Why we structure Skilled Volunteering Projects

Why does link up structure skilled volunteering projects, rather than simply match-make?

Apr 2021

One sticking point for explaining Link UP London’s work to the diverse charities, social enterprises and community groups we work with is the word ’project’. The fact that a word, so important to how we structure our engagements, causes confusion means that we have some explaining to do. The thing is, I completely understand why!

Projects are the cornerstone to all Social Good Organisation output, as we, for the most part, get (try to get) funded on a project-by-project basis. The problem therefore is that when we say ‘we will match a Skilled Volunteer to a project that develops your organisation’, many organisations think (rightly so) of the projects and programmes they’re running all day, every day.

So, before I continue, I need to clearly state Link UP’s definition of ‘project’: Link UP Projects are the framed, time-based engagements between a Social Good Organisation and a Skilled Volunteer.

Why did we decide project-based volunteering?

Volunteering can be messy. It needs to be structured to perform a specific function and, at the same time, be loose enough to respect that an individual is donating their time. Volunteers aren’t employed, yet in many cases they can perform some of the same duties as staff.

Project-based volunteering allows for flexibility within a clear structure and timeframe. For Link UP, flexibility allows those in full-time employment to contribute to their community alongside work. Many people would like to get involved and give back but they are busy and will tend to shy away from engagements that feel long-term or undefined. Our projects provide them with both structure and an end date so they understand what they are delivering on, when, as well as why it is important to the organisation. In a sample of 50 of our volunteers, 70% were in employment. If you’re wondering about the other 30% of our volunteers who are out of the workforce, some are represented here.

Volunteering through Link UP is skills based and looks to tackle organisational development and, fundamentally, build the capacity of Social Good Organisations. We structure engagements as projects to provide clear expectations from the outset, use deadlines to drive change forward and monitor the impact made in the community through our Skilled Volunteering. Also, importantly, structuring as projects helps us to understand what hasn’t worked so well, allowing us to get more and more efficient at creating tailor-made Skilled Volunteer roles for individuals to invest their expertise and time.

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A few benefits to Skilled Volunteering Projects:

Volunteer can:

Understand expectations from the outset and ensure they are structured to fit into their lives in most appropriate way.

See clearly the impact they will be making from the beginning, and the value the project will add to the organisation, and reflect on the successes at project end.

Have clarity of scope and a project end date allowing them to deliver something concrete to the organisation.

Social Good Organisation can:

Use Link UP’s years of experience in setting up Skilled Volunteering projects to help structure the most effective Skilled Volunteer role, that focus on building the organisations capacity rather than providing a quick fix.

Break down potentially overwhelming organisational development work into manageable chunks of separate projects.

Have clarity around the resource they need, upfront, to grow their capacity.

Have a blueprint for tackling similar issues when they arise in the future.

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Projects benefit us as they allow everyone involved to cumulatively grow and make use of the knowledge of different skillsets. We know our work has impact, so get involved in a Skilled Volunteer Project and be part of the change!

Interested in volunteering? Take a look at our project stories [link] and see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy!

If you would like a 15 minute organisational assessment with Link UP on setting up a Skilled Volunteering project, do get in touch or check out our sign-up form.

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If you have any questions about the blog above or would like to talk further about getting involved, use our contact us form and we'll be in touch soon by email or over the phone!

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