Cultural Playing Field

Has volunteering developed a new momentum? by Robin Simpson
November 9, 2012, 3:55 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

I was in London again on Thursday to take part in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Members Assembly meeting. The theme of the meeting was ‘Has volunteering developed a new momentum?’ – looking at the effect of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on volunteering. NCVO Chair, Martyn Lewis, introduced the debate, saying “it’s been an amazing summer of volunteering but it does present a challenge for the volunteering organisations”.

Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England said “we have never seen volunteering more in the public eye” but wondered whether we could keep this going. He pointed out that the 270 volunteer centres around the country are having a very tough time with their funding cut by 25% this year, on top of 18% cuts last year. Research undertaken by LOCOG indicates that 44% of the UK population wish they had been Games Makers. Justin asked how we can bottle the spirit of London 2012 in a climate where many organisations who have been working with volunteers for many years are suffering. He suggested there were six lessons from the success of the Games Makers programme: leadership, planning & strategy, management & training, recognition, innovation & technology and investment.

Tiger de Souza, Head of Volunteering at NSPCC, suggested that people had volunteered for London 2012 to be part of something massive – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do any of our current volunteering opportunities generate similar feelings? He pointed out the attraction of a very defined time period for volunteering – whereas most volunteering opportunities are open-ended. Tiger suggested that when you ask most people how they got into volunteering the answer is something like “I made a throwaway remark at a dinner party and the next thing I knew I was the Treasurer!” He talked about the need for succession planning, role descriptions and advertising and wondered how many of us are truly following best practice. Tiger felt that calling the London 2012 volunteers ‘Games Makers’ had made a big difference. The Games Maker training events had been incredibly slick and professional, the volunteers felt special and privileged, good use had been made of technology and the whole experience had been fun. Tiger said the key lessons were that volunteering needs a re-brand, we need to create opportunities that fit into people’s lives and we need to develop recognition of the value of volunteers (as a society). The challenge is investment – we need to be creative.

It was a fascinating discussion with some excellent speakers – easily the best NCVO Members Assembly meeting I have been to.

Robin Simpson.

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