A manifesto for volunteering: What government can do to help volunteering make an even bigger difference

Why does it matter?

Millions of people give their time and talents as volunteers every day and make an astounding contribution to improving lives and communities across the country. Whilst recognising the huge contribution volunteers already make, there is more that can be done to help reduce barriers to volunteering, improve the quality of the volunteer experience and ultimately help volunteering make a bigger difference.

Overall levels of volunteering remain stable and lack of time remains the number one barrier to people getting involved. We also know that some groups, who can have the potential to gain most from volunteering, find it more difficult to get involved and experience the benefits. At a time when strengthening charity governance is a priority, charities tell us that recruiting a diverse board of trustees with the right skills and experience is an ongoing challenging. We want to change this.

The coming election presents an opportunity for us to ensure candidates recognise the difference volunteering makes and to put forward our views on what positive action government can take to support volunteering. Through our manifesto for charities and volunteering we are doing just this. Below I outline our ideas on how government can support volunteering and how you can get involved.

What can government do?

1. Make it easier and more rewarding for people to volunteer

Anyone who wants to should have a chance to make a contribution to their community. We want to seed people’s interest in and ability to volunteer, setting them on a path of contributing much more to their communities by:

  • Getting more employers to allow time off work for volunteering, including time off for charity trustees.
  • Providing a support fund to address barriers to volunteering for people with disabilities. This could make volunteering accessible to more people, helping with costs such as travel or adaptations to buildings or equipment.
  • Doing more to recognise the difference that volunteers make to their communities and doing more to celebrate their contribution.
  • Strengthening volunteer development and management, to ensure volunteers have the right skills and support to make a bigger difference, and a rewarding experience.

2. Make it easier for volunteers to support our public services

Volunteers make a unique contribution that enhances public services, helping staff to do more and improving the experience of the people that use them. To ensure that volunteering can play an even greater role we want to see:

  • Services like the NHS setting targets for the management and development of volunteering. These would aim to increase volunteer numbers but also to involve volunteers in a wider range of roles and improve the experience and impact of volunteers.
  • Senior public service individuals becoming volunteering champions. Champions would raise awareness of where volunteers could make the biggest impact and change culture around involving volunteers.

3. Make it easier for people to build their skills and get a good job through volunteering

Volunteering can play a meaningful role in helping people to develop the skills and experience they need to get a job. However, often confusion about the rules and a lack of awareness about the role genuine volunteering can play in supporting people back into work is still a barrier.

We should address these barriers by:

  • Getting rid of red tape and confusion about the rules.
  • Ensure that Jobcentre Plus (JCP) staff on the ground understand the potential benefits of volunteering and know the rules about eligibility to volunteer and that these are being applied consistently.

What can you do?

We are unapologetic about championing volunteering and the contribution it makes but collectively our messages are stronger and we want you to join us. The ideas in this manifesto are intended to be the start of a conversation about an agenda for change that can help us achieve our vision for a society where anyone who wants to should be able to make a difference through giving their time and talents through volunteering.

You can also help by:

  • Sharing this manifesto and our key messages about how volunteering makes a difference.
  • Using our ideas to start a conversation at your organisation and with candidates about what government can do to support volunteers to make a bigger difference.
  • Empowering your volunteers to tell their story about how volunteering makes a difference. The voice of volunteers should be front and centre in this conversation and it really is the voice of volunteers which is most powerful. So I would encourage you to share these ideas and your own with your volunteers too.

What next?

We see this as the start of developing an agenda for change around volunteering and once the new government is in place this will influence our volunteering policy work and work with government for the next year and beyond. However, it’s an agenda we want you to work with us on to continue to shape and put into action. So, tell us what you think by commenting on this blog post and share your ideas too.

We want to work with our members, volunteer managers and champions for volunteering in all sectors to achieve our vision for a society where anyone who wants to should be able to make a difference through giving their time and talents through volunteering. If you want to work with us to achieve this vision I’d love to hear from you.


Expert video guidance to help you find and manage your volunteers (free for NCVO members).


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Avatar photo Kristen is NCVO’s Volunteer Management and Good Practice Manager. She’s interested in raising the profile of volunteer management as a profession, and the development of approaches which can help volunteering deliver for people, organisations and communities.

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