The Value of Skilled Volunteering
I had a really interesting conversation the other day. A lovely woman who works with a charitable organisation told me that their Link UP volunteer had done a wonderful job and had completed his project. He has since stayed engaged with them and helps out monthly, doing work that she was struggling to do on her own. This is a tremendous support for her. She commented that this experience has helped her think differently about how the organisation should use volunteers in the future. They should really look at how volunteers’ skills, and not just their time, can help them do their work.
This got me thinking. First, I was excited about the fact that she had such a positive experience. Second, I was happy that the volunteer had stayed engaged. But mostly I thought how difficult it is for charitable organisations to think about volunteering being more than just front-line service delivery.
This has been an ongoing challenge for us. When we began in 2016, many organisations came to us looking for front line volunteers, but this is not what we set out to do. Rather we were testing the theory that people would be willing to volunteer their skills on short-term structured projects to help charitable organisations in their community do their work better. We would explain skills volunteering; that we were placing volunteers into skilled roles, basically as consultants, within their organisations to help them work on an operational or strategic priority of some kind. Some of these early organisations saw a value in this and tried it out, others did not.
Over the past four years we have continued with our message of the positive value that people’s skills can contribute to charitable organisations. We have been continually impressed with how many qualified people have responded and are willing to volunteer with us. It turns out that all you have to do is ask! Having a person to speak with about it and a clear structure helps too. More and more organisations are seeing the benefit of this too. We have now worked with over 60 organisations in Wandsworth and Lambeth helping with strategies, policies, finances, websites, IT, programme development, human resources, and much more. My conversation the other day reminded me that the trend is growing and it is so wonderful to hear about the impressive impact that many of our volunteers are having!