With the launch of the Norfolk Vision for Volunteering last week, it is worth reflecting on how we got here.
We have seen a decline in traditional formal or regular volunteering over the past ten years, except for a brief increase during the Pandemic, with the biggest decrease in the last year. This is largely due to older volunteers stepping back. However, there is also some evidence of people organising themselves in different ways, with informal volunteering becoming more commonplace and a national increase in the startup of micro-organisations.
You have told us that recruiting and retaining volunteers is creating real challenges for you, the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Norfolk. We are a sector that relies on a regular and reliable volunteer workforce to deliver services. And this is coming at a time when we can least afford it, after ten years of austerity, a Pandemic and now a cost-of-living crisis with its triple threat of declining income, increased costs, and increased demand.
The last few years…
The Pandemic ushered in a new era, centred on more flexible ways of working, widespread use of technology and a recognition of the need for a fairer and more equitable society. And these changes are being felt across the volunteering landscape too – volunteers are demanding more, and voting with their feet, and so they should as time is an ever-more precious resource.
So, we need to bring down the barriers to volunteering and develop creative approaches to engaging and supporting volunteers. We need a volunteering culture that fits busy lives and recognises that those with lived experience of some of life’s biggest challenges can be the best volunteers and advocates, with the right support.
The benefits of volunteering are widely acknowledged – whether improved wellbeing, skills development, or the sense we all need of making a difference – but these benefits are not equally shared. Everyone, whatever their age or background, whether they live in the most affluent or disadvantaged parts of the county, has something to offer and much to gain. Without more accessible volunteering opportunities, the benefits of volunteering will continue to be enjoyed largely by the few rather than the many.
Next steps following the Vision for Volunteering Launch
The next steps are for organisations to address the challenges and opportunities outlined in the Vision and take relevant action. At our Vision launch event, we invited attendees to make a pledge outlining how they aim to promote and embed these themes. If you didn’t have a chance to make a pledge at the event, please follow this link to the form.
To support organisations along this path we are running a series of free online workshops in the New Year. In three linked sessions we will explore:
- Developing Your Volunteer Strategy, sharing ideas and exercises you can use to scope out your strategy;
- common challenges organisations are facing and creative solutions;
- How to embed your strategy and monitor its effectiveness.
In stand-alone sessions we’ll also explore Engaging Young People in Volunteering and Good Volunteer Management, with guest speakers from our networks sharing their experience. Further details and booking links will be available soon, but in the meantime we ask that you register your interest here.
Voluntary Norfolk’s role as an infrastructure organisation leading the Empowering Communities partnership is to support and strengthen volunteering and the voluntary sector in Norfolk. We are calling for change. If you would like to join a steering group to shape Norfolk’s wider strategy around volunteering, please let us know.
We look forward to working with you as we collaborate to build a flourishing volunteering landscape in Norfolk.Back to News