Volunteer centres must modernise the way they operate, according to Justin Davis Smith, the executive director for volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.
Speaking at a round-table discussion on volunteering on Thursday, Davis Smith said there had been a change in the way people took up volunteering opportunities and the sector needed to respond.
"There’s a real shift away from people looking to organisations to provide volunteering opportunities for them and towards just doing it themselves," he said. "And that provides real challenges to organisations such as ours. I think volunteer centres need to embrace new technology much more than they’ve done in the past."
But Davis Smith said there was still a place for local volunteer centres. He had been working, he said, with 15 volunteer centres that mentor long-term unemployed people and had achieved "outstanding results" by getting about one-in-five back to work.
Karl Wilding, head of policy and research at the NCVO, said people were finding volunteering opportunities in different ways. "Some people are using online means," he said. "You have sites such as Do It, which has been successful. It doesn’t have a certain future at the moment, but that’s the sort of thing we would like to carry on."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said he believed that voluntary sector infrastructure should be pared back. "The sector should get the infrastructure that it is prepared to develop," said Etherington. "I’m in favour of infrastructure rationalisation and always have been, and it’s now slowly happening because the government is withdrawing funding. I think that’s right."