Charities 'should do more to make volunteering attractive to older people'

Janet Thorne, chief executive of Reach, tells the Growing Giving inquiry at the House of Commons that many charities are not creative enough about volunteering opportunities

Janet Thorne
Janet Thorne

A lack of interesting roles is deterring people from volunteering in their retirement, the Charities Aid Foundation’s parliamentary inquiry on Growing Giving heard today.

The inquiry, chaired by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, heard evidence about volunteering and older people in its final session at the House of Commons today.

Janet Thorne, chief executive of Reach, a charity that connects other charities with skilled volunteers, said that one difficulty in getting more people to volunteer was that it was often seen as "worthy".

"Older people are a valuable resource – they are less likely to stop volunteering and people over 60 are twice as likely to go on to volunteer," she said. "The problem is with demand – charities are not that good at being creative with things for them to do."

Thorne said that some charities saw volunteers as "not worth the bother" because they had had negative experiences in the past.

But she said that charities did not invest in volunteering and consider what they needed, they could get the wrong person and be left feeling frustrated.

"Common sense can go out of the window when there is no financial contract," she said. "Some charities get it, but there are an awful lot who are not that good at it.

"People are asking for interesting things to do – if there were these opportunities, there would be more people wanting to do it."

Andrew Percy, co-chair of the inquiry and the Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, asked how much volunteers themselves were a barrier to volunteering. He said there was a "cliqueness" among volunteers in some area, with the same people sitting on different committees.

Thorne said this was because people often found out about volunteering opportunities from people in their network of friends.

"Word of mouth is important, but we need to extend beyond that," she said. "Volunteer centres are important, but the will has to come from the charities."

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