most definitely not out of mind.

In a nutshell, volunteering refers to giving your time, skills, and resources to help others without expecting any financial compensation. However, the rewards are numerous and ultimately worth more than mere money – not least, the opportunity to make a difference.

Volunteers have always been fundamental to the success of so many organisations and that was before the crises of the last few years – a decade of austerity followed by more than two years of coronavirus and more recently the cost of living crisis. To quote a Twitter hashtag they have #neverbeenmoreneeded.

Last week nearly fifty people from organisations in Paignton, Brixham and Torquay came together to discuss the future of volunteering in the Bay. Their areas of interest showed how deeply involved volunteers are in the delivery of so many things that we take for granted.

There were representatives from arts and culture, sports clubs, community organisations, health and wellbeing, animal welfare and information and advice to name but a few. There was no irony lost in recognising that the majority were volunteers themselves, seeking to replicate their own efforts.

Several groups across the Bay have been working behind the scenes to try and find ways of focusing everyone’s efforts to avoid replication and make it easier for those seeking volunteering opportunities to find them.

As usual, one of the biggest barriers is finance. In an ideal world, there would be a paid role at the helm coordinating everyone’s efforts and representing both those who want to volunteer as well as those who need them. But in today’s economic climate, that is an unlikely solution despite the added value volunteers bring to so many walks of life.

Hopefully, given the need to find an answer and the passion of those seeking to find it, there will be a solution, one that is suitable for the hundreds of charitable and voluntary sector groups that rely so heavily on volunteers. It is important because, whilst it would be impossible to put a monetary figure on it, in Torbay alone, the value of volunteering must run into millions of pounds.

In the words of Sherry Anderson: “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”

Volunteers form a star with hands photo courtesy of Freepik.com