The Value of Volunteers – In Response to Art Fund’s News
28 January 2019 | By Laura Gabe
Last week, Art Fund announced that it is disbanding its volunteer programme which consists of 500 individuals across the UK. Its volunteers have been instrumental in supporting the charity’s fundraising activities through organising tours, lectures and overseas trips for the 139,000 Art Fund members. Art Fund admitted that its volunteers have raised “considerable income” for Museums and Galleries across the UK and have made an invaluable contribution to the “provision of art in the public realm”.
The news of this decision has left many to question the value of volunteer programmes, however, at Cause4 we see the real value in volunteer support, for individuals and companies and we’re scratching our heads as to why the Art Fund would make such a move.
Research commissioned by the Royal Voluntary Service has shown that volunteering can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing specifically with depression, quality of life, life satisfaction, loneliness and social isolation. Therefore, the act of volunteering can reduce the effects of loneliness and isolation increasing health and wellbeing across the UK. With over 9 million people in the UK reportedly feeling lonely often or always, volunteer programmes are needed now more than ever!
Fiona Hare, one of the many Art Fund volunteers that has been affected by this decision, noted that her fellow volunteers were generally older or retired people, stating that “Maybe ageism is a factor” in Art Fund’s decision. She believes that the charity was more interested in luring “younger people”. If this is the case, then Art Fund has not taken into account that the highest rates of volunteering can be found among 65-74 year olds, with 29% volunteering once a month reported by NCVO in 2018. These statistics are unsurprising with the aging population continuing to grow. In 2009, 17.7 million people in the UK were aged 60 and over. By 2029, this figure is expected to increase to 22.9million – 40 per cent of the total population of England.
The benefits don’t stop there! On top of the health and wellbeing impacts, volunteering offers valuable experiences and skills development which can result in advantages in the workplace. Volunteering can boost your CV, build your confidence, offer a breadth of life experiences and allow individuals to explore different areas of work. If you are looking for your next promotion, volunteering for a good cause might give you a leg up in the competition!
For the charity or organisation
Although we understand that managing a volunteer programme undoubtedly comes with its own issues and resource requirements (especially within a small charity), we also know that the rewards most definitely out-way the negatives, especially in having a committed band of stakeholders and ambassadors for the organisation, and in the Art Fund’s case – also a fundraising team!
The biggest reward is financial. NVCO reported that the value of formal volunteering was estimated to be £22.6billion in 2015 with the voluntary sector contributing £12.2billion to the UK’s economy. Dedicated volunteers can often support charities to ensure that the money raised can directly benefit the cause it supports by relieving the need for paid staff. Volunteers have made a significant contribution, in unpaid hours, to the economy of Wales with an estimation that volunteers contribute 191 million hours annually to good causes.
Many charities would not be able to function without the dedication of kind-hearted volunteers that donate their time to good causes. Cause4 knows the value of volunteer programmes and encourages its staff to explore voluntary opportunities for themselves. This has led to many of our staff becoming Trustees of charities, volunteering their time and expertise. Some staff have also participated in volunteer programmes with homeless charities, distributing food to those in need across London. Ultimately Cause4 hopes that the volunteers affected by the decision of Art Fund are able to find new opportunities or charities to support continuing their valuable and essential support! The charity sector needs you!