Manifesto prompts new research into the real costs of volunteering

The Commission for the Compact and Volunteering England are launching research into the real cost of volunteering in response to Manifesto for Change, the report of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering.

The report calls on charities to raise the profile of volunteering, enhance promotional events such as volunteering charity CSV's Make a Difference Day and make it easier for disabled people, those with mental health problems and asylum seekers to volunteer (Third Sector Online, 28 January).

It also the asks the Government to provide £1m to help people from under-represented groups to volunteer and an annual £5m fund to support partnerships between voluntary groups and local authorities.

But the Commission for the Compact has emphasised that all such improvements will come at a cost - and that the sector should not be expected to pick up the bill.

It hopes its new research will help charities to cover all their costs when applying for funds. According to the Compact's volunteering code, the Government should recognise that it is legitimate for voluntary groups to include the costs of removing barriers to volunteering in their funding applications.

"Volunteering is freely given, but it is not cost-free," said Helen Baker, interim commissioner for the Compact. "Additional resources to help support, develop and manage volunteers all incur costs.

"We want to help organisations in the third sector to understand the full range of costs associated with volunteers, and to encourage them to recognise that it is legitimate to include the costs in funding applications."

The research, which will be published in the summer, will focus on the costs of making volunteering easier for disabled people, single parents, asylum seekers and those from other under-represented groups.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, said the cost of expanding volunteering should not be met only by the sector.

"There are costs for recruiting, screening, checking, matching, supporting and recognising volunteers," she said. "It is time the Government met these costs, so that volunteer organisers can focus their energy on involving volunteers, not on continuously seeking funds to enable volunteering to happen."

Background

Manifesto for Change is the latest in a series of initiatives to increase public participation in volunteering.

Gordon Brown showed his commitment to volunteering as Chancellor in March 2004 when he announced a commission on youth volunteering.

When the commission, chaired by Ian Russell, then chief executive of Scottish Power, reported back in 2005, it recommended a government-funded youth volunteering charity that involved young people in decision-making. This led to the launch of v, which aims to recruit a million volunteers aged 16 to 24 by 2010.

The Year of the Volunteer, another scheme to boost volunteering among groups of all ages, also took place in 2005. Both Volunteering England and CSV received £1m to organise the initiative.

Although the charities concerned hailed it as a success, a report from sector think tank nfpSynergy in October 2005 claimed there had been no increase in volunteering figures compared with the previous year.

The Government will respond in full to the Commission on the Future of Volunteering's recommendations next month.

Manifesto snippets

'People on the verge of volunteering need to know they are welcome. We were saddened to hear of people whose offers to volunteer had not been followed up'

'We heard stories of bureaucratic hurdles that had degenerated into caricatures of risk-aversion'

'Outmoded stereotypes persist - for example, volunteers as do-gooders'

'Even those who do volunteer may not be given the best possible opportunities to use their rich array of skills'

'We were made aware that, occasionally, volunteers experience a lack of respect for what they do'.

 

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