The Volunteer Centre was born out of the realisation that many residents, and people from other parts of London, want to contribute to community life in the borough and care for those around them, and some great public benefit organisations looking for that kind of help. The missing ingredient is often matching the two, and that’s where our founder saw an opportunity to make a difference.
The Volunteer Centre has since developed a wide variety of programmes and services from that core of volunteer brokerage, responding to learning that volunteers from groups that are marginalised – disabled people, people with criminal records, people living with poverty, people experiencing poor mental health – often need additional support. Having been prevented from achieving their potential earlier in life, some clients need to build their skills, knowledge, confidence and relationships before they volunteer. They might need some ongoing help to make the most of a volunteering placement, or may not want to stop at volunteering, which can be a goal in itself or a stepping stone to paid work.
Despite all the adaptations to make volunteering in K&C more inclusive and accessible that we have worked with local people to achieve, matching volunteers and opportunities remains our core strength. That strength has been severely tested during the pandemic and now post-pandemic period. People’s volunteering behaviour and capacity has altered such that Volunteer Centres have found it harder to match people to long-term roles, easier to find volunteers for one-off or short-term activities, and found more people unable to continue volunteering as they are overwhelmed by economic, health and social pressures.
In addition, some of the systems which we relied on before any of us had heard of COVID-19 are no longer reliable, as their providers have lost people and resources during the pandemic. The Volunteer Centre is transitioning from these databases as quickly and cost-effectively as we can – a major challenge for any small charity to handle while trying to maintain services, and one which our trustees are monitoring closely. We ask for your forbearance – we are working hard to minimise disruption to volunteers and host organisations as we navigate the necessary technical improvements – and we look forward to a new system that makes it easier to match people and roles, to get feedback about the results of placements, and to make improvements based on what we learn from our community (just like our founder did).
Michael Ashe, CEO