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Volunteering does not happen in a vacuum. Apart from spontaneous volunteering in response to an immediate local or individual need, voluntary action happens within some form of informal or formal organisation, community or place. A vibrant VCSE sector needs full support to thrive, provided by high-quality local infrastructure organisations – NAVCA members. In this blog, we explore some of the current issues with volunteering, and how we can tackle them collectively.

The cost of living crisis is already having many impacts on volunteering, notably an increasing demand for services and activities provided by volunteers and the voluntary sector – without the numbers of volunteers or funding needed to provide it. We know that our members, as leaders in the voluntary sector, have an important role to play in tackling these challenges and continuing to develop good practice. This is why NAVCA and our members are working with the Vision for Volunteering – a ten year initiative to transform volunteering. The Vision provides a useful framework for starting to think about some of these issues.

Firstly, volunteering helps to enrich lives and enliven communities. For individuals, volunteering can contribute to an increased sense of belonging, improved health and wellbeing, reduced social isolation, and learning new skills. However, there has been a decline in satisfaction with volunteering, as shown by NCVO’s Time Well Spent survey. The survey found that if people stop volunteering, this is usually due to a change in personal circumstances, but other factors include a failure to reimburse expenses, expectations of the availability of the volunteer were too high, and a lack of flexibility.

Secondly, to ensure that volunteers have a more positive experience, we need to put the volunteer at the centre of the vision for the future. This means taking a strengths-based approach, rooted in what volunteers want and need, one based around their capabilities and motivations and one that enables the individual to make their most effective contribution. By focusing on the skills and life experience that volunteers bring rather than on the tasks to be completed, voluntary and community sector organisations have the best chance of developing resilient communities, enabling human flourishing, and encouraging people from a wide diversity of backgrounds to volunteer.

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