Lucia das Neves: Volunteering and the connections it creates are stronger than ever

29 Jun 2020 Voices

Lucia das Neves, from Reach Volunteering, looks at the surge of volunteers during the pandemic and how charities could benefit

The skills you can’t afford to miss out on

It goes without saying that the global pandemic has changed every part of our lives and so much of how we operate as charities. Our communities need us more than ever, as the pandemic piles on the pressure on systems and lives that were already, let’s face it, struggling.

The gauntlet has been laid down. As the hashtag goes – #NeverMoreNeeded – the last few months have demanded the sector to work in new ways, deliver services differently, and try to overcome some almost insurmountable financial difficulties. Lockdown might be easing, but the strain on charities and communities isn’t.

One of the most inspiring things we’ve seen during lockdown is how organisations and individuals have risen to the challenge of Covid-19 and given generously of their time to support others. Most well known perhaps are the mutual aid groups and the local community action we’ve seen. 

Rise in people wanting to volunteer their skills

Reach has also seen an enormous rise in people wanting to volunteer their skills – and there are no signs that this is reducing. Their skills are diverse – from digital, finance, communications, graphic design to managing change and taking your service online. Some charities are moving fast, with volunteers applying one week and getting started using their skills the next.

We’ve seen new charities join our platform to take advantage of this surge and recruit volunteers with skills for the first time – some of them using our templates to help them scope out the role and get it online quickly. 

Many charities already registered with us have fast tracked some of their thinking and moved quickly to recruit new volunteers.

The Sleep Charity, which provides sleep support to families, is one such charity. It was able to launch an online version of its respected training programme within two months, thanks to the development support of volunteer e-learning expert Henry Mpologoma. 

Vicky Dawson, the chief executive, said: “The sale of these training courses brings in 80% of our income so we needed to move very quickly.

“At the same time, we have always been very proud of our training and we wanted to be sure we would capture that quality when we moved online. Henry’s advice was invaluable to us in achieving such a quick turnaround with confidence.”

Skills-based volunteers have a role to play in charities working in services that are even more in demand during the pandemic. Community Links is an east London-based advice service whose clients normally make contact by visiting its Newham offices, which are currently closed. 

The charity knew the need for employment and housing advice was greater than ever. They advertised for a communications expert and found Alexandra Beveridge, a Brighton-based events marketer who has transformed their digital and partner marketing. 

“She’s done an amazing job, we would have been lost without her”, says John Mahoney, Community Links programme manager.

“Instead of seeing a fall in the number of people coming to us, which many similar organisations have experienced, we have seen an increase over the period”, he added.

 At Reach, we know only too well what a win-win volunteering can be. Volunteers have great impact and can transform situations, providing skills charities could never dream of affording. We also know that volunteers gain so much – feeling good about making a difference, supporting a cause they care about, reducing isolation, keeping their skills up when looking for work, learning to apply their skills in new contexts. And now more people than ever are keen to do it.

Things are challenging at the moment, in organisations and for individuals. Yet, volunteering and the connections it creates are stronger than ever. There’s never been a more important or better time to recruit a volunteer with skills to help your charity.  

Lucia das Neves is head of marketing and communications at Reach Volunteering
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