We all heard how an ‘army of volunteers’ rose to the challenge during the pandemic and delivered vital services to their communities and the most vulnerable. According to the Isolation Economy research by Legal and General, the work done by volunteers had an equivalent economic value of more than £357 million each week.
In addition to this huge financial value volunteers are adding to society, the social connections and community ties that were created and strengthened during lockdown were priceless.
Volunteer managers are usually the people employed by the charity to help recruit and manage their volunteers. They are the gateway between the charity and volunteers and given the facts above, it is safe to assume that these volunteer managers are adding huge monetary and social value to their charity.
So why are volunteer managers not heard within charities?
Sadly, our experience and interactions with charities proved this over and over. Firstly, there is the common condescending tone used by some finance managers towards their Volunteer Managers Team. Secondly, when asking about controls within the system, there seems to be an assumption that Volunteer Managers may not do their job properly, are lazy or even may commit fraud.
We find this really sad because we work with volunteer managers closely and they’ve proved that they’re incredibly hard working people who do the best for their volunteers and their charity. If you take a moment to think about it, they have an extremely hard job because managing and motivating people who are kindly giving you their time (ie people you don’t pay) is no easy task.
We are often told that finance would not even look at the volunteering team’s suggestion of improving their processes and becoming more efficient by using digital tools (when money is involved). The words “Finance shut down the suggestion straight away” are now very common
Recently we demo’s vHelp to a senior Volunteering team at a large charity (who absolutely loved it especially how we reimburse volunteers within 24 hours), they came back to us and said finance shut down the idea of vHelp and suggested a completely different system which is not fit for purpose and takes 6 weeks to reimburse the volunteers! Apparently, the Volunteer Manager pushed back on the basis that this system takes 6 weeks to reimburse a volunteer, and the response they got from their head of finance was ‘I don’t care how long it takes to reimburse the volunteers’
We constantly see evidence that Volunteer Managers are not sitting at the table, they are not part of strategic decision making, they are not heard and simply ignored. Those same people who are adding so much financial and social value to their organisation
So what would it take charities to start listening to their Volunteer Managers?
Please share your thoughts with us and we’ll write another blog sharing your ideas.