Volunteers Week takes place from 1-7 June this year, and we asked Fiona Harvey, Head of Volunteering at CHAS, for her reflection on the value of volunteering to CHAS.
Every year I write a report about the volunteering successes at CHAS. A large part of the report is numbers – the number of hours volunteers have donated, the amount of money volunteers have raised or the number of new volunteers who have joined the organisation. Anyone who has ever worked with volunteers will know that their value comes from much more than numbers. Volunteers Week is the chance for us all to celebrate everything that volunteers bring to our organisations and inspire others to join us.
At CHAS, we recently asked volunteers to share their most memorable moment as part of developing our new organisational strategy. What struck me was how the smallest acts had made the biggest impact. A fundraising volunteer spoke of walking into Rachel House Hospice for the first time in the 1990s and how the bright, homely bedrooms defied her expectations of a hospice. The experience inspired her to start fundraising. She has been fundraising for CHAS for over 30 years now.
A garden volunteer spoke of being part of a team cheering on a child who was completing a sports challenge at the hospice. The child did more during that challenge than they had ever expected. Another garden volunteer told us of giving a child a plant from the Robin House garden to take home because the child didn’t have a garden at home. The child was overjoyed. A letter writing volunteer shared how she had been writing to a child during the pandemic and when restrictions eased, she was able to meet the child on a visit to Rachel House. The child was able to meet the volunteer’s dog who she had heard all about in her letters. The common thread through all of these stories was how the smallest gestures had made such a huge and lasting impact on the children and families using our services.
As part of the larger team, volunteers also allow us as an organisation to do more: to raise more money, to reach more people. The volunteer group who set up the CHAS Bookstore at Errol Market are a prime example of this. Over the past two years, they’ve raised thousands of pounds for CHAS but more than that, they’ve extended the reach of CHAS into communities that staff alone could never have engaged in the same way. Whether it’s using new technologies thanks to the pandemic, putting new fundraising ideas into action or finding a way to make a difference for a family in our hospices, volunteers continue to step up and do what they can.
We have a lot to celebrate when it comes to volunteering in CHAS. For every employee in CHAS we involve three volunteers. We involve over 900 volunteers in CHAS and employ around 300 staff. If we focus on the numbers alone, we can get stuck in the narrative that having volunteers is good and having more volunteers is even better. The true value of volunteers that we should celebrate this Volunteers Week is the impact they make. It is this impact and these stories that will inspire others to join our organisations and become part of the team driving forward our respective missions.