Two trends your volunteer centre should adapt to

Is your volunteer centre ready for 2023? Read more about two trends your volunteer centre should adapt to!

Two trends your volunteer centre should adapt to

It’s not just the wicked, who are denied their rest – those in the business of charity aren’t getting much of a break either! As widely discussed, the pandemic set off and accelerated a number of changes. In its aftermath, we see new trends emerging across the voluntary sector. Are you and your colleagues at the volunteer centre (VC) on top of the latest volunteering trends? Is your approach future-proof for 2023 and beyond?

Micro-volunteering is on the up

In fact, scientists have seen a new form of volunteerism emerging since the turn of the millennium. A new attitude is gradually becoming prevalent, with people wanting to carry out rewarding activities that can be completed in short bursts of time. This type of volunteering is called micro-volunteering or episodic volunteering.

Previously, most volunteers would participate in activities where they would contribute to a specific cause for a prolonged period. Of course, today’s volunteers still want to do good, but they are looking to get more out of their input themselves. Often, they want to expand their skills and enjoy a rewarding experience through volunteering. At the same time, they – like everyone else today – are dealing with ever busier schedules.

We also see that this new type of volunteer is less likely to commit to a single cause for a long time. Volunteers in 2023 may well hop from one VCSE to the next: after one task is completed, they donate their time and skills to another charity.

This new form of volunteering allows people to carry out quick, flexible, and one-off volunteering activities. This way, volunteers are still able to fit in the time to take part in intrinsically rewarding activities that are limited in scope. There are many forms of micro-volunteering, from freely sharing your skills, to collecting or donating supplies, signing a petition, or giving up a few hours to help out in a local community. 

So, what can my volunteer centre do to adapt to this new trend?

Of course, your volunteer centre is also a centre of expertise. This means your VC must know what makes people want to volunteer. What are their drives? How about their requirements? And what can you do to offer attractive tasks that will attract more volunteers and make them return?

This implies that your first task as a VC is to educate your staff. All VC workers should be up-to date with relevant developments like these. Staff must also be involved in deciding how your volunteer centre and its workers respond.

We recommend volunteer centres to welcome and facilitate this new style of volunteering. VCs stand to gain from meeting that demand for bite-size volunteering activities. So, encourage charities to provide short tasks – think minutes to a few hours, tops – that volunteers can easily fit into their busy schedules. These tasks need to be interesting and meaningful, so that volunteers can still feel like they have made a small impact – and enjoy a little bit of what Chris Jarvis calls the helpers’ high.

A micro-volunteering task can be as simple as designing a fundraising poster, giving a talk to raise awareness about a cause or offering feedback on marketing materials such as newsletter or websites. Although by their nature, a large percentage of micro-volunteering activities can be completed online, it is important to not exclude the less tech-savvy, or those simply wanting to enjoy the physical presence of other people.

As variation is the spice of life, it is equally crucial to offer a range of different, accessible short-task opportunities. This gives people looking to volunteer more choice and flexibility. Are you worried about attracting volunteers who are keen to take up these activities? For some guidance, we wrote an article on how to attract micro-volunteers in 3 simple steps.

Like it or not, micro-volunteering is here to stay. While not everyone is convinced of this approach, for many it is adapt or die. Consider a two-pronged volunteering approach, which allows your VC and other VCSEs to continue promoting volunteering ‘old style’, and meet the demands of the new volunteering generation at the same time. Short and ad-hoc forms of volunteering do have impact.

And remember: try as we may, the success and impact of volunteer activities cannot always be captured in numbers. It is important to remind ourselves that even small-scale volunteering activities are increasing the reach of a charity and as a ‘team’ approach, each micro-volunteering activity contributes to the overall impact.

Rapid digitisation

We have seen a rise in digitisation across all sectors, with enormous acceleration during and in the wake of the pandemic. Of course, this wave has not bypassed the volunteer sector. Not only has increased digitisation spurred a rapid increase in the number of virtual volunteering activities, it also made volunteer centres acutely aware of the importance of having tech-savvy volunteers. Results of the Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer reveal that the level of digital skills required by volunteers has increased by around 73%. This implies that current volunteers would benefit from upskilling.

At the same time, many people found themselves with more time on their hands during lockdown, while facing new needs in their community. This resulted in the introduction of “a more diverse group in terms of skills and demographics than would otherwise have been involved in volunteering”. While this is a positive development for the volunteer sector, it remains to be seen to what extent this particular group of volunteers will continue volunteering in the long run. Even if they do – which, of course, is what we all hope for! –  volunteer centres and by extension, social organisations, have a lot to gain from creating a flexible and future-proof work environment.

A roadmap for updating digital skills at your volunteer centre

First, a baseline measurement; it is important to gather an understanding of the levels of technological competence in your team. Of course, some areas of weakness or a lack of understanding of specific digital platforms may already be evident, but you need a thorough assessment. This can be effectively done with a quick survey, sent out to all the members of staff at your volunteer centre. The survey results will help you pinpoint the areas that need more focus.

Once you have a clear picture of your organisation’s digital skills needs, it is time to upskill. Some organisations propose a digital skills programme, but you may not have to be that thorough. A well-targeted training or two could very well fulfil the needs of your organisation.

Where to find a trainer? It makes sense to first search your volunteer pool itself. Surely, anyone already working for (or through) your VC, will be happy to help future-proofing your organisation! Should such an IT wizard not be available directly, you can try to recruit them from outside. Is there a university in your area where you can find a student or graduate who is willing to help?

You can also explore your VC’s network further, or even expand it. Why not reach out to local companies? Collaborations with local businesses generally benefit both parties. Why not turn your need for help into a corporate volunteering partnership? Impact doubled!

Of course, you can also look into hiring a professional to boost your VC’s digital skills. With the right freelancer, you can improve other IT assets of your organisation as well. Perhaps, an outside IT pro could consult you on new methods of communication between staff or even improve your website.

Preparing your volunteer centre for the future

Trends come and go. But when you stop and think about it, would you qualify these two as passing fads? And are you prepared to take the risk of ignoring them?

We are sure these changes are here to stay. So, best to step up and respond appropriately. Our world needs future-proof volunteer centres for bigger, more sustainable impact. So, what are you waiting for? 

Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

Gerbrand Holland is Growth Manager at Deedmob