Eighteen major charities have today pledged to work together on an initiative intended to share knowledge and skills and make volunteering easier for people.
The aim of the Shaping the Future with Volunteering group, which includes the British Red Cross, National Trust and the RNLI, is to capitalise on the 'revolution' that has taken place in volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 12.4 million people gave their time last year, compared with eight to nine million annually pre-Covid-19, and the group hopes to make the experience easier and encourage more people to keep volunteering.
A secretariat led by the Royal Voluntary Service will oversee the initiative, aided by a £50,000 fund provided by charities involved.
Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of RVS, and Matt Hyde, chief executive of The Scouts, will co-chair the group. All the chief executives will meet regularly.
Johnstone said Covid-19 had caused a “volunteering revolution” and charities “need to get our houses in order” to make the most of the “once-in-a-generation opportunity”.
She said many volunteers still felt they had to “jump through a million hoops” to give their time and the group would attempt to tackle this, as well as share systems and processes to disseminate best practice.
She added: “This isn't just a talking shop to get chief executives in a room together every now and then, it's about our teams working together and finding combined solutions.
“It's a coalition of the willing. It's not an exclusive club. Others will be able to join.”
Asked whether the collaboration would extend as far as sharing back office functions, Johnstone said: “Not at this point, but who knows in future? We must work better together.
“We know change is needed if we are to make the most of this incredible chance and we are determined to seize the moment.”
The idea emerged from a chief executives networking event Johnstone ran in September.
Hyde said: “The commitment and kindness of 12 million volunteers has made all the difference to life during the pandemic, from those supporting the vaccination programme to the Scout leaders who delivered 3.8 million hours of Zoom meetings. Now’s the time to build on that by championing what volunteering offers society.”
Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “We’re now at an important crossroad that will shape the future of volunteering. To secure the incredible legacy of volunteering during the pandemic we must learn the lessons and realise the opportunities it has presented.”
A position statement by the group identifies key areas of opportunity, which include supporting the Covid-19 recovery, building volunteers’ own wellbeing and working with diverse communities.
The group has also agreed four strategic priorities: understanding, inclusion, support and partnerships.
The 18 charities in the group are: British Red Cross, Cats Protection, Girlguiding, Helpforce, National Trust, NCT, NSPCC,Papworth Trust, Rotary, RNLI, RVS, Samaritans, Scouts, St John Ambulance, Stroke Association, The Conservation Volunteers, Volunteering Matters and YHA.