A vision for volunteering

Jonas Fathy | 4 July 2022
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Three people skiing in a room

 

Last month our Programme Manager Jonas Fathy spoke at the annual general meeting of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on volunteering. Pilotlight had been one of many charities working with the NCVO to develop the Vision for Volunteering, and Jonas had been asked to share Pilotlight’s perspective on the Vision.

First, Nigel Huddleston MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, gave his opening remarks. Then Emma-Jane Hampsheir-Gill, and #iWill ambassador and young trustee, gave a fantastic speech on what the Vision means for volunteers. Subsequently, Chair Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts gave Jonas the floor. Here are his words:

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Jonas Fathy, Programme Manager at Pilotlight. At Pilotlight, we amplify the impact of charities, businesses and individuals to make a better world. We do this by bringing them together to tackle the pressing challenges charities and their beneficiaries are facing.

In other words, we act as translators, facilitators and relationship managers between charities and skilled volunteers who want to use their professional skills and experience in a meaningful way.

Why is this work important?

When we think of volunteering, we often think of practical things such as stocking shelves and handing out food parcels at food banks, fundraising, or maintenance activities such as painting fences. However, as important as these things are, where there is a need for professional or occupational skills, you can make a far greater difference using your skills and not “just” your time.

Charities and volunteering organisations need these skills to run effectively, but the vast majority of them may not be able to afford to pay for them as professional staff. Yet, having the right skills and experience available at the right time can make all the difference. And this is what Pilotlight facilitates.

But it is not as simple as it sounds. Applying one's skills in a different context from one's day-to-day can easily lead to misunderstanding and friction, and significantly reduce effectiveness. How often, for example, have you received well-intentioned advice from a very experienced person outside of your sector, only to think 'they clearly don't understand, for example, the political process or our funding environment' or something else specific to your work? It happens easily, however good the intentions.

This is what Pilotlight addresses; we actively and hands-on facilitate conversations, co-develop briefings with charities and businesses, and enable people from different sectors to collaborate effectively using their professional skills for the benefit of charities and those they serve.

In the words of the Vision, we increase the awareness and appreciation of skilled volunteering; we manage and facilitate the power dynamic so that everyone can benefit; we ensure that diverse voices are heard equitably when collaborating to tackle complex challenges from different perspectives and find the best solutions; and we experiment and learn with our participants to continuously improve.

With great impact: since 1996, we have worked with over 3,000 Pilotlighters – our skilled volunteers - and 1,000 charities, and we estimate that these 1,000 charities have in turn supported over 12 million people more effectively due to the support they received. 

Our Impact Report will be published next week but here are some highlights:

  • In 2021, over 90% of charities on our biggest programme have said they increased their confidence and leadership skills.
  • This leads to positive impacts in the medium-term, where charities we worked with on this programme in 2018 have on average increased their income by 58% and are reaching 15% more service users!
  • And for Pilotlighters, the outcomes are equally meaningful: increased wellbeing, improved listening skills, and improved team working skills - all things that are also crucial for them as professionals - are just some of the reported outcomes.

But skilled volunteers don't only support the sector. They lead the sector; trustees are skilled volunteers. And over the years, between 20 to 30 percent of our Pilotlighters, our skilled volunteers, have gone on to be trustees. 

In other words, nearly 1,000 people who have improved their skilled volunteering skills, have gone on to be leaders of the sector. 

And more effective skilled volunteers will be more effective trustees, and everyone wins; charities as a whole, their staff, their beneficiaries, and society overall.

If you remember anything from what I’ve said today, I hope that it will be these three things:

  1. Effective skilled volunteering is absolutely crucial for the difference charities are making in the world; indeed, skilled volunteers run the sector, as trustees or in different capacities!
  2. Skilled volunteering can be very challenging but - if done right - can also be exponentially rewarding for everyone involved.
  3. And thus, in line with the Vision for Volunteering, effective skilled volunteering is not just a way to make a difference; it is a way to build the kind of empathy and collaborative skills that will build a better, more sustainable society.

This is the vision Pilotlight is collaborating towards, together with many other fantastic skilled volunteering organisations. For today, I will end here and say thank you very much for inviting me, for your attention, and for your work in this group.

Afterwards, the Minister stayed for about 10 more minutes for questions, and after he left, there was a very interesting and insightful debate with the audience. At the end, Lord Hodgson invited Emma-Jane and Pilotlight to submit requests to the government in relation to the meeting’s conversations, which he would share with the Minister. We asked, will the government use its convening power and influence as a commissioner of work from the private sector, to:

  1. Highlight the option to companies of using the skills of their staff to support charities through pro bono volunteering programmes such as those run by Pilotlight?
  2. Emphasise the value of skilled volunteering not just as a way of giving back but also as an effective investment in learning and development for staff?

From Pilotlight, a big thank you, Lord Hodgson!

Find out more about Pilotlight’s impact here.