Volunteering at the heart of the new NCVO

Volunteering in our DNA

The launch of NCVO’s new strategy this week marks an important milestone in the merger between NCVO and Volunteering England. It demonstrates just how far volunteering has been imprinted into the DNA of NCVO over the past 15 months and just how central it is for the future of the new organisation.

Of course it is still early days, and the long-term success of the merger will be rightly judged on the service we provide to volunteer-involving organisations and Volunteer Centres and, ultimately, on the difference we make to volunteering in England. But so far so good.

Integration and specialisation

There are five aims in the new strategy and volunteering runs through all of them. This is at it should be: volunteering is a central ingredient of civil society.

Four of the aims have a core thread of volunteering and social action:

  • to champion volunteering and the voluntary sector
  • to strengthen voluntary organisations
  • to connect people and organisations
  • to ensure that NCVO itself is more sustainable and socially responsible.

The fifth aim (or Aim 3 in the strategy) is solely devoted to growing and enhancing volunteering ‘wherever it takes place’. Again this is as it should be, with volunteering both integrated across all core NCVO functions and having a clear focal point of its own.

Making a bigger difference together

Now the hard work starts; to turn these fine words and ambitions into reality. We are under no illusions about the scale of the task we have set ourselves, with many volunteer-involving organisations and infrastructure bodies continuing to struggle for funds and recognition. But the coming together of NCVO and Volunteering England, with our hugely increased reach and influence, gives us a better chance than ever of success. We really can, as the title of the strategy says, make a bigger difference together. And this includes working more closely and smartly with you our members and supporters.

Strengthening the volunteering movement

There is much in the strategy to reflect upon, and it would be great to hear your thoughts and ideas about how we can best work together to make things happen. But just to point to three key aspirations:

  • finding better ways to support and champion Volunteer Centres which play such a pivotal role in establishing a climate locally in which volunteering can flourish
  • working with other networks such as the Association of Volunteer Managers, the Volunteer Management Movement and NAVSM to help raise the profile, status and impact of volunteer management ‘wherever it takes place’ and whoever undertakes it
  • finding new and creative ways of taking the strengths of the more formal volunteering sector and the strengths of the newly emerging world of social action, and blending them together using online and offline strategies to create an even more vibrant and impactful volunteering movement.

This strategy was co-designed with you (I was delighted to learn that the biggest response to our consultation exercise was on the volunteering questions) and will be delivered in partnership with you.

Together we can all make a bigger difference.

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Justin was executive director of volunteering and development at NCVO and chief executive of Volunteering England. He is now a senior research fellow at City University Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness.