EDITORIAL: The loneliness of the unsung third sector volunteer

LUCY MAGGS

Volunteers are the life blood of many third-sector organisations.

Most organisations simply could not operate without them. And it's not just third-sector organisations that rely on volunteers, but the economy depends on them too.

According to statistics from the National Centre for Volunteering, the economic value of volunteering is in the region of around £40 billion a year.

The contribution of volunteers is often underrated in the sector, as charities have tended to focus on financial resources. Volunteers, although they are unpaid, can't be expected to turn up and get on with the boring jobs no one else wants. They need support in the form of training and advice and must feel that the valuable contribution they make is being recognised. Those that don't get anything out of the experience simply will not come back.

Therefore organisations need to learn how to manage volunteers correctly. This makes the role of a volunteer manager crucial.

They are, after all, responsible for one of the most important resources the organisation has.

But volunteer managers are not given as much credit as their fundraising or finance counterparts - something that is particularly evident when it comes to pay. It also seems amazing that it's only just been proposed that there should be a professional body to "raise the profile

of the volunteering manager's role (Third Sector, 10 April).

The Government, however, is starting to realise the value of unsung volunteers and has begun to put its weight behind schemes such as Millennium Volunteers.

Volunteering is not only valuable for those on the receiving end but can also be of benefit to the person donating their time. It can be a great opportunity to socialise as well as a useful addition to a CV. It can also be a useful first step on the road to finding a job for the long-term unemployed. Organisations therefore must ensure the contribution made by volunteers and managers is not undervalued.

Feature p20.

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