Stephen Wratten, Volunteering Researcher, Community Impact Bucks

Volunteer role: Volunteering Researcher, Community Impact Bucks

What did the role entail? Volunteering rates are decreasing throughout the UK and, to help Bucks charities and voluntary groups tackle the volunteering shortage, Community Impact Bucks (CIB) wanted to look at the changing needs and preferences of volunteers and consequently suggest new ways of attracting and retaining volunteers.

After finding out about the volunteer role via LinkedIn and Reach Volunteering, I was tasked with researching and writing a report on innovation in attracting and retaining volunteers in late 2017.  Committing eight days over a three month period and mainly working from home, I carried out primary and secondary research to identify what motivates different cohorts of people to volunteer, and potential barriers to volunteering.  I then identified innovative approaches for attracting different demographics of people into volunteering nationally and locally, and subsequently co-authored the Volunteering Innovation report which gives local organisations ideas for new models and methods of attracting and retaining volunteers.

Why did you volunteer? I have wanted to give something back to help others for a while but had not found anything that fitted with my skills or the time I had available.  In fact many of the barriers to volunteering listed in the Volunteering Innovation report had kept me from volunteering myself!  I was also interested in doing something where I could learn more about the voluntary sector and build my knowledge within that arena.

What attracted you to this role? This role grabbed my attention as it fitted my skills perfectly.  I was in the fortunate position of having the time available to support Community Impact Bucks at a time when they needed someone with research and report writing experience.

What are the best bits of volunteering? Personally I enjoyed learning so much about the voluntary sector from the vast amounts of data and content available as well as working and learning further from my contact at CIB.  This was coupled with the satisfaction of knowing my efforts were worthwhile in helping numerous voluntary organisations better attract and retain volunteers in the future.

What are the most challenging bits of volunteering? The most challenging part of being the Volunteering Researcher was related to the nature of the role itself –researching and writing a report largely independently.  I had to ensure that I was fully focused on the tasks during the time I had set aside to work on the research and report. This became more difficult as external working commitments took a greater priority.

What do you gain either personally or professionally from volunteering? Professionally I was able to put my research skills to good use and gained a great insight into the voluntary sector.  On a personal level I also have a sense of pride that I have been able to help the CIB team to support a variety of voluntary organisations to hopefully attract and retain volunteers in the future.

Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? I would certainly recommend others to volunteer; there are many types of volunteering available which you might not expect based on the traditional perception of volunteering. I would however, also advise potential volunteers to seek out personally rewarding opportunities where professional skills and experience can be utilised as this maximises the engagement you’ll have with the organisation.

Quote: “I think there is a gap in volunteering opportunities offered by charities where someone with specific professional skills could help over a short term project.  That was the reason I was able to get involved with Community Impact Bucks.”

Published on May 21, 2018

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society