The term giving has become more synonymous with giving nothing but money

Wow, another year gone!

In my first blog of the year for Third Sector I concluded with the sentence: “Here’s to a year in which we start to change people’s views of volunteering”. In this final blog of 2012 I want to reflect on whether things have changed and to review some of the predictions I made in my own blog at the start of the year.

My first prediction for the year was that all the effort by tens of thousands of volunteers will go largely unrecognised during the Games and quickly forgotten afterwards.

I am more pleased than you can know that I was totally wrong on the first half of this. We saw an unprecedented amount of media focus on the Games Maker volunteers and I am convinced this has helped many in the UK to see the hidden yet essential contribution volunteers make to our society, perhaps for the first time.

However, I worry that I may have been more accurate with the second half of my prediction. For after all the post-Games hoopla and back slapping, volunteering has dropped off the radar. Whether that’s a reflection of reality or a symptom of outdated approaches to measuring volunteering remains to be seen.

At the end of 2011 I hoped that the continuing tough times would lead many leaders, organisations and others to open their eyes to the potential of volunteer support. Yet I also worried that many organisations would carry on as before, doing what they’ve always done and trying to fundraise their way out of trouble rather than looking at other resources available to them.

Sadly, I think my worries have been realised more than my hopes. 2012 has been a year in which the term giving has become more and more synonymous with giving money and money alone. It is almost as if there are not other resources available to charities other than cold hard cash.

I recently saw one charity interviewed on the TV that said that it was having to cut back on its mission because it didn’t have enough money to pay to deliver all it does. If charities are thinking that way rather than considering creatively all the resources available to them then they become no different to the private business, a sector so many charity leaders are all to ready to criticise.

Finally, I suggested 2012 would be a key year for volunteer managers to confidently take centre stage, to be proud of what they do.

I believe I was right on this. While many sector leaders may still be treating volunteering as the Cinderella resource compared to cold hard cash, volunteer managers themselves are networking more, challenging more, and striving to break out of the bureaucracy that has come to dominate so much of what they do. This in turn is unleashing talent and creativity into the sector that could play a key role in helping organisations not only survive but thrive despite the prevailing ill winds of the economy.

So have people’s (both in the public and the sector) views of volunteering changed in 2012? The answer is yes…and no. Clearly there is more work to be done. Looks like 2013 is going to be a busy year for us all in the volunteering movement.