Blog post by:  Maddy Desforges, CEO at NAVCA

We’re living in complex, unpredictable times. But the uncertainties around us make it even more important to look at the bigger picture. And it was in this spirit that the Vision for Volunteering was launched, in May, at Volunteer Expo Live at the NEC. 

The Vision for Volunteering is a movement seeking to create a diverse, innovative, ambitious and person-centred future for volunteering. May’s initial publication sets out a view of what volunteering needs look like, and how this will make volunteers feel about their roles, by 2032 or sooner, organised around five themes. 

  1. Awareness and appreciation

Over the next 10 years, organisations involving volunteers must increasingly try to understand when and how people want to engage, and to recognise that their priorities will evolve, and availability fluctuate, over time. 

By 2032, we want it to be always easy to find a way to make a difference; doing so will mean volunteering can be even further woven into the fabric of everyday life as a way of enriching communities.


  1. Power

We want a future in which the power of communities and volunteers is centred and promoted, enabling volunteers to create the future they want to see. 

This requires a future in which decisions around voluntary work are, without exception, made by those best placed to make them, rather than based on organisational hierarchy or contractual obligations. It also is reliant on organisations valuing first-hand experience and focussing on people’s ability to make change.


  1. Equity and inclusion

Right now, volunteering is not sufficiently inclusive; not in terms of levels of participation nor in individuals’ own experience of their volunteering. This needs to change. 

In the next few years, we must built and continue to foster cultures which are inclusive of all who want to give their time. We can do this by listening to those who experience exclusion from volunteering, as well as improving how we use data.


  1. Collaboration

Collaboration ought to be a natural, fluid, flexible and spontaneous part of volunteering, with individuals and communities proactively supported to do great things. 

Achieving that by 2032 (or sooner) necessitates a radical shift in emphasis from top-down and imposed partnership working, to the building of community-led coalitions of interest and action. In this future, organisations won’t feel the need to ‘own’ activity, and volunteers will no longer experience barriers between organisations.


  1. Experimentation

While the Covid-19 pandemic made many of us experiment and embrace flexibility like never before, there is a risk of this spirit being discarded. But experimentation must not be a temporary bolt-on; for it to get really baked into volunteering, we need to support communities to experiment and innovate to develop their own solutions.

Ultimately, a culture of experimentation needs us to be less fearful of being seen to ‘fail’.

Getting to that future

Everyone at NAVCA, plus the other partners in the Vision, are hugely grateful to the more than 350 people from 300 organisations, including BVSC, who during the last year have engaged in the process of imagining this future.

And as the membership body for local infrastructure organisations like BVSC, we are now supporting the charity sector to put the Vision into practice, and consider how it can influence organisations’ strategies in the years to come. We know that plenty of organisations in the voluntary sector - as well as organisations outside of the voluntary sector which involve volunteers - have embedded some of these five principles, while others may have more work to do.

Wherever you and your organisation are on that journey, we urge you to read and consider the Vision, sign up to receive updates, and keep an eye out for next steps for this movement.

The five partners in the Vision for Volunteering are the Association of Volunteer Managers, NAVCA, NCVO, Sport England and Volunteering Matters. The full Vision is available online.