We know that volunteering works. Something magical happens when people freely give their time and skills to volunteer and they do so for many reasons. Some volunteers seek to help others, some support a particular cause or community project, while others hope to develop skills, meet people or try a new activity. Whatever the motivation, volunteering succeeds in three ways:
Volunteering boosts wellbeing and personal growth in the individual while enhancing services for the common good, and moreover, building the capacity of Suffolk communities.
Building skills in the individual, builds strength in the community.
Volunteering helps to make our communities more resilient and cohesive, with people from different backgrounds and ages coming together to volunteer.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on Volunteering in Suffolk; the way people volunteer, who volunteers, and the type of volunteering undertaken. Many retired people who were the backbone of voluntary groups had to take a break, while hundreds if not thousands of new people stepped forward to volunteer. A combination, of common cause, furlough or working from home, accessibility of informal volunteering and need for their skill all helped this shift. We must note that not all volunteers or communities will use the term ‘volunteer’ or ‘volunteering’. They may identify as a forum member or simply ‘helping out’ in their community.
We have seen new approaches to volunteering as leaders embrace: digital solutions, innovation, creativity and become more flexible in their approach. Businesses are increasingly ‘switched on’ to their social responsibility and encourage staff to volunteer through Corporate Social Responsibility policies and Employer Supported Volunteering programmes .
The Suffolk Volunteering Strategy has been refreshed to allow reflections and learning from the Covid-19 pandemic. Three clear objectives will inspire an action to move volunteering forward in Suffolk. The strategy has been fully endorsed by Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board. Work is now underway to bring an Action Plan to life across the county.
We know that the Suffolk Volunteering Strategy will not reflect the nuances of each individual organisation and community led group which involves volunteers in their day to day work, nor should but this action plan provides a starting point for working together across the system.
The purpose of the Suffolk Volunteering Strategy and the Action Plan is to develop and drive forward a clear framework for volunteering. This will allow each individual organisation to continue to develop along the path they have chosen, and allow them to access the resources, support and knowledge which they need. Suffolk aims to grow its knowledge and practice in volunteering and been seen as an exemplar county in the UK.