Volunteers: The Invaluable Assets of a Charity

In the realm of charitable work, volunteers are the unsung heroes. They’re the backbone of organisations and are dedicated to making a positive impact. Beyond their selfless dedication, volunteers bring a wealth of experience, enthusiasm and valuable skills that can significantly benefit a charity. In this post, we look at the benefits of looking after volunteers, recognising them as invaluable assets and highlighting that they contribute not only to the operational efficiency of a charity, but also to its reputation and long-term sustainability. It’s important to note that ‘recognising’ volunteers does not need to be expensive. Thanks, words of appreciation to the volunteer and others (in the earshot of the volunteer) and perhaps small token gifts are enough. Volunteers are not paid staff members, after all.

5 December 2023
Reading time
Around 4 min

1. Wealth of Experience

Volunteers often come with a treasure trove of experiences gained from diverse professional backgrounds. Retirees, for example, may bring decades of expertise in management, finance, or other specialised fields. Harnessing this wealth of experience can inject a fresh perspective into a charity's operations, offering valuable insights that can lead to more effective strategies and decision-making.

Recognising and tapping into the rich tapestry of skills that volunteers offer is essential for charities looking to maximise their impact. By fostering an environment that values and leverages this experience, charities not only benefit from the skills themselves but also from the collective wisdom that comes with a diverse group of volunteers.

2. Enthusiasm for the Cause

Volunteers are driven by a genuine passion for the causes they support. Their enthusiasm becomes a powerful force that propels the charity's mission forward. Differing slightly from paid staff, volunteers willingly give their time and energy because they believe in the charity's purpose. This intrinsic motivation often translates into a higher level of commitment and a willingness to go above and beyond in their contributions.

By nurturing and acknowledging this enthusiasm, charities can create a positive and fulfilling experience for volunteers, ensuring their continued dedication to the cause. This passion not only fuels the charity's day-to-day operations but also becomes a contagious force that attracts others to join the movement.

3. Selfless Giving

Volunteers epitomise selflessness. Their commitment is driven by a desire to make a difference, rather than financial gain. This selfless giving is a powerful force that fosters a sense of community and shared purpose within a charity. It creates a culture where individuals are united by a common goal, working collaboratively to achieve positive outcomes.

Charities that actively recognise and appreciate their volunteers cultivate a positive organisational culture. By fostering an environment that values each individual's contributions, charities can create a sense of belonging that encourages volunteers to stay engaged for the long term.

4. Value of Skills

Volunteers often bring a diverse set of skills that can complement and enhance a charity's team. From technical expertise to creative talents, volunteers contribute to a well-rounded skill set that can be harnessed across various aspects of the organisation. For instance, a volunteer with marketing skills can help raise awareness and attract more support, while someone with financial expertise can assist with budgeting and financial management.

The cost of bringing volunteers up to speed with a charity's work is lower than the expense associated with onboarding paid staff. Moreover, the skills volunteers acquire during their service often extend beyond the immediate tasks, contributing to their personal development and benefiting the charity in unexpected ways. That said, there should be a limit to what you expect a volunteer to do without being paid as an employee; ‘internships’ can be seen negatively for various reasons when they are replacing staff members.

5. Cost Savings and Retention

Volunteers are a cost-effective resource for charities. They often become long-term advocates for the charity, contributing to the organisation's stability.

Recognising and appreciating the financial value that volunteers bring to a charity not only contributes to effective resource management but also enhances the overall financial sustainability of the organisation. Most charities need their volunteers more than they realise.

6. Reputation Enhancement

The way a charity treats its volunteers can significantly impact its reputation. A positive reputation not only attracts more volunteers but also fosters trust among donors and the community. Charities that prioritise the well-being and satisfaction of their volunteers send a powerful message about their commitment to their mission and the people involved.

By actively looking after volunteers, charities build a positive brand image, reinforcing the idea that they are an organisation worth supporting. This enhances volunteer enthusiasm and the charity’s reputation amongst donors, partners, and the community at large.

In conclusion, looking after volunteers is not just a philanthropic gesture; it's a strategic investment in the success and sustainability of a charity. Volunteers bring a wealth of experience, boundless enthusiasm, and valuable skills. By acknowledging their selfless giving, recognising them as individuals as well as the value of their skills, and actively fostering a positive environment, charities can create a thriving volunteer community that becomes an enduring asset.