Groups and organisations which rely on volunteers should treat people as individuals, offer flexibility wherever they can, and make volunteering enjoyable so that Oxfordshire continues to benefit from the invaluable contribution volunteers make to life in the county.
Training and support, clear communication, and work to ensure that volunteering is truly open to everyone who wants to give their time and skills is also key to ensuring a flourishing community and voluntary sector in our county.
These are among the key findings of new research by Community First Oxfordshire and Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action, as part of the creation of the Oxfordshire Vision for Volunteering.
What did volunteers tell us?
Over 350 people, volunteering with more than 470 diverse groups across the county, contributed to the research. We asked them they think needs to be done to ensure that volunteering in Oxfordshire has a sustainable and inclusive future.
Some of the key things they told us include:
- Volunteering should be open to everyone. Community and voluntary groups can support this by considering whether they can work in different, more flexible ways, and by thinking about how they can support everyone to access volunteering. This might include re-designing opportunities, thinking about how accessible physical spaces and regular time commitments are, and looking at where and how they recruit volunteers.
- Volunteers want to be treated as individuals, to be able to work according to their own strengths, and to feel that organisations are responsive to their circumstances.
- Volunteers need clear points of access to information about volunteering opportunities – to know where, when, and how they can volunteer – and to have a clearly defined role.
- Organisations should invest in communicating with and celebrating their volunteers. Volunteers want to feel like that they are making a difference, that they are part of a community, and to enjoy volunteering. Organisations and groups can support this by building relationships with and between volunteers, for example by offering occasional social activities outside of volunteering tasks.
- Volunteers would welcome more training and support, and less bureaucracy.
Ten principles for the Oxfordshire Vision for Volunteering
We listened to everything volunteers told us and have developed ten core principles which can help everyone involved in supporting volunteering – community and voluntary groups, local authorities, infrastructure organisations and funders – to nurture this crucial part of community life in Oxfordshire:
- Include everyone
- Keep it personal
- Value the person
- Nurture relationships
- Offer flexibility
- Make it enjoyable
- Training and support matters
- Create space for experimentation
- Fund it
- Build community
Emily Lewis-Edwards, Joint CEO of Community First Oxfordshire, said: “We hope that our ten-point plan will help local authorities, decision-makers and funders to foster the conditions that volunteering needs to thrive into the future. We also hope that our findings offer some useful practical suggestions for community organisations looking to tackle common issues, support their volunteers, and nurture a sustainable, inclusive and flourishing voluntary sector for Oxfordshire.”
Laura Price, CEO of Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action, said: “This project has shone a spotlight on the often-unacknowledged contribution of thousands of Oxfordshire residents to making the world a better place. Many of these amazing people don’t regard what they do as unusual or remarkable, but life in Oxfordshire would be far less bright without their generosity, commitment and creativity.”
Working in partnership with community and voluntary sector organisations across Oxfordshire, and with local authority and other partners, we will develop an action plan to support the realisation of the Oxfordshire Vision for Volunteering. Keep an eye on the Community First Oxfordshire and OCVA websites and social media for more information or sign up to Pulse, OCVA’s weekly newsletter.
- Vision for Volunteering Executive Summary, including key findings and the ten-point action plan
- Vision for Volunteering Full Report, including Volunteer Stories
- Discussion session report