Posts Tagged ‘charity’

The cost of volunteering

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

I keep hearing volunteers referred to as free labour – normally in the context of the “Big Society” being a way to replace paid employees with volunteers because they’re free. But at a time when policymakers talk about wanting to encourage big increases in levels of volunteering, some volunteering charities are struggling to find funding.

A point that doesn’t seem to be well recognised in mainstream media coverage of the Big Society is that volunteers are not free. In fact, they can be very expensive.

Volunteers need to be supported. (Obviously, I’m talking in the context of Solent Youth Action – a charity that focuses on enabling young people to volunteer. But still…)

Someone needs to look out for and help to create opportunities for people to volunteer.

Someone needs to check that a volunteering opportunity is safe, that the role is appropriate, and that the volunteer will be adequately supported.

Someone needs to identify any training or preparation required for a volunteering role, and help the volunteer to find the training they need – whether it’s getting a food hygiene certficate for volunteering in a community kitchen, or getting training to help prepare them for working with people with special physical or learning needs.

Someone needs to encourage the volunteer to review and reflect on what they’ve done, and what they got out of it.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The point is that to do volunteering properly (where a volunteer is supported in carrying out a well-defined and appropriate role for which they are properly prepared) takes work. And that work has a cost.


How old should charity trustees be?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I commented on an interesting blog post about young charity trustees a few weeks ago. By chance, I came across the post again today, and noticed that my comment wasn’t there – presumably swallowed by spam filters as it had quite a few links in it.

I still have it in my cache, so I thought I’d add an intro and re-post it here, so it gets to see the light of day 🙂

The age of charity trustees is a topic which comes up from time to time, particularly amongst those of us who work in youth volunteering charities.

For readers from the corporate world, it’s perhaps worth some quick background about trustees. The best analogy for a charity trustee is company director. As with companies, many charities (including my own) employ full-time staff, whose job and career it is to work for. We also employ a full time manager – in our case, a ‘Chief Officer’, who is responsible for running the organisation. In all operational respects, they are in charge.

Trustees are similar to company directors (except that we don’t get paid!). In the same way that corporate CEOs have to answer to a board of directors, a charity Chief Officer is responsible to a board of trustees. The trustees are responsible for strategy, for long-term planning, for direction. The trustees define where they want the organisation to go in broad terms, while it is the staff under the direction of a manager or Chief Officer who put in the hard work to make it actually happen.

Another analogy from my experience are schools. The headteacher is the boss for the day-to-day running of a school, but they have to answer to a board of governors, who are responsible for framing policy and setting direction.

(In reality, the line between what is operational and what is strategic can often be a little fuzzy, so it’s essential that a manager and the trustees work together in partnership.)

So the question that the original blog post was looking at was about who is suitable for such a role. Someone who can look at the big picture. Someone who can help create a vision for how the organisation could be, and help define the strategy and direction necessary to make that a reality. Someone mature enough to be responsible for the many legal obligations that come with trusteeship, such as responsibility for the finances.

And in particular, how old do you need to be to be suitable for such a position?


Charity auction for Comic Relief

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I generally try and avoid using my blog to ask for help for Solent Youth Action – the last time I remember doing it was back in 2007 when I was looking for mentors for our new mentoring scheme.

So I hope you’ll forgive me now if I try and use my space here to ask for support for an SYA event coming up.

If you are near Hursley next Monday (16th) afternoon, please come along to the Clubhouse at 2.30pm.

Young volunteers for SYA are refurbishing old furniture: restoring it, cleaning it, and decorating it. They hadn’t done anything like this before, so it has been a great opportunity to them to learn new, practical skills.

The furniture was all donated – these were items that otherwise would’ve been thrown away, making it also a good chance to teach a valuable reduce, reuse, recycle message.

The fruits of their labour will go on sale in a charity auction to be held in the Clubhouse, with all money received to be donated to Comic Relief.

Please come along and take a look at what they’ve been working on.

More details about the event, and the items of furniture that the young people are working on, can be found on the SYA website.

SYA – thinking ahead

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Solent Youth Action started life as the Eastleigh Millennium Volunteers (MV) project. The charity was started as the result of identifying limitations with that project, and expanding on it with complimentary projects which, over time, became larger than the MV work itself.

But that heritage does show through in our aims and objectives which talk about “empowering young people to develop as individuals … through volunteering whilst making a positive contribution to the community”. We are first and foremost a youth volunteering organisation.

The last year or so have been very successful for SYA, and with v funding secured for the next three years, the immediate future looks good. But what happens next? How should we continue to grow and develop?

One approach that we’ve been discussing this week is whether we should moving beyond purely volunteering. We already have a number of objectives in trying to help the young people that we work with: around their personal development. This can be emotional development, it can be skills development, it can be educational, it can be career-focused… with an underlying theme throughout of helping young people. But always, this is done through volunteering activities.

What if we removed that restriction, and focused more generally on helping young people develop?


Paying for a charity

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

a prize from Mashed

I’ve mentioned a few times here before that I am a trustee of a youth volunteering charity. We started it a few years ago, and do a lot of very cool stuff with thousands of young people across the region.

And this isn’t cheap. Staff are the biggest expense, followed by rent and an array of other bills.

A common question I get from friends not familiar with charity funding is “where do you get the money from?”.

The short answer is “anywhere we can!”.


The stuff charities send through the post

Monday, November 12th, 2007

There was an interesting article in Third Sector on Friday:

Fundraisers should stop using incentives, such as pens and coins, in their fundraising packs unless they are relevant to the charity’s cause, charity direct marketing experts have told the Institute of Fundraising.

If adopted, the proposal could put an end to incentives such as coins or umbrellas in packs, the institute has acknowledged… The agencies suggested … the inclusion of statements such as: “This pen cost 2p. We included it because we encourage supporters to write to beneficiaries, which is an important part of our work.”

It could also require charities to include a statement telling donors that they should not feel obliged to make donations because they had received an incentive gift….”

This makes sense to me – I’ve often thought it felt all too easy to do this stuff, and that more consideration should be taken about the benefits of these promotional items weighed against the cost – to make sure that they are not a waste of money.

Ironically – and the reason which prompted this post – the same day, I got a letter through the post from a charity I’d never heard of before. (I won’t name them because that feels a bit mean)

They sent me a stack of Christmas cards, and some little diary/calendar things. And an invoice – prefilled so I could just write a cheque and send it back. If I wanted more, I could order more. If I didn’t need all of them, I could send them back.

Am I turning into a grumpy old man (entirely possible) or is this more than a little annoying?

An organisation I had never heard of before sent me a bunch of stuff that I didn’t ask for or want, together with an invoice. And it’s up to me to go to the trouble of sending it back.

Bah, humbug, harrumph, etc. 🙂

It’s an interesting perspective, though – we’ve put a lot of effort into doing mailshots in the past. It’s always hassle and tiring, and in all the effort it’s easy to lose sight of how it might be received. This sort of thing can have a big impact on people’s perceptions of your “brand”.