Traditional volunteer tasks such as envelope-stuffing might be paid for in future, as skilled volunteers demand more challenging activities in their retirement, according to research from the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing.
The commission, established by the think tanks NPC and ILC-UK, argues in its new paper, A Better Offer, that the volunteers of tomorrow could end up carrying out shorter-term substantial roles, akin to acting as consultants for charities, because they are unlikely to want to settle for stereotypical volunteer tasks such as licking envelopes and setting out chairs.
"Charities will increasingly need to suit the role to the volunteer, rather than the volunteer to the role," says the paper. "This might mean an end to formal, regular volunteering for some, and its replacement with short bursts of work, possibly done on the ‘turn up, join, lend a hand’ basis. More volunteering may take place online."
The paper also raises concern about the use of compulsory volunteering programmes, such as Department for Work and Pension initiatives that require unemployed people to volunteer in order to receive their benefits, and schemes in which volunteers receive incentives or payments. The paper argues that such schemes could undermine the altruistic motivations of traditional volunteers.
Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, told Third Sector: "There is a very strong feeling among volunteers – and it’s only going to grow – that volunteering is something you do because you want to be there and not because somebody paid you. The established volunteers in our focus group said they felt uncomfortable working alongside compulsory volunteers. I don’t know what impact it will have, whether that will make them stop, but it’s a real danger to the recruitment and retention of volunteers."
Corry said that charities intending to take on compulsory volunteers should first talk to existing volunteers to establish how they felt about the arrangement.
He said people in the focus groups reported that they did not want to be seen as cheap labour, carrying out work that was once someone’s paid job.
The paper drew on a series of focus groups with volunteers and a round-table with charity volunteer managers carried out in June and July, as well as the results of an email survey of 12 of the UK’s largest charities.