You tell me! Having spent time this week considering the role of the church in our sector as well as faced with cuts to the public sector, this feels pertinent.
Do I think we can do better by and with our volunteers? Absolutely. We don’t always get it right and neither do our volunteers. Who hasn’t signed up to something in haste and then changed their mind?
If volunteers are not valued then they won’t value us. But someone somewhere has to pay for all that support we want to give volunteers. It’s a waste of money to recruit and lose volunteers at the rate it happens. It couldn’t be financially tolerated with paid staff.
Much of the impact of volunteering is in its very voluntary nature. Not being paid to care sends a powerful message to a person who has only known paid professionals. Our volunteer mentors are wonderful for the specific contribution they choose to make. And if that comes from a place of wanting to ‘do good’ then we’re very grateful, but they will be asked to share our values and follow a robust process that keeps people safe and supported.
Where things get more complex are the skills gaps that this sector should be able to afford. Should these be filled by volunteers? Doesn’t it send the wrong message to our beneficiaries about their worth if we have no choice but to fill skilled roles with unpaid staff? I’m not saying many volunteers aren’t skilled – they are.
But you wouldn’t expect your bank to be staffed by well-meaning volunteers with a few hours a week to spare, so why would we? It would be a business risk.
So let’s value all our people and what we do by valuing our volunteers as volunteers. That way we can give the right support, have the right impact and keep people safe as well as achieve our mission.
So a big thank you today to our (past and present) Volunteer Mentors, our Board of Non-Executive Directors and our Your Own Place Advisory Board (YOPAB) – all of whom are different types of volunteers playing to their strengths, not our sector’s weaknesses.