Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A challenge to change

Last week saw the much anticipated (by me anyway!) publication of the final report of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing.

The report is a joy to read, presented in an engaging way and running to a mere thirteen pages. It is also, in my humble opinion, essential reading for anyone working in the voluntary sector and / or working with volunteers.

For me, the following quotes from the report highlight the importance of Volunteer Involving Organisations looking in new ways at the volunteering potential of people of all ages, but especially the baby boomer generation:

The reserve army of “little old ladies” (and men) upon whom so many voluntary organisations depend, will be juggling ever more demands
on their time. Informed by their more varied cultural, educational and professional backgrounds, future generations will have different expectations of, and attitudes towards, their later lives.

Our sense of community may change, with the local less relevant as global loyalties are easier to maintain.

All these changes will disrupt society and also the way charities work - ”business as usual” is not an option.

Older people have historically volunteered in large numbers, so the retirement of the baby boomer generation could offer the voluntary sector a boost in numbers and talent. However volunteering will have to “compete” against increasing demands on people’s time and resources—including paid employment, caring for parents, spouses and/or grandchildren, as well as travel and leisure.

We need new types of flexible, skilled volunteer roles and consultancy-style internships, which will be attractive to people looking for new opportunities
to use their skills in later life.

The four generation “4G” workforce should be the norm across the sector, with young and old working together.

The full report can be downloaded from the Commission website (opens a link to a pdf document) and whilst it's origins are in the UK it is both of relevance and interest to other nations too.

There are huge challenges resulting from the work of the Commission. For example:


  • How can organisations make the necessary changes to maximise the potential of volunteers  when understanding of and genuine support (the kind that goes beyond mere warm words) for volunteering at a strategic level in many organisations is, to put it kindly, extremely poor?

  • How can leaders and managers of volunteers develop their programmes to engage people in new ways when the resourcing their receive from their organisations is so poor and seen as such a low priority?

  • Will many in the sector finally see the need to break down traditional silos, for example between fundraising, volunteering, membership etc., so that properly integrated supporter journeys become the norm not the exception?


I spend a lot of time helping organisations of all sizes think through issues like this and reflect on what steps they can take. If you would like to discuss how I can help you understand and tackle these issues please get in touch.


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