Why this paper was written.
Volunteering is a deeply ingrained part of UK life and culture, yet there’s a lack of comprehensive analysis regarding its monetary and economic contributions. While those within the voluntary and community sectors appreciate the vital role of Volunteering, measuring its monetary worth may seem futile. However, outside this sector, perceptions of Volunteering vary. Decision-makers acknowledge its societal benefits but struggle to gauge its importance due to the absence of precise monetary and economic data. This lack of data is partly because calculating the economic value of Volunteering is inherently imperfect. Moreover, Volunteering may not always boost traditional economic metrics like GDP; it can even lead to reductions.
While we are in the Halloween season, I think there’s a fair analogy to make that the voluntary and community sector is like the ghost in the room. Some know it is there, and it makes things move (social care, health, etc.), but some don’t want to see it! This paper is interesting in both its methodologies and thinking. But the point it makes throughout is that the voluntary and community sector is the forgotten sector, which governments are not paying enough attention to but instead bundle in with other figures, departments, and statistics. An interesting point is how volunteering and, therefore, the voluntary and community sector are never seen in the light in which they work and, therefore, economically never measured. I feel this is because it’s too hard, so no one does it. This is partly because the way to measure volunteers’ worth can be crude and never an exact science. But also, it isn’t straightforward. Unlike manufacturing, there are no clear lines where volunteering ends, and the next sector starts, along with the monetary exchange, which does happen but is never as clear cut. Where do they measure the monetary impact of that befriender, community transport volunteer, dog walker, community meals volunteer, verbal newspaper volunteer, etc, which Joan receives along with the social care and NHS support? It all blurs into one another!
“Volunteering is the lifeblood of the voluntary and community sector. A fall in volunteering reduces the capacity of charities and community groups to support the communities they serve. This leads to an increase demand on public services for support as well as a reduction in the positive effects on volunteers themselves such as mental health, physical health and social isolation.” (Pinkney. 43)
Are Trustees priceless?
The paper states that volunteering is worth £4,746,866,087 in Cambridgeshire alone, with the value of trustees in Cambridgeshire being worth £545,889,600 of that (Pinkney. 34). Some would say a small price is paid for a considerable payback of our communities’ time and hard work. At the same time, some may look at that and think that perhaps things have been inflated. I would encourage you to read the paper first if you feel that. Personally, I feel that figure should be much higher than that; however, as someone said to me ‘when buying a house, it’s only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it’. A point which perhaps my obvious bias is leaning towards. One thing that can’t be argued is that those individuals’ impact on the day-to-day working of our communities is enormous, economically and socially.
“Volunteering is not a nice-to-have add-on, it is a huge and integral part of UK life and economy. As such, Volunteering needs to be taken much more seriously by decision makers in order for us to protect, develop, adapt and leverage Volunteering for our collective benefit. Volunteering is not the icing nor the cherry on top of the cake of UK life and economy, it is a key ingredient of the cake it self” (Pinkney. 44)
What can this figure lead to, however?
While I am a big one to champion volunteering and the value of volunteering, I do understand that not everyone can get as excited about ‘working for free’ as I am. This, like the paper states, allows the sector and the role of volunteering to be seen as the big hitter that it is, and possibly, by some sceptics, the understanding that it is worth funding Volunteering because it does pay back economically. It’s a problematic calculation, but it has power. It didn’t come out of thin air!
I also hope that trustees and volunteers out there realise that while I hope they are getting something out of the time they spend with community groups and charities, they are also contributing to a much more significant economic impact in your society and that those hours are not ‘free’ but valued in so many ways.
Finally, it makes the case that as a trustee, there is the need to make sure that you are not only giving your time but the best of your ability. This comes with knowledge, and Support Cambridgeshire are here to support this. Governance Month is several events which allow those involved in community groups, including trustees, to broaden, refresh, and update their knowledge. Outside of this month, Support Cambridgeshire offers both on-demand and online workshops, website information, and networks anyone can tap into. Finally, if you have a question, feel free to email us.