Wessex Community Action is the council for voluntary services in Wiltshire and provides practical support for community organisations on funding, governance, planning, policy development, recruiting and leadership. This monthly volunteering column looks at all aspects of volunteering and how people can give up their time for the benefit of their communities.

Since Covid and the advent of the cost of living crisis volunteer recruitment has been tougher, which has a knock-on effect on charities who increasingly rely on the essential work they do.

This represents a challenge for charities and voluntary groups. Where are their volunteers going to come from? A survey in 2018 found 73 per cent of volunteers believed there were people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures in their group, by 2022 this had dropped to 66 per cent.

The same survey last year found 82 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 were satisfied with their volunteering, compared to 96 per cent of those over 55. Both of these statistics suggest charities have work to do to meet the needs of their volunteers and to be inclusive.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

Wessex Community Action is working with many charities and voluntary groups, as well as potential volunteers themselves, to address these challenges. Through training and best practice is helping them put working practices, procedures and policies in place that fit better with volunteers’ lives.

“We can support voluntary organisations across Wiltshire with developing good practices in volunteer management, through free resources and training, and help them navigate the changing volunteer landscape to enable greater success in recruiting the right people,” says Volunteer and Community Development Manager Sarah Pickering.

An example of the way charities and voluntary groups are trying to adapt is that volunteering online or over the phone is the third most popular way to give time, with 31 per cent of volunteering in the last 12 months taking place at least partly online or over the phone.

The satisfaction derived from working this way isn’t affected, with 92 per cent of those who do so saying they enjoy it.

Wessex Community Action is setting up a Wiltshire Volunteer Centre to provide support for charities and groups and also to work with potential volunteers to look at how much time they can give and how often, what their skills are and which causes they are interested in.

An ideal place to look for volunteering opportunities is Wiltshire Together, a digital community platform hosted by Wessex Community Action. On it, organisations and charities manage all their own content and activities so it’s always up to date, and users are connected straight back to that organisation.

Among the opportunities available on Wiltshire Together at the moment is a visual merchandiser for the Trussell Trust, working with teams in the Salisbury area to design window displays. Dorothy House Hospice’s shop in Warminster is looking for online retail assistants to help sell vintage clothing on eBay. The charity is also looking for an assistant in Westbury to help with researching items submitted for listing by the Dorothy House eBay Team.

All of these roles involve flexible hours to suit the right applicant and are typical of the way charities are learning to work around volunteers’ busy lives.

Wiltshire Together is free to use and allows users to browse and pledge interest for the opportunities listed. Users can also set up a member profile that allows them to log their volunteer hours, which can help with CVs and employability prospects.

The site now has a new Volunteering in Wiltshire page and can be found at wiltshiretogether.org.uk. To find out more and to register interest in volunteering, contact Sarah at volunteerdev@wessexcommunityaction.org.uk