Volunteering in the current economic climate


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The presentation was from a fringe event at Evolve 2014: the annual event for the voluntary sector in London on Monday 16 June 2014.

Andy Curtis (Institute for Volunteering research) discussed the lessons from a three year research project.

Find out more about the Evolve Conference from NCVO: http://www.ncvo.org.uk/training-and-events/evolve-conference

Find out more about the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) - http://www.ivr.org.uk

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  • Recent increase in the number of people volunteering
    At least once a year: 44% (2012-13); 39% (2010-11)
    At least once a month: 29% and 25%
    Return to the 2005 ‘high’
    Previous studies 97, 91, 81 – different methodologies but nothing to suggest that it has changed significantly. Unlike other forms of participation – ethical consumerism, online activism, trade union and political party membership.
    The key message is stability of rates since 2001 and its resilience, inert?
    Can or should it increase any further?
  • ‘Sites that served as multi-purpose hubs – providing spaces for groups to meet, fostering interaction between groups, supporting neighbourhood-level social networks, and linking different groups, organisations and activities – came across as being particularly valuable resources for participants.’
  • Volunteering in the current economic climate

    1. 1. Volunteering Today Volunteering in Exeter in the current economic climate Andy Curtis, Institute for Volunteering Research Evolve, 16 June 2014 Volunteering in the current economic climate Lessons from a three-year research project
    2. 2. Outline • Background to the research • Volunteering in the current economic climate • Findings from the research • Impact on volunteering • Reaction to challenges • The role of welfare policy • Conclusions, recommendations and discussion
    3. 3. Background to the research • Research conducted for a Big Lottery Fund (BLF) project Volunteering for Stronger Communities (VSC) • A partnership between NCVO and 15 Volunteer Centres. They were awarded a £1.9m grant to help communities affected by the recession to stimulate volunteering • IVR was funded to conduct research in the areas where the 15 Volunteer Centres operate • The research aims to provide a snapshot of volunteering now – including challenges facing those involved in volunteering in the current economic climate and strategies adopted to take on these challenges. The project seeks to inform national policy debates
    4. 4. What the research entailed • Predominately qualitative research project runs for three years, ending in October 2014 • 140 interviews in 15 areas over two years with local infrastructure organisations (volunteer centres and CVSs), local authorities, volunteer- involving organisations and volunteers • Two case-study areas, Liverpool and Devon • Visited eight volunteer-involving organisations • Long dissemination period
    5. 5. Volunteering in the current climate
    6. 6. Rates of formal volunteering (Citizenship Survey (2001 – 2010-11) and Community Life Survey (2012-13). Respondents for each period range from 6,915 - 9,664) Highest rate 44% Only varies by 5%
    7. 7. Motivations for volunteering (Helping Out, 2007) Motivations for volunteering % citing I wanted to improve things, help people 53 Cause was important to me 41 I had time to spare 41 I wanted to meet people, make friends 30 Connected with needs, interests of family or friends 29 There was a need in the community 29 To use existing skills 27 Part of my philosophy of life 23 Friends, family did it 21 To learn new skills 19 Part of my religious belief 17 No one else to do it 13 To help get on in my career 7
    8. 8. Volunteering in the current climate • Big Society discourse and Localism Act advocated greater social action • Volunteer related initiatives include: • the Social Action Fund • the National Citizen Service • Community Organisers programme • Volunteer Centre Fund In addition, major BLF relevant initiatives include • the Transforming Local Infrastructure fund • Big Local Trust
    9. 9. Volunteering in the current climate • Coalition government’s policies in practice have had various implications for volunteering • Austerity measures have had perhaps the greatest impact • £1.3 billion in government funding to the voluntary sector was cut between 2010/11 and 2011/12 – the year the comprehensive spending review came into effect (NCVO Alamanac 2014) • Charities’ expenditure fell by £450m from 2010/11 to 2011/12 • Some of the drivers for individuals to volunteer through the employability and welfare reform agendas challenge the notion of volunteering
    10. 10. Volunteering in the current climate
    11. 11. What constitutes success? • Is it all about money and expansion? • Is it about survival at all costs? • The concept of organisational resilience has some relevance. Stewart and O’Donnell (2007) define organisational resilience in the following way: ‘Resilience is the term used to describe an organisation’s capacity to respond positively, or at least, adaptively to disruptive change. Resilience implies, not just the ability to withstand external shocks, but also suggests a capacity for adaptation and learning.’
    12. 12. Research findings: vol-involving organisations • Funding cuts from multiple sources of funding (central government, local government, less buying power of customers in charity shops, groups have less funds to hire community centre spaces) • The funding that is available can come with challenges: • Generally more competitive • Commissioning opposed to grant-making • In some cases payment-by-results • Sometimes can only bid as part of a partnership/consortium • More short-term contracts • Core-funding harder to obtain, funding more focused on particular groups/projects
    13. 13. Research findings: vol-involving organisations • Implications for involving volunteers was mixed: • In some cases, there was volunteer involvement to meet increased demand and/or replace capacity lost through departure of some paid positions • Other cases where organisations cannot take on as many volunteers due to loss of capacity – for example, loss of volunteer manager/co-ordinator
    14. 14. Research findings: local infrastructure • Experiencing cuts, like most of the voluntary sector • It seems in some cases infrastructure organisations particularly struggle to attract funding • End of major national programmes, including Capacity Builders and Basis. Newer funding is a lot smaller and emphasises change and innovation • In the Annual Return of Volunteer Centres 2013 (2011/12 financial year) • Nearly two-thirds of VCs had a reduction in funding from the year before • More than one-in-five overall had a reduction of 50% or greater • Difficult to make money by charging for services previously offered for free
    15. 15. Research findings: volunteers • In some cases issues around management of volunteering opportunities • Lack of clarity around implications of volunteering for those on out of work benefits • Mix of reasons for volunteering, many not linked to the current climate
    16. 16. Welfare policy • Welfare policy has interacted with volunteering in unforeseen ways • Examples of some people being asked to volunteer in order to comply with job seekers or Work Programme agreements • Conversely others had stopped volunteering through fear that it would mean a loss of ESA / incapacity benefits • Latest initiatives causing concern are community work placements – will these challenge the notion of volunteering?
    17. 17. Cuts case-studies • Local authority • Volunteer Centre (merger) • Community Centre (VIO with drastic funding cuts) • Community Café (Volunteer-led group, asset transfer)
    18. 18. Cuts case-study - Devon • Two-tier local authority structure • Devon County Council are making £28 million cuts in 2014/15 • Annual budget of £600 million a year in 2009 estimated to fall to £400 million a year in 2017 • The most recent proposals for cuts to council services include a consultation to close 26 of the county’s 35 elderly day care centres • Furthermore, Exeter City Council’s budget was also reduced from just over £18.5 million in 2009/2010 to just £13.5 million in 2014/2015 • North Devon District Council’s budget was also reduced from just over £15 million in 2010/2011 to just £11.7 million in 2014/2015.
    19. 19. What’s happening in Devon? ‘Because of the severe reduction in funding, our finances are stretched and we will need the people of the county to work with us to deliver some or all of the activities we are no longer able to do ourselves.’ Devon County Council Leader John Hart
    20. 20. Case-study – Volunteer Centre merger • When study engaged with the Volunteer Centre it was independent • The local authority stopped funding volunteering activities • The VC ceased to be viable without the core grant, despite having a number of smaller projects • Merged with CVS ‘[We have gained] small, short term pots of funding for part of a member of staff and it’s quite specific funding rather than general. The main problem that we’ve got after losing the initial grant funding is that there’s nothing there to support just general people, we’ve got some funding to support young people, disabled people, BME people, people with mental health issues, with homelessness problems but everyone that doesn't fit those criteria, there’s nothing there to support that.’
    21. 21. Case-study VIO - community hub • Certain locations are hotbeds of volunteering activity. • The Pathways through Participation project (Brodie et al, 2011) identified a number of such sites: • Schools, colleges and universities • Religious institutions (such as churches and mosques) • Recreational spaces (music venues, sports clubs and parks, and community events) • Other sites (including Job centres, GPs, advice services, VCs)
    22. 22. Community centre in Devon • Founded in the 2000s, the centre started off as a healthy living initiative and has had various funding regimes since • It has a few paid staff and over 50 volunteers, many with additional support needs • The centre manager is currently a trustee who has taken the role on an interim basis voluntarily
    23. 23. Who will fund community hubs in future? • If national local authorities or national initiatives won’t fund community hubs, how will they sustain themselves? • Bookings down from public sector bodies and voluntary groups due to the cuts • Café function more challenging because of economic downturn • Alternative approaches? One proposal at an dissemination event for this project was to get the private sector to let voluntary groups have space for free as part of their CSR
    24. 24. Micro-organisations According to the NCVO Almanac 2013: •there are over 162,000 voluntary organisations in the UK. •Just over half of these are what are termed ‘micro’ organisations, that is to say their income is less than £10,000 per annum. •The largest share of their income is from individuals, such as donations, gifts and membership fees. •Only 4% of funding comes from statutory sources
    25. 25. Community Café •Formed nearly two years ago, this café is run from a local authority owned building entirely by volunteers. This includes family focused events and activities. •Based in a public park, the café opens during the more warmer/drier months of the year. With money raised reinvested into the café and surroundings, the facilities have already been enhanced.
    26. 26. Creativity and resourcefulness of volunteer-led groups ‘…people hear about it and they say “oh we’ll do this for you”. So they’re not actually here but they’re doing something away and bringing it to us kind of thing, so that’s good. And you know it’s like if we have a problem with the toilets or something, we’ve got a plumber that might come in and do something for us [and] an electrician’ Ilfracombe, Community Café, Ilfracombe ‘…it’s just like you call in favours from people you know and you’ve just got to be a bit creative…. This organisation, this service, could not function without community volunteers, it is wholly reliant on community volunteers … I’m sure if push came to shove and I had the time and a phone line, I could probably rustle up half a dozen people to come in …’ Volunteer, Community Support Organisation, Ilfracombe
    27. 27. Research findings: examples of resilience • Trustee intervention: importance of trustees in period of crisis (stepping in during a transitional period, for example helping with funding bids) • Diversification of income streams: VIOs finding new funding streams, in some cases totally different to what came before. For example, one group had successfully secured grant funding to offset the loss of revenue from a charity shop because of the economic downturn • Asset transfer: opportunities included asset transfer. Example of a group of volunteers in Devon taking over a local authority building to provide a community café. The seasonal nature of trade did not matter (because it was non-profit) and it was able to reinvest all profits back into the café and surrounding area • Greater importance of volunteer-led groups?: activities run by volunteer-led groups take greater importance as services are cut – for example, older persons social group in Exeter
    28. 28. Conclusions • Changing context in which volunteering is operating • Cuts to the funding • More challenging contracts • Other agendas such as welfare causing complications • Reactions to challenges • Different funding opportunities but these are finite, but what about mission? • Differing ways of using volunteers • Opportunities too, including for volunteer-led groups • Impact on volunteers • Recession and unemployment can motivate some • Welfare policy having an unforeseen impact • Other changes, such as micro volunteering, but formal volunteering remained much the same for a decade
    29. 29. Recommendations Volunteer-involving organisations •VIOs need sufficient support, specifically with any aspect of their work that is changing, for example commissioning; •Community spaces, places where groups and volunteers can congregate, need to be supported (this includes non-traditional spaces, such as rooms in private organisations given for free as part of their CSR). Volunteering infrastructure •National infrastructure bodies should support LIOs to articulate and communicate their value and strength, at the same time as highlighting where change and adaptation is required; •The offer LIOs can make in terms of health and employment outcomes appears to be fruitful and, where appropriate, highlighted as a model that can be used by other LIOs; •LIOs should be supported in demonstrating their strength as experts and leaders of volunteering, and explore how this role could be further expanded to capture newer forms of volunteering. Volunteers •The underpinning principles of volunteering, especially that it is given of one’s freewill, should be respected and protected; •Where applicable, clear guidance about how volunteering may affect benefits should be provided.
    30. 30. Next steps in the research… As part of the dissemination of this project there will be bespoke papers produced aimed at different audiences, for example local authorities, about good practice and innovative funding streams. If you wish to join the mailing list for the project please email: andy.curtis@ivr.org.uk
    31. 31. Discussion points What are the implications of the findings for: •Funders/commissioners •Local authorities •Volunteer-involving organisations (various sizes) •Volunteers and volunteer-led groups •Volunteering infrastructure organisations
    32. 32. Andy.curtis@ivr.org.uk info@ivr.org.uk 0207 520 2448 www.ivr.org.uk Thank you