Volunteer funding a success study shows
Leeds Metropolitan University was commissioned to evaluate the fund, which was established in 2009 and aimed to build organisational and community capacity for volunteering by providing funds and tailored support to local and national projects. It is managed by Ecorys and partners.
The HSCVF was found to be an effective way of strengthening volunteering in local communities, whatever the size of the projects. The key findings of the research were: the fund has enabled projects to turn their ideas into actions, strengthened their management of volunteers and encouraged learning; the role of volunteer coordinators was found to be crucial to projects; volunteers felt an increased sense of wellbeing from being involved in projects; many small projects were contributing a lot to local health and social care systems, helping vulnerable people access services they wouldn't normally have access to; and the key challenge is now for voluntary organisations to secure long-term funding.
One of the fund recipients, Nahid Rasool, of the Shantona Women's Centre in Leeds, commented: "The fund helped us to take the project into a new direction: it linked us to a bigger network, opened our eyes to alternative routes to increase our income generation and supported us in improving our marketing. It helped make our project more sustainable."
Charlotte Buckley, Deputy Director of People, Communities and Local Government at the Department of Health, said: "Our vision is for people to be at the heart of our health and care system, supported by strong and caring communities. Volunteering helps build communities and foster connectedness which support individuals, families and carers in maintaining networks that enable them to live well and independently for longer. The Department of Health welcomes this evaluation from Leeds Metropolitan University which demonstrates how the HSCVF has successfully strengthened volunteering in local communities."
Olivia Butterworth, Head of Public Voice at NHS England, added: "Supporting people to contribute, develop new skills and gain experience through volunteering is essential to the future of our health and care. The evidence this important evaluation provides about the effectiveness of support for groups and organisations will be of great value and interest to health and care commissioners and leaders."
Jane South, Professor of Healthy Communities at Leeds Metropolitan University and project-lead, commented: "This evaluation shows that national government support can make a difference to grass-root projects and what happens on the ground in communities. Valuing and supporting the contribution of volunteering is key."
Over 600 volunteers completed a survey of their views. Fifty four project staff and volunteers participated in workshops, eight in-depth project case studies were conducted and existing literature was reviewed. The year-long study has provided evidence on the effectiveness of the fund at all levels and includes one of the largest surveys of volunteers' opinions undertaken in the UK.
Volunteers worked with many groups including families of children with disabilities, people in recovery from alcohol and drug addition, socially isolated older people and BME women in deprived neighbourhoods. The range of activities they participated in included raising awareness of health issues, helping people with household budgets and counselling schoolchildren with emotional issues.
A total of 94 projects received funds and support through the HSCVF.