Volunteering for All: national framework

Our national outcomes framework for volunteering.

Setting The Scene

Why a Framework: the case for change

Volunteering in Scotland is already making a crucial contribution to building social capital, fostering trust, binding people together and making our communities better places to live and to work. 

Action to increase volunteering participation for all and to address inequalities is vital to continue to expand opportunities for more people to volunteer and participate in society. Although an estimated 51% of the adult population in Scotland has volunteered at some point in their lives, 49% have not.[3]Volunteering Trends in Scotland: 2007 - 2017, Volunteer Scotland, Dec 2018› An increase in volunteering will also make a considerable contribution towards our individual, community and national economic and social well-being, particularly in the face of demographic and societal change.

The annual value of volunteering in Scotland is estimated to be £2.26 billion.[4]Volunteering Trends in Scotland: 2007 - 2017, Volunteer Scotland, Dec 2018› Volunteering is clearly of great social and economic importance to the people and communities of Scotland. Within these communities, there are often those who are more likely, or more able, to volunteer than others. Volunteers in Scotland are more likely to be:

  • female 
  • self-employed/part-time employed or in education 
  • from higher socio-economic and income groups
  • from rural areas
  • from less deprived areas
  • healthy and non-disabled[5]

This demonstrates the under-representation of disadvantaged groups in volunteering due to their exclusion from formal volunteering opportunities. This matters because it is important that volunteers and volunteering represent the population of Scotland and all of the interests that their volunteering serves.  Furthermore, we know that the health and wellbeing benefits from volunteering tend to be greater for those who are marginalised.[6]

There is also a heavy reliance on a ‘civic core’ of highly engaged individuals who provide the majority of volunteering hours in Scotland. In 2016, 19% of all volunteers delivered 65% of all volunteer hours – that’s 225,000 adults contributing 102 million hours of the total 157 million hours volunteered in 2016.[7]

But we cannot be complacent in our reliance on this core group of volunteers. Our population is changing. We are becoming more diverse, and more people are living for longer, often with longer term health conditions. By 2041 there will be 428,000 more people aged 65+, but 144,000 fewer people of working age.[8] The proportion of adults with long-term health conditions is increasing too: from 41% in 2008 to 45% in 2017.[9]

In addition, more people will be working for longer and may be caring for longer – either for elderly family or for their own dependants as older family members, who might have once been relied on to support childcare, are working for longer – suggesting those from the younger end of the ‘civic core’ may not feel able to contribute as much. Already there is evidence emerging from the pre-retiral age group (45 – 59 years) of a decline in formal volunteering participation rates over the period 2007 – 2017: from 34% to 30% for females and from 33% to 28% for males.[10]

All this change comes at a time when new technology poses both huge opportunities and different challenges for volunteering practice.  Digital volunteering is growing but many smaller organisations have neither the resources nor infrastructure to support new ways of working.  And there will be an ongoing need to balance the benefits of digital help with the face-to-face engagement that is so critical to so much of volunteering practice.

So, we cannot only rely on the same ‘civic core’ of people, or on their contributions coming in the same ways. Without acting to attract and retain a more diverse pool of volunteers, volunteer involving organisations may well lose capacity.  Without taking action to engage and support people of all ages and backgrounds to volunteer throughout their lives, communities will lose out on their talents. And without celebrating and promoting the benefits of volunteering to everyone, those individual benefits will not be enjoyed by those at most risk of missing out.

We are seeing positive changes on all these fronts, but we need to do more.  Widening participation and improving access to opportunities to get involved in a range of ways, across a wide spectrum of contribution, is crucial to the wider aim of creating a fairer, smarter, more inclusive Scotland with genuine equality of opportunity for everyone.

This requires action to ensure that more opportunities to volunteer – formally and informally - are open to and accessed by anyone, to increase the chances of people finding things that interest them and opportunities to move around as their circumstances change.

The changes required to break down barriers to volunteering and to create more diverse and inclusive opportunities for everyone to engage in throughout their life demands action across sectors and by multiple partners.

The Scottish Government has a critical role to play in both setting this Framework and in setting the tone for the national conversation around volunteering and participation. Government can continue to champion, recognise and celebrate the hugely significant contributions volunteers are already making and to ensure everyone feels welcome to participate.  

The national policy environment has never been better attuned to supporting volunteering in all its forms. This is increasingly recognised in national policy, from our approach to tackling social isolation and loneliness[11] to supporting an increase in opportunities for people from all backgrounds across Scotland to volunteer through culture and heritage.[12]

The Scottish Government is working to promote inclusive growth and well-being, champion community participation and ownership, ensure stability and flexibility of funding for third sector organisations, and support integrated working through community planning partnerships. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 gives communities more opportunities, and by creating new rights for community bodies and placing new duties on public authorities, the Act strengthens the voices of communities in the decisions that matter to them and makes it easier for communities to take on public sector land and buildings. This approach is crucial if we are to improve life chances and wellbeing for people across Scotland, and a continued focus on embedding these principles across all policy areas is required.

Leadership bodies across the third sector, including Volunteer Scotland, SCVO and Third Sector Interfaces, are also key in providing expertise and support, providing knowledge and insight to help inform volunteering practice as well as practical guidance. These organisations are already playing a valuable role in the promotion and recognition of volunteering locally and nationally, both in terms of developing inclusive approaches to formal roles and working with key partners to explore more flexible and diverse volunteering opportunities and approaches.

Local Authorities play an important role in encouraging and enabling collaboration between organisations, encouraging shared learning and resources and making it easier for people to move between volunteering opportunities. Demographic and financial pressures on local authorities are challenging them to think differently about how they meet the needs of their communities, and the space for communities to make a difference on their own terms is growing.

Funders already recognise the huge value of engagement and participation and there are many funds already available that support people to come together around peer support, local activism or addressing specific needs. Funders can also influence the nature of activities available, by building our volunteering principles into funding criteria and by supporting infrastructure and ‘core’ costs as well as frontline impacts.

Volunteer Involving Organisations have a vital role to play not only in ensuring formal roles are inclusive but also in supporting, recognising and facilitating more flexible types of contribution.  We know that the vast majority of organisations recognise the need to diversify their volunteering base, but there is still work to be done to develop the way opportunities are framed or to reflect this inclusive agenda at a strategic level within organisations, where volunteers may be seen as an added bonus to service delivery.

Businesses and employers can play a critical role both as employers and in facilitating community engagement and strengthening the local communities where they are based.  Working age volunteering will continue to be critical to the future of volunteering, particularly as people work for longer. Employer support for volunteering, either through policies that enable staff to take time off or more broadly through celebrating and recognising the contributions that people are making and offering flexible working arrangements to allow people to contribute, is a key area for development.

NHS and social care design and delivery already benefits enormously from volunteer engagement, be this via those volunteers engaged directly by NHS Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships or indirectly through those engaged with a third sector organisation.[13] For many who are socially isolated the interaction with a volunteer can be hugely significant – someone who is not paid or under any compulsion to do what they do, rather, they do so because they want to. Volunteering has a ripple-effect that not only impacts on recipients of volunteering endeavour, such as patients or service users; it plays a role in ‘health-gain’ for volunteers and communities alike. Ensuring frameworks and approaches support volunteering and promote participatory delivery will ensure we recognise the intrinsic value of all forms of contribution as a means of promoting individual and community well-being and social connection.

Case Study
Volunteer Involving Organisation: A Relationship-based Approach to Volunteer Involvement at Shelter Scotland

Sarah Latto, Volunteer Development Manager at Shelter Scotland

Over the past two years, Shelter Scotland have developed a ‘relationship-based’ approach to volunteer involvement. This places central importance on the cultivation of positive personal relationships with volunteers, encouraging regular discussion, reflection and feedback.

Many of our volunteers told us that that filling out lengthy forms can be challenging or off-putting. We also found that some volunteers, particularly those with recent experience of homelessness or housing issues, struggled to provide appropriate references or evidence for criminal record checks.

Based on this feedback, we no longer ask people to complete a detailed application form, and instead invite all prospective volunteers to take part in an informal interview. We also removed the requirement for volunteers to provide references for some roles, deciding instead to make our interactive group induction a central part of the selection process. Finally, we provide significant support to people completing Disclosure or PVG forms, and have on several occasions paid for a volunteer to get a copy of their birth certificate as a form of identification.

We are confident that these changes have helped us to develop a more diverse and engaged volunteering team in Shelter Scotland. One of our volunteers, who experienced low self-confidence as a result of a conviction, said that:

"Volunteering has truly enabled me to take the next step to putting my new skills and qualifications into practice and without it I would most definitely not be attending university or have the mindset to even be looking at the prospect of working"

Lesley MacDonald, Convenor of The Scotland Funders’ Forum and Head of Giving at the Robertson Trust

"As Convener of Scotland Funders’ Forum and in my role as Head of Giving at the Robertson Trust, I have witnessed some of the incredible work of volunteers who support third sector organisations across Scotland. As Funders we all want to reach those individuals and communities where our resources can really make a difference. Volunteers play an essential role in helping our funded organisations achieve this through their drive and commitment. We also see the enormous benefits for the volunteers themselves, particularly those facing their own personal challenges but who gain so much from getting involved in their communities. It is important that Funders continue to recognise the value of volunteering as a key element of our overall support for the sector."

Health and Social Care:
George Anderson

I started volunteering with NHS Borders in 2001. I needed something to help me integrate back into society when my caring duties came to an end, your day is so long and you don’t know how to fill it.

In 1998 I gave up my job in sales to care for my dad and mum. As the sole carer for eleven years I had no social life or holidays whilst caring for them. During the final two years of caring I never had a full night’s sleep.

Throughout this time I found the support from the NHS and my GP excellent, and I also got great help from the district nurses and the Community Nursing Team. I felt I was always ‘treated like a person’ and they always found time for me. The Borders Carers Centre were a valuable source of advice and support, without this I would have not been able to do the things I have done today and use my experience to help other carers. I must mention that without the companionship of my wee dog, Cindy, I would have found it more difficult to cope.

I am now a volunteer as a public member on a number of NHS Borders groups and committees to provide my views from a public perspective on services provided. I’m also a member of the Scottish Borders Public Partnership Forum (PPF) which provides a public viewpoint on NHS services provided by NHS Borders, Scottish Borders Council and the Voluntary Sector.

As a volunteer, the help and support I receive from the public involvement staff has made such a difference. Volunteering has definitely been a confidence boost. I would recommend to any carer to get involved in volunteering – I find it very rewarding in that I can offer something back.

Local Authority: Compassionate Inverclyde

Compassionate Inverclyde is a social movement to change attitudes and behaviour around death, dying and loneliness. It uses a community development approach with hundreds of volunteers supporting and caring for one another at times of crisis and loss.

Officially launched on 1 March 2017, Compassionate Inverclyde aims to enable and empower people to help and support one another in times of increased health need, crisis and bereavement.

The role of families, friends and neighbours working alongside formal services is recognised as being crucial to the creation of a compassionate community: a social movement that supports ordinary people to do extraordinary things and that helps the Health and Social Care Partnership to think differently about how services can be developed and delivered.

The programme began initially with “No One Dies Alone”, through which Volunteer Companions support people who have no family or friends in the last hours of life. It has quickly expanded to other activities, including “Back Home Boxes”, a community act of kindness that gives essentials to those who live alone and are being discharged from hospital. The Compassionate Inverclyde Support Hub was launched in May 2018 and is a volunteer led support hub that provides a meeting place for anyone experiencing loneliness, crisis, social isolation and bereavement.

Business and Employer

Providing opportunities for our employees to volunteer is an important part of life at FreeAgent, a growing accountancy software company based in Edinburgh.
Donald Lindsay, People Operations Director, FreeAgent

At FreeAgent we’re keen to support activities around sustainability and social responsibility. We have two employee-run groups, FreeAngels and GreenAngels, who highlight opportunities for our people to volunteer in ways that benefit the wider community.

Everyone who works with us has the option to take time out of work each year to participate in a paid charity volunteering day. The purpose of our volunteering day is to give back to our community but we also believe it supports teamwork within FreeAgent and motivates our people to give back to the community. Volunteer activities can range from digging a community garden or shaking a donation bucket for a day, to using their professional knowledge to teach the elderly how to use a computer or a primary school class how to code.

As a business we are also committed to supporting the development and diversity of our local tech and small business community. We are able to do this through offering our premises, time and expertise to host volunteer-run groups such as ‘Women Who Code’ or facilitate weekend events like the recent Global Diversity CFP day which was designed to support small technology start-ups and offer training to promote confidence in public speaking at conferences or events.

Volunteering is a valued part of our organisational culture and opportunities to volunteer and the outcomes from this activity are celebrated when people present their experiences as a part of our weekly Townhall Meeting. There are a number of ways that we can see the benefit of this and two key indicators that help us know that it is successful are the sustained levels of engagement in volunteering across the teams and that the uptake of volunteer activity is increasingly led by our people rather than being driven by the organisation.


Email: helen.webster@gov.scot

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