It is now widely recognised that the voluntary sector faces major challenges in developing a diverse volunteering base which reflect the communities of modern Britain. Volunteers that are younger, from lower socio-economic groups, disabled and from diverse ethnic backgrounds are significantly underrepresented amongst the one in five people that volunteer once a month.
2019 saw a major drive across the sector to focus on this challenge and put diversity within volunteer management to the top of the agenda. Yet there is still much to be done to change the look of volunteering.
Here at the Volunteer Management Conference we suggest some key ideas for your team to think about going forward:
Volunteer Outreach and Communication
Often one of the greatest challenges to including new and diverse volunteers comes down to simple details around how we communicate and engage with the community. How do we raise awareness of a volunteering programme? What kind of communication channels are being used? Is the way we communicate genuinely accessible and visible to those underrepresented?
It is worth thinking about how current volunteers came to an organisation. If they all found out about the opportunity in the same way or through long-established networks, it’s time to shake things up!
The Type of Opportunity
It’s always important to assess the type of opportunity being offered. We know that younger people, those from urban areas and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to volunteer. How can an organisation match the demands and challenges of different lifestyles? Can a programme be based on more informal volunteering? Can we offer greater flexibility on the timing and structure of volunteering? Can volunteering opportunities be taken somewhere new?
Of course, it’s not just about the when and where, but what is actually being offered. Many of those not currently volunteering could have the most to gain. Whether that is skill development, new friends or a change of environment, its vital that organisations can demonstrate these benefits to people who might not have thought about volunteering before.
The Volunteer Journey
Access also means making the volunteer feel as welcome as possible and the charity as open as possible to those from different backgrounds! It’s essential to make sure that any new volunteers can get involved easily and feel they have gained enjoyment and a sense of fulfilment for being involved. This is what volunteer managers do best, so now its vital to consider how that journey can be enhanced and diversified to really open up an organisation! Every volunteer has a different volunteering journey and experience. As such, its essential to consider how we can support the volunteer to thrive and bring others along on their journey!
There is no set way to diverse your volunteer workforce. Every organisation has its own way of engaging, its own individual offer and something unique that makes it stand out! Yet the most important thing is to ask as many questions as we can about how we engage, how we are perceived and how we change to support the volunteer workforce of the future!