Justin Davis Smith, the Executive Director of Volunteering and Development at NCVO asks us to imaginerunning a ‘No Volunteers Week’?
He goes on to say ‘If the traditional approach of celebrating all that is good about volunteering has largely failed to get across the key message that it requires investment to thrive, how about coming at things from the opposite direction and pointing to all that would be lost if volunteers disappeared from our communities?’ (http://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2014/05/21/no-volunteers-week/)
Sonia says :
When Jewish Care first launched its strategy for volunteering almost 4 years ago we asked people, what would Jewish Care look like without its volunteers?
The truth is there would not be a governance structure overseeing the work of the professionals, there would be much less fundraising activity with no committees either raising core funds or local committees buying the extras such as new linen, activity equipment or organising outings for those who use our services.
We would need to employ more office staff to cope with our reams of administration, and most significantly there would be a dearth of activity in our homes and community centres, the latter of which rely almost entirely on volunteers to deliver the programmes.
In addition, there would be little development of self-help groups for those who are recently bereaved or widowed or are just lonely due to a variety of circumstances.
If we were to have no volunteers but wanted to keep the level of activity and support to the organisation and the current professional team, we calculate that we would need to raise a further £9.25 million each year.
More importantly than all of this though, in my opinion, is the connection with the local community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that volunteering brings to an organisation like ours. Our CEO, Simon Morris, often refers to our volunteers as our critical friends, and these are the people that, along with our staff, ensure that people who use our services stay connected and feel part of a community, often one in which they were really active participants.
Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity to thank volunteers for what they do. The reasons for doing this are obvious but sometimes, reminding ourselves what life would be like without them, helps us to prioritise the need to say a simple but heartfelt ‘thank you’.
Sonia Douek is Head of volunteering and community development at Jewish Care and has developed a strategy for the organisation that has seen the growth of volunteers in the organisation reach 3,000 people.