On Thursday 22 June, the first ever Leeds Volunteering Conference and Volunteering Fair took place at Leeds Civic Hall. Our Volunteering Coordinator, Carol Green, attended and delivered a workshop around making volunteering fun and retaining volunteers. She shares her thoughts below:
The first ever Leeds Volunteering Conference and Volunteering Fair was organised by Gary Blake from Voluntary Action Leeds, and as a member of the steering group for the Volunteer Managers Network, I was involved in the planning and delivery of the event. The idea behind the day was to run an event to serve Volunteer Managers in the city; the people who co-ordinate and oversee the thousands of volunteers who give up time to help good causes.
The morning started out with a report from Gary on the volunteering research carried out recently. Approximately 650 volunteers took part, covering a range of demographics. A few interesting highlights were:
- The largest proportion, a third, of volunteers are employed full-time, contrary to what we might have thought, that most volunteers may be students or retired people
- Half of people who volunteer do so to support a cause or organisation they care about
- Just over 50% of respondents said they volunteered to improve their employment prospects
- The same proportion said they volunteered simply because they enjoyed it
Gary then did a fantastic 'live' calculation to see how much volunteers are worth to the city – the answer is 3/4 of a billion pounds!
James Rogers, Leeds City Council's Volunteering Champion, spoke briefly about how valued volunteers and their managers are to the city.
Simon Betts from the Department of Work and Pensions spoke about issues around volunteering whilst on benefits – this was an extremely popular session and many people had questions for Simon.
The next session was run by Dominic Headley who is the Legal Officer for NACRO. He spoke about the thorny subject of DBS checks, and all the difficulties surrounding enabling people, particularly ex-offenders, to volunteer.
In between these talks, there were moments called Voice of Volunteers – this entailed three or four volunteers to speak briefly about their experiences and what their volunteering had meant to them. For me, these were the best part of the day! So many moving stories, in some cases volunteering had literally saved people's lives.
After lunch I ran a workshop with a colleague, Sarah Rogers, from AVSED. It was entitled 'Making Volunteering Fun and Volunteer Retention'. Around 35 people attended our workshop and it was great hearing people share their good practice. Other workshops on offer were 'Volunteering for All', 'Risk Assessments' and 'Using Social Media to raise the profile of volunteering in Leeds'.
I then sat on a Question and Answer panel alongside Beth Logan from Leeds City Council, Simon Betts (DWP), Ann Hall (DISC), Dominic Headley (NACRO) and Richard Jackson from Voluntary Action Leeds. I was on the panel to represent student volunteering in Leeds, and my colleagues from Leeds Beckett and the University of Leeds were at the conference too – it was great to catch up with them!
The day rounded up with presentations to some young people who were awarded Digital Badges for volunteering, this was a really great way to end a fantastic day.
The next conference for 2018 is already being discussed!