What's so great about Skilled Volunteering?

Volunteering has increased dramatically over the past few months during lockdown and it has been incredibly heartening to see the outpouring of support for communities around London. There has also been a particular increase in people looking to share their skills while on furlough during this time. We love that Skilled Volunteering is even starting to trend with its own hashtag (making our lives, when social media posting, that much easier)! Skilled Volunteering is certainly moving more into the foreground of the public eye.

As lockdown eases and people return to work, we very much hope that the spirit of goodwill continues and Skilled Volunteering remains a part of people’s lives.  Work and volunteering are not mutually exclusive and there are many ways to continue to share your skills in the community, even as lives become busy once again. 

We wanted to take a moment to share some of our thoughts and experiences with skilled volunteering.  

As many people are aware, volunteering is hugely valuable to the individuals, organisations, causes and the communities it supports.  Volunteering provides enormous benefits to those who volunteer their time. Helping others can have a profound effect on overall psychological well-being and volunteering has been proven to improve mental and physical health, along with linking people to new networks, connecting the community and developing new skills.

What you may not know, however, is that Skilled Volunteering offers even more than this by broadening skills, improving job possibilities, building confidence and offering a truly rewarding experience! At Link UP we’ve been privileged to see these results first hand.

“The project was an immensely rewarding experience that allowed me to help great people who do a lot for their community. I would recommend others to jump in and help however they can to allow local charitable organisations to focus more on helping the community.”

- Link UP Volunteer 

Why is Skilled Volunteering important?

There are over 160,000 charities in the UK, over 90% of which are small and community based and there are growing numbers of small social enterprises as well. Skills-based volunteering is particularly important for these organisations as they tend to have small teams and run on minimal overhead costs so that they can maximize their direct work within the communities. This means that staff are regularly multitasking and not necessarily working on areas they are knowledgeable/comfortable with such as finance, communications and HR. 

Through skills-based volunteering, charities are able to access industry experts who can help them in these areas and focus on the business aspect of their work including strategies, processes, systems and more. This type of support allows these organisations to do their work better and more efficiently while helping them to increase their reach; it also permits charity staff members to continue to focus on the direct service delivery that they do best.  

“The volunteer brought useful skills and extra capacity to our very small team and ensured that we were able to capture feedback from a series of special events. The final report produced by the volunteer was extremely professional and has given us many useful insights that we will continue to draw upon.”

- Link UP charity partner 

“Link UP London's work through its volunteers is very valuable especially for small voluntary groups like us who don't have the required expertise and can't afford to pay for professional services. The support we received from the volunteer to develop a Volunteer Strategy will enable us to provide our services in the local community.”

- Link UP charity partner 

How can volunteers benefit from Skilled Volunteering?

1. Broadening skills and employment opportunities

Skills-based volunteering allows individuals to apply their knowledge in different environments increasing communication skills, flexibility, problem solving and leadership.

A 2016 Impact survey: Building Leadership through Volunteerism by Deloitte found that over 80 % of recruiters said that they would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience on their CVs. However, the study also revealed a preference for skills-based volunteering among recruiters as it is viewed as an excellent way to develop strong leadership skills along with demonstrating commitment and accountability.

“I found the volunteering experience invaluable as not only was I able to provide my marketing and sponsorship skills to a worthwhile charity focusing on helping provide educational funding for young women and children, it also helped me find a new and exciting marketing manager position working within education.”

- Link UP Volunteer 

"Volunteering with Link UP has been a very positive experience for me. Not only have I been able to apply my legal skills to a good cause, but I have had the opportunity to peak inside a local charity that offers a valuable service. I’ve been keen to learn more about mediation for a long time, and through the charity I have learnt about a resolution technique that could directly benefit my legal clients."

- Link UP Volunteer 

2. Building confidence 

Skills-based volunteering can boost self-esteem and remind people of the value of their skills. By utilizing skills in different contexts or using them again after a career-break, Skilled Volunteering projects can help people to better understand what they have to offer and increase confidence. 

 “This project gave me a challenge when I really needed one and showed me I can do so much more than I thought. I absolutely loved volunteering on this - it was rewarding, stretching and gave me so much more confidence.”

- Link UP Volunteer 

“My Link UP project gave me more confidence in my skills and made me step outside my comfort zone, learning new skills - scary but fun at the same time.”

- Link UP Volunteer

3. A rewarding experience 

Providing skills that are needed by organisations offers them truly meaningful support that helps them do their work better, which can be incredibly rewarding.  If projects are well structured with clear end results, this can be a real win-win for the volunteer and organisation by allowing the volunteer to provide something that can truly impact the organisation’s development. 

“The volunteer worked really hard to understand our organisation, our position, our strengths and weaknesses and used this to develop a usable and realistic fundraising strategy that enables us to plan how to best access future funding.”

- Link UP charity partner 

“Link UP connected me with an incredibly passionate team and project where I was able to use my skills positively to contribute to a community project for Lambeth. I made some great connections during the time and it helped to concretise my wish to do more work in the community because of the fun and incredible energy it gave me.”

- Link UP Volunteer

At Link UP, we aim to connect volunteers with Social Good Organisations in flexible ways that helps them fit these projects into their busy lives. Our projects are designed to be short-term (from a few hours to no longer than 6 months) and are structured as volunteer consultancies so that the volunteer can work on them at a time that is convenient for them while the organisation receives the support they need.  

“I loved the fact that the project was clearly articulated and the timeframe was very manageable. It did not require a time commitment every week.”

- Link UP Volunteer

While the future post-Covid is still unknown, what is known is that we are moving into a time of significant economic uncertainty, high levels of unemployment and will be dealing with the ramifications to physical and mental health for years to come.  Community SGOs will be at the forefront of tackling these challenges and will need your help through Skilled Volunteering now more than ever.