Compact in action: Compact code on volunteering

Organisations can ask for money to encourage minority groups to give their time.

The Compact code says volunteering should not "unfairly exclude particular groups" and that "it is legitimate for voluntary and community organisations to include the costs of greater access to volunteering in relevant applications for funding".

Despite these clauses, it is widely accepted that minority groups such as disabled people, single parents and people from black or Asian backgrounds are under-represented in volunteering. And few organisations include the cost of getting minority groups involved when bidding for funding for volunteering projects.

The issue was highlighted in January in a report published by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering. One of its key recommendations was that the Government should establish a fund to help people from minority groups to be able to volunteer.

The Commission for the Compact has responded by commissioning research into the costs and benefits of engaging volunteers from under- represented groups.

It has invited interested parties to submit tenders to conduct research into the costs of involving volunteers from under-represented groups, provide case studies based on their research and develop a full cost recovery tool that enables organisations to measure the full cost of involving minority groups. Bidding was due to close today.

"We want to quantify the costs of identifying under-represented groups," says Nick Drew, a policy adviser at the Commission for the Compact. "There might be extra costs incurred simply by contacting these groups - they might require extra support. For people with disabilities, there are material costs such as transportation. We would like to find out what the barriers are and the costs of removing them."

The commission will use the findings to form guidance on full cost recovery, which it will issue to funders of volunteering projects. "It is very difficult for people to work out what the full cost is," says Drew.

The successful bidder will carry out two stages of qualitative research in the autumn and spring next year by studying projects that receive assistance from the GoldStar scheme, which promotes good practice for volunteers from socially excluded groups.

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