National Volunteering Forum: Time Well Spent – NCVO volunteer experience research and what this means

On Friday 25 January we held our National Volunteering Forum where we launched Time Well Spent, our report detailing the findings from our national survey on the volunteer experience. Around 120 delegates from several volunteer-involving organisations, public sector bodies and academic institutions came together for a great day of discussion and learning.

Time Well Spent findings and their implications for volunteer managers and policymakers

The day started with an introduction from NCVO chair Peter Kellner, before Véronique Jochum, head of research at NCVO, and Amy McGarvey, senior researcher at NCVO, presented the main findings from the survey. Amy has written a blog summarising the key findings and you can access the full Time Well Spent report here.

Ruth Leonard, chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, gave her thoughts on the implications of the Time Well Spent findings for volunteer management. According to Ruth the research shows that it is important for volunteer managers to enable and encourage flexibility. It is also essential to empower ‘everyone who works with volunteers to feel confident in their abilities and knowledgeable about how to work with an individual’s and community’s existing assets.’ You can read Ruth’s speech in full on the AVM website.

We then heard from Karl Wilding, head of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, who outlined his thoughts on the implications of the findings for policymakers. Karl suggested policymakers should move away from pursuing an ‘impact agenda’ when talking about volunteering. Instead, we should think of volunteering as a powerful social intervention that can be beneficial for the nation’s health and wellbeing.

You can re-watch the live stream of the first session of the day which includes Peter’s introduction, a presentation of the findings, and Karl and Ruth’s responses. We would like to say a big thanks to our live stream partner, Be Inspired Films.

Breakout sessions

In the second half of the day, delegates moved into six breakout sessions facilitated by volunteering practitioners and academics.

Session A was facilitated by Dr Eddy Hogg, lecturer in social policy at University of Kent, and Chris Reed, director of volunteer mobilisation at British Red Cross, with discussion focusing on the links between volunteering, enjoyment and connectedness. One of the key takeaways from this breakout was that for many forms of volunteering, such as volunteering for Samaritans, enjoyment is not linked with ‘fun’ but is instead linked with the feeling of satisfaction of having helped someone.

Session B focused on volunteering in public services and was facilitated by Dr Justin Davis-Smith, senior lecturer in voluntary sector management at Cass Business School, and Dr Laura Knight, director at University of Northampton’s Institute of Public Safety, Crime and Justice.  The group agreed that it is important for the sector to have serious discussions about what volunteering in public services should look like. Importantly, this should focus on reaching agreement on where the line between paid work and volunteering rests. It was also suggested that it is essential to include service users and beneficiaries in these discussions.

Session C discussed age and volunteering and was facilitated by Rachel Monaghan, programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, Charlotte Hill, chief executive at Step Up To Serve, and Stephen Tutin, an #iwill ambassador. The group noted that many young people are involved in volunteering during their years in full-time education; however, they often drift away from volunteering after entering the world of work. It was agreed that there needs to be more of a focus in the sector on how to maintain young people’s engagement throughout their lifetime.

Session D focused on diversity in volunteering and was facilitated by Dr Helen Timbrell, a people and organisational development consultant, and Sue Jordan, senior visitor experience officer at National Trust. The group agreed that it is important to avoid tokenism and to include different people in discussions about diversity. For example, talking to disability groups only means you are not talking to those who aren’t involved in these groups.

Session E discussed whether volunteering is too formal and was facilitated by Rob Jackson, director of Rob Jackson Consulting, and Dr Angela Ellis Paine, research fellow at University of Birmingham’s Third Sector Research Centre. One of the key takeaway points from this session was that it’s important to consider context when evaluating whether volunteering is too formal. For some roles, it is right that there is a high degree of formality, while for others it may be far less appropriate.

Session F focused on employer-supported volunteering and was facilitated by Katerina Rüdiger, chief community officer at Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and Rosalia Delfino, senior volunteering development manager at Macmillan Cancer Support. The group agreed that if employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is not done well it can be a logistical nightmare for volunteer-involving organisations. To help prevent this, organisations should have the confidence to say loudly what they want to get out of an ESV partnership.

See you next time

Thanks to all the speakers and delegates for an interesting and productive day of discussion, learning and networking. Check out our Twitter moment giving a snapshot of the day. You can access all the slides from the day via Slideshare.

We run our National Volunteering Forums three times a year across England. You can see previous topics we’ve covered here. The date of our next forum is yet to be decided, however it is likely to take place in May 2019 at NCVO. Make sure to sign up to updates from the volunteering team so we can let you know when the date has been decided and when tickets have been released.

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Charlie is a trainee volunteering development policy officer at NCVO, supporting NCVO's volunteering policy work. He has been volunteering since childhood in various roles, including at a community development charity working with the eastern European Roma community in Glasgow, as an adviser at a Citizens Advice bureau, and as a Scout leader.

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