Charity Leaders Forum

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Charity Leaders Forum with Gethyn Williams

On 16th November The Clare Foundation team hosted our first face to face Charity Leaders Forum since before the pandemic. We invited volunteering strategist, Gethyn Williams to give a presentation about volunteering and invited a small audience of Bucks charity CEOs. Gareth’s presentation was insightful and prompted some lively discussions.

Summary of Charity Leaders Forum

Adjusting the sails: taking stock of Covid-era volunteering to help strengthen your programmes and grow your strategic ambitions.

The Covid-19 era has seen both enormous churn in the UK volunteering workforce and a new appreciation of the value of volunteering amongst the general public. As we move out of lockdown and into what we hope is a more stable phase, how can charities take stock of these changes and consider what they mean for their own volunteering programmes and wider ambitions?

Coming into the pandemic UK volunteering rates were healthy but in something of a steady decline, following the boost in participation delivered by London 2012. This mirrored the experience of the previous ‘national moment’ for volunteering – the Year of the Volunteer 2005 – which suggests a natural trend – temporary phenomena can deliver a boost, but as a nation we struggle to sustain these levels, and over time they revert to mean.

The Covid era has not yet delivered an observable net growth in volunteer numbers – the numbers of new volunteers starting seem to have largely offset those who have had to withdraw, most likely for shielding reasons or because their former roles no longer worked under lockdown or social distancing conditions.

Nevertheless, within this static picture we have seen significant churn in the balance of formal and informal volunteers – fewer engaged in structured volunteering and many more taking up self-directed, local acts of ‘neighbourliness’. This shift in volunteers’ experience and expectation presents a real challenge for all organisations delivering defined social outcomes with volunteers.

Despite this, the pandemic has also brought new opportunities for developing our approach. As an integral part of the community response to Covid, volunteering achieved a real breakthrough in public consciousness, which helped to attract a staggering 4.6m first time volunteers. Considering 7 in 10 UK Adults had already volunteered at least once in their lives this is a significant new audience, albeit one perhaps more used to newer models of volunteering, meaning anyone seeking to engage them may need to adapt their practice or expectations.

Support from Gethyn Williams and The Clare Foundation

If your charity would like to do any of the following, do reach out to Gethyn Williams or The Clare Foundation for more information:

  • reimagine or reinvent your volunteering programme for the Covid and post-Covid era
  • embed volunteering in your strategic objectives, business goals and partnerships
  • raise the profile of volunteering in your organisational culture
  • scope the technological and digital solutions best-suited to your volunteering ambitions
  • get your whole team ‘volunteer-ready’, improving your organisation’s confidence to engage with volunteering

A message from Jo Turner, CEO at the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity

“Thanks very much to the Clare Foundation for arranging the session with Gethyn Williams. It was really helpful to hear the national perspective on volunteering post-covid, informed by Gethyn’s work with DCMS, in order to attract new volunteers to our own organisations.” 

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