Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Are we youth obsessed?

In May the UK government published new draft policy directions for the Big Lottery Fund and opened a consultation[1] on their proposals.

Michael Birtwistle at NCVO has provided a good analysis of the proposals and what they mean that is worth spending a few minutes reading.

As Michael outlines, one of the draft priorities is, “engaging young people in volunteering and supporting youth sector infrastructure”. This is what I said in response to his article:

“Sigh. Why is engaging young people in volunteering a priority? Everybody is doing this. NCS has £1.2billion to do this. vinspired had £millions for this under Labour. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem encouraging young people to volunteer. But they are a small proportion of our population. What about the huge numbers of baby boomers? What about Generation X? Where is the funding to engage them more in giving time as volunteers? Perhaps the assumption is that they’ll give just like their parents did? In which case a brief read of the final report from the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing is worth a read. For once it would be nice to see a major funder or a high profile combine breaking away from our national youth obsession and realising that there are millions of others who do and could give time that would welcome more support.”

I make this point frequently when I speak on volunteering. Ever since the demise in 2003 of the failed Experience Corps initiative, little attention has been given and almost no funding provided on any significant scale to engage our huge baby boomer population in volunteering. Schemes like Volunteer Matters’ Retrired and Senior Volunteer Programme continue to do excellent work but the majority of effort and funding is directed at people under 30.

The aforementioned Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing issued it’s final report fifteen months ago and little seems to have happened since.

So, I want to ask, what do you think?

Have we become youth obsessed when it comes to volunteering in the UK?

What should we be doing to engage with a wider demographic of people in volunteering? What are you doing right now?

How should funding and support be directed best to help organisations engage baby boomers and Generation X in volunteering?

Over to you.


  1. The consultation closes on 12 August.  ↩

1 comment:

  1. Great article and one that really resonates with me. In the last 12 months, I've seen a notable increase in the number of people aged 16-25 and 65+ applying to volunteer with the organisation I work for but we have struggled with those aged 25-40 in particular. In recognising that this is likely a result of people being 'time poor' and being busy during the normal core operating hours, our charity is looking to deliver activities at weekends and evenings. We've tried to be more flexible in terms of arranging when volunteers support us, ie fortnightly rather than weekly and now complete inductions and interviews at these times as well. This is taking some time but I'm confident with continuous effort that we will move towards an organisation that can utilise people of all ages.

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