As a charity funder, OCF knows that charities rely on hard cash for projects and running costs to carry out their work. A new focus on volunteering aims to complement this and help charities access new volunteers.
The contribution of volunteers to Oxfordshire’s community is well documented. In December 2016, Oxford City Council celebrated UN International Volunteer Day, and estimated that in Oxford alone, more than 55,000 people give up their time to help others, and that this time is worth £27.6 million to the city. Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson has commented: “I am constantly astonished how much time and energy and commitment hundreds of people around Oxfordshire give to the community every week, often every day of their lives. So much work would be impossible were it not for the contribution that the voluntary sector makes to almost everything that goes on in the county.”
However, OCF also believes that in addition to the value it brings to the charitable sector, volunteering has a huge role to play in the wellbeing and happiness of the individuals who choose to volunteer. Through its Reciprocate responsible business group, OCF is therefore proposing to proactively support businesses to gain a better understanding of all the various volunteering options available – whether with local charities, or through other types of community involvement such as becoming a governor, councillor, neighbourhood activist or committee member.
OCF will help companies develop a clear strategy for how they can get involved and how to build on this over time. Once a business has a clear idea of what it wants to contribute, OCF will work with partners at Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action (OCVA) and beyond to match company staff with relevant volunteering opportunities – either within recommended charities or other more specific ‘place-based’ community projects that might be of interest. The process is currently being refined and will be piloted by local law firm Royds Withy King before being offered more widely to other companies.
Other initiatives are supporting the work of existing volunteers. OCF’s recently launched Youth Social Action Fund is offering grants of up to £5,000 that will promote volunteering, fundraising and campaigning amongst young people aged between 10 and 25. At the end of last year, OCF provided financial help to an inspiring group of volunteers organising a Christmas dinner for young people who had recently left the care system. Watch the moving video of the day below.
OCF’s Chief Executive Jayne Woodley says: “Volunteering is so important because it creates those human connections that are the essence of community. In our modern world we see many initiatives to develop technological solutions to society’s problems, and these can provide innovative answers – but we must remember that technology is no substitute for genuine human contact and caring. With our focus on volunteering as a complement to funding, we hope we can go some way towards strengthening those vital bonds that really hold communities together.”