Volunteering at Volunteer Ireland: Skye Corken

Earlier this year, Skye Corken volunteered with us on some of our major projects. She was an invaluable part of the team while she was here and we already miss her plenty. Here she describes her volunteering experience and what she feels she got from it.

I spent the two and a half months earlier this year volunteering with Volunteer Ireland in their Corporate Programs & Events team. While I was excited to return home to my family in the states, I truly miss the time I spent with my co-workers creating and being a part of meaningful volunteer projects throughout the community.

Being in the Corporate Programs and Events team meant that I had the amazing job of helping with the planning and developing of so many exciting corporate volunteer projects throughout Dublin and beyond. Over ten weeks I met and worked with employees from companies like Indeed, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Electronic Arts (EA), Pitney Bowes, and Bar of Ireland. Volunteer Ireland also gave me the opportunity to attend wonderful professional development courses in topics such as Successful Delegation in Volunteers, Day-to-Day Volunteer Management, and Volunteer Engagement.

My day-to-day responsibilities included tasks such as responding to and recording corporate inquiries into the Salesforce database, completing department purchase orders, and working on various spread sheets for management. However, most of my time was devoted to specialized projects. These included ordering project supplies and materials, visiting sites prior to events, attending and serving as team lead for corporate team impact days, putting together project packs and volunteer paperwork, and creating contact spread sheets for the National Volunteer Awards ceremony. Of course, this is only a short list of the kinds of things I was able to work on for VI’s corporate team.  Through my tasks, I was able to strengthen my skills in communication, corporate engagement, project management, and teamwork.

I also got the chance to tag along with the VI team and attend the National Ploughing Championships in September. This was one of my favorite experiences I’ve had while living in Ireland and was such a fun event with plenty of food, music, and farm animals to go around. The Ploughing gave me real insight into the proud history behind Ireland’s farmers. While there, I was also able to mingle with members of various volunteer organizations throughout the country and learn about how they are engaging volunteers in their own communities.

To say that volunteering with Volunteer Ireland was a wonderful professional experience, just wouldn’t be enough. The truth is, working with them was so much more than that. My corporate team took me under their wing and gave me valuable knowledge that I will continue to carry throughout not only my professional career, but in my personal life as well.

Thank you Volunteer Ireland for sharing your wisdom, your community, and your friendships.

Skye x

Learning from our European colleagues

Siobhan Johnston, Volunteering Development Officer with Kerry Volunteer Centre recently attended the ‘Equal Volunteering Opportunities for All’ Erasmus + seminar in Villanova, Barcelona. Here she tells Volunteer Ireland about her experience and what she learned.

I was delighted to be invited by Volunteer Ireland to attend this seminar.  I represented Kerry Volunteer Centre amongst 16 other organisations including 15 nationalities. I gained new knowledge relating to intercultural exchange, policy and advocacy development and many insightful approaches to inclusive volunteering were explored. It was interesting to hear about the different volunteer movements, strategies and policies across Europe and to learn why these variances exist. For example, countries civil society, political history, volunteer and economic situations affect how volunteering is viewed from public perspectives and how supported they are within their governmental frameworks.

Conversely, it was surprising to discover Volunteer Management and Youth work are not recognised professions in some European Countries. However, the collective passion for Volunteering in each European society was evident. By learning and sharing with my volunteer contemporaries I realised that we all had one thing in common; our wish to make volunteering accessible for all and our belief in the intrinsic benefits of volunteering for communities, the individual and humanity at large. Volunteering being the pulse of democracy and the foundation which promotes neighbourliness within society.

The seminar mainly focussed on volunteer best practices for engagement with people that may be ignored in society including migrants, refugees and members of a cultural minority. Such individuals face the risk of social exclusion due to poverty, discrimination and the notion that increasing numbers of people are viewed as ‘newcomers’, ‘foreigners’, ‘different’ and ‘the other’, even if born in Europe.

Insightful approaches to inclusive volunteering were discussed. Key points were:

  • The power of civic engagement and that volunteering should be a democratic right as it enhances social mobility and active citizenship
  • Learning new ways on how to diversify, increase and improve the support given to young people who are asylum seekers and refugees to become leaders of new projects and activities
  • Developing relevant Volunteer Management competencies to become leaders of social integration
  • Exploring what adjustments are needed to include such individuals in organisations/community groups

A collective opinion shared throughout the seminar was that volunteering can act as a tool for social cohesion. By bringing people together from different backgrounds and cultures it highlights that perhaps the ‘other’ is not to be feared or misunderstood. Volunteering plays a huge role in facilitating the reception and integration of asylum seekers and refugees into local communities and prevents xenophobic attitudes forming. Charities and volunteers help support this integration by providing language learning opportunities (Failte Isteach), ‘Information Givers’ help refugees navigate healthcare services, appointing ‘Diversity Officers’ in local sports clubs, coaching such individuals on their pathway to employment and by providing the opportunity to have direct contact with citizens (befrienders) and thereby better understand the local culture. Volunteering is also a reciprocal arrangement and people that support refugees gain exposure to new traditions and customs.

I love what I do as a profession but through this seminar, I now see the bigger picture. Our role as Volunteer Officers/Managers should never be understated. By encouraging the engagement of the most vulnerable within our society, we can help to challenge stereotypes and encourage inclusiveness, where people of all walks of life are treated with utmost respect and dignity. We can be leaders in our community by promoting diverse/integrative programmes that both supports and welcomes asylum seekers and refugees. Whereby, volunteering activities provide a platform of discovery, a sense of value and purpose and a feeling of positive contribution within their new homes.

Charity Trustee Week: What it’s like to be a trustee

Lawrence Carvalho is Director with An Oige – Irish Youth Hostel Association. He is also a voluntary trustee of the board of the An Oige- Irish Youth Hostel Association Dublin. He tells us what being part of a charity board is like.

Just over two years ago I formally joined the Board of the An Oige.

My background was in Information Technology began in mid 1990’s. I moved into various ICT projects in Banking, Hospitality and Government websites in the Middle East, Europe and Asia. I finally settled in finance as Data Analyst with Insurance and Hedge Fund industry.

I did feel the need to give back to society which I had done in my youth In Kuwait 1980’s & Mumbai (early 1990’s) prior to going to college in Ireland.

I volunteered with Morning Star Hostel June 2009 to December 2010 as Volunteer Kitchen porter, with Arc Cancer support for 5 runs in Phoenix Park May 2010, with Darkness to Light 2010 Pieta House, with the 16.6 miles St. Patrick’s Day Aware Howth Harbour to Dun Laoghaire Harbour 2010 and the Concern Laughter Lounge Fund raiser tickets and bucket collection outside Phibsborough Shopping Centre in October 2009.

I found the buzz of volunteering electrifying and exhilarating in the aforementioned worthy causes within Ireland.  I saw an advertisement in Volunteer Ireland for volunteers with An Oige which I had used in my youth on a hitch hiking trip with school buddy and my younger brother from Cork to Galway.

I got involved with the booking engine system in 2015 after meeting the Board An Oige Volunteers and head office staff in October 2015 where I found that there was need to help the organization.

Personally, I found it challenging which meant I had to take off my Technical hat and put on an approach from an internal user within An Oige.  It was rewarding and challenging as public speaking is something I still find challenging to this moment in time but I am hoping to get some tips from Anseo Comedy Club on Wednesday 6th November 2019 with Aidan Killian.

I also found Volunteer Trustee role to be a progressively engaging learning curve through bridging departmental coalitions within the An Oige Stakeholders.

I was privileged with lending a small hand in the An Oige Merit Awards in July 24th 2018 within An Oige Volunteer Coordinators Group and An Oige Staff.

I do also manage the An Oige Volunteer Database.

An Oige – Irish Youth Hostel is lively youthful energetic board which helps all youth enjoy Irish countryside through Hikes, Photography, Volunteer Wardens, Cycling all of which is quite active since 1931. Diversity and balanced gender mix on the An Oige board and sub committees has given a richer perceptive on points of view from global mix of fellow youth who love the Ireland’s rich outdoor adventure within 32 county heritage.

I hope to try my hand Volunteer hostel warden or give the lads in Glenmalure Hostel in Wicklow or Ben Lettery Hostel or Errigal Hostel in Donegal a hand in managing one weekend in Spring 2020. An Oige reservations team is great for groups over 10 in Galway (Sleep Zone) or Cork.

If you’re a charity trustee or are interested in becoming one, check out the great events on offer this Charity Trustees’ Week: https://www.volunteer.ie//2019/11/charity-trustee-week-what-its-like-to-be-a-trustee/ 

Equal Volunteering Opportunities for All

An international seminar ‘Equal Volunteering Opportunities for All’ will take place from 1 to 7 September, in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Barcelona) with the participation of 25 managers, volunteer coordinators, educators, leaders and trainers actively involved in 18 non-profit and non-governmental entities (including 5 local and national volunteer centres from 13 countries: Turkey, Italy, Portugal Greece, Northern Macedonia, United Kingdom, Hungary, Ireland, Croatia, Romania, Germany, Catalonia and Bulgaria.  Ireland is represented by Siobhan Johnston from Kerry Volunteer Centre and Stuart Garland from Volunteer Ireland.

The seminar, organised by the Fundació Catalunya Voluntaria with the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission, will allow us to learn from the different experiences and join efforts for a common goal, shared by all the entities, to help young people of non-EU nationalities to volunteer and express their solidarity, their capacities and their culture for the benefit of the whole population and, especially, for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups.

For this, we will analyse, first of all, what difficulties they face in participating in volunteering initiatives, which is caused by a particularly complex situation (uncertainty, insecurity, risk of social exclusion and poverty, if not because of being discriminated against),and secondly, share experiences, practices, mistakes and successes and identify those management, educational and social tools that, due to their inclusive, participative, formative and results-oriented nature, may be more relevant to improve our work.

The seminar will address the lack of a subjective right to volunteer and how this lack of foresight implies institutionalised discrimination against many people, by preventing them from joining a volunteer organisation because of their administrative situation.

In the seminar, we will reflect on the role of voluntary organisations and centres as a driving force behind citizenship and active social inclusion and we will learn, from each other, to design programs focused on promoting participation, initiative, leadership and cultural expression. Moreover, we will focus on the difficulties that may exist, and find new perspectives and ways of working and, thanks to the use of a methodology based on peer learning and exchange, we will create new knowledge in a collaborative way.

The focus of the FCV is on being able to identify those practices and tools that work and on developing 5 specific competencies, which are volunteer management; intercultural communication; management of cultural diversity; conflict management and global awareness, these are competences with great value in themselves, selected on this occasion for their usefulness at the moment of incorporating people as volunteers with diverse profiles, personal experiences and cultures.

Q&A: Investing in Volunteers Achiever Depaul

Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is the national quality standard for good practice in volunteer management. Depaul were one of earliest Irish achievers of the Investing in Volunteers quality mark first achieving the accolade in 2015 and renewing in 2018. Here, Volunteer Coordinator Jason Flynn tells us a little bit more about the process, why they did it and what advice they’d give others. 

Depaul receiving the Investing in Volunteers Quality Award from Volunteer Ireland.

Why did Depaul decide to go for the Investing in Volunteers quality mark?

Volunteering is an integral part of the service that Depaul is able to provide; it greatly enriches the quality of the experience for our service users. Volunteers contribute so much to our organisation, and we consider it very important to ensure that they get something in return. Therefore, the principles of Investing in Volunteers resonated very strongly with our own organisational values.

What difference has it made to your volunteer programme and your organisation?

Maintaining the Investing in Volunteers accreditation has ensured that Depaul’s volunteer management processes are of as high a standard as possible, and we are able to stand over all of our policies and procedures. It means that all levels of the organisation, the CEO, management and staff, are all involved and well informed about the processes surrounding volunteer management. Furthermore, it has enabled us to attract a high volume of high-calibre people as volunteers.

Is it really worth all of the work it entails?

I feel that the process of attaining and maintaining Investing in Volunteers accreditation doesn’t entail a significant amount of additional work, at least for an organisation like Depaul. It doesn’t require us to do anything other than what we should be to ensure quality volunteer management. The additional administration around the application is worth the credibility and visibility that the award brings to the organisation.

If you had to do anything differently what would you do?

I joined Depaul when we were in the process of preparing for our renewal, and in my previous organisation (which also had the accreditation and achieved renewal), I had already joined when accreditation was attained. I would have liked to be involved from the start of the process, although I am well enough acquainted with the processes by now that I feel I could manage it from the beginning.

What advice would you give to an organisation that is considering starting their Investing in Volunteers journey?

Even if an organisation doesn’t have the capacity, resources or budget to undergo the process at the moment, subscribing to the principles and keeping them alive as everyday practices is a good start. Then, when the organisation is ready to apply, it won’t require any additional or onerous effort to make the values real; you will have been living them all along.

If you’re interested in Investing in Volunteers, you can learn more here

Virtual Volunteering: One Parent’s View of Volunteering 15 minutes at a time

Dr. Maria Gallo is an alumni and philanthropy researcher with KITE- Keep in Touch Education and is a Research Fellow with the Community Knowledge Initiative of the Institute of Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway. As a parent of small children she was keen to give back in a way that fit around her professional and family life. Here she tells us all about her unique volunteer role.



Virtually no options that worked for me

I started volunteering as a child. Like many, I didn’t particularly understand it as volunteering, it was simply a collective community action to clean up the park or help at local events. As a young adult, my volunteering continued: I participated on committees and boards—in my community, with my alma mater—and it became a natural part of my life. As life changes, as I discovered, so do volunteering experiences.

Now as a parent of young children, there are ample opportunities to volunteer: at the school, with sports teams and participating on boards and committees. Nothing really spoke to me as something that I could do with the limited time I have juggling work, my research and especially my family life. This is especially true since much of the volunteering  is at night, which conflicts with kids’ bedtimes or during the day which is difficult with work. Does this sound familiar?

Finding a solution

I stumbled on a brilliant solution: virtual volunteering. I hadn’t even recognised it as volunteering or virtual for that matter, it was simply an activity I could immerse myself in as my time permits: 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Since autumn 2018, I am a member of the Parents’ Jury for the Irish Heart Foundation’s campaign Stop Targeting Kids. This campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness to the extent that the junk food and drink companies target children, which studies show can lead to lifelong unhealthy food choices and childhood obsesity. The Stop Targeting Kids campaign is calling the government to ban junk food and drink advertising to children, especially extending the broadcasting ban to 9pm.

As a member of the Parents’ Jury, I review marketing and advertisements, including those on social media and online advertising, and write complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland. Irish food writer and bestselling cookbook author Susan Jane White, an advocate for baking with no refined sugar, is also a member of this Parents’ Jury, so I feel I am in good company.

How it works

I typically give about one to two hours per month to this virtual volunteering role. I have written complaints and promoted this campaign to fellow parents in the region. This role has really heightened my awareness of the ways that a voluntary code for food and drink marketing is not working within the junk food industry: so many of the advertisements use songs, messages and images that appeal to children. This volunteering role has sharpened my senses to this advertising and it has allowed me to talk to my children about becoming critical and discerning consumers.

How to get involved

Just as my parents were active volunteers when I was a child, I want to model active citizenship to my own kids, which I believe includes giving back to the community. This virtual volunteering experience has enabled me to give back in a flexible, impactful and enjoyable way.

For anyone who wants more information on the Parents Jury or to join the campaign as a virtual volunteer, contact Helena O’Donnell of the Irish Heart Foundation: [email protected] or visit: https://irishheart.ie/campaigns/stop-targeting-kids/ #stoptargetingkids

Maria was instrumental in creating the new part-time Postgraduate Certificate in Volunteer Management and Leadership, for volunteer managers and those with an interest in volunteer management. This programme accredited by NUI Galway and delivered within the Centre for Lifelong Learning at St Angela’s College, Sligo.

All good things come to an end

Nina Arwitz, CEO of Volunteer Ireland and Chair of the Governance Code Working Group shares her thoughts on the satisfaction of shutting something down, the importance of governance and what the code achieved in the sector.

Last month I got to realise a professional dream – to shut something down.

I think that most, if not all, non-profits should aim to make themselves redundant, even if it might take hundreds of years. As a charity, you are addressing a need or problem. And as part of that you want to not just treat the symptoms of a problem, but also solve the problem itself. If you work for an organisation addressing climate change, your aim ultimately is for the climate change crisis to be averted and for your organisation not to need to exist anymore.

Well it’s not quite as dramatic, and not quite the same achievement as solving climate change, but in June 2019 we retired the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in Ireland.

Impact of the code

The code was first launched in 2012 in response to a need for guidance for non-profit organisations on implementing good governance practice. Since then, it’s achieved a lot. Over 2,000 organisations have used the code to improve their own governance. The code helped restore trust in the sector, at a time when this was needed. It raised the profile of governance in the community and voluntary sector. It demonstrated that good governance is not about a tick-box exercise but rather is about becoming better at achieving your aims. It set the tone for governance in non-profits in Ireland, establishing the principles-based, comply or explain approach. The code was also quite unique in that it was led by a “coalition of the willing” – organisations that came together under the name of the “governance code working group” to develop, review and oversee the code.

New code for charities

In 2014 the Charities Regulatory Authority was established, and in 2018 the Charities Regulator launched its own governance code – largely influenced by the original code. This prompted the working group to think very hard about the future of the original code. We spent three meetings over six months debating our future and considering options; we consulted with our members and stakeholders; and we surveyed all organisations that had engaged with the code. We thought about continuing for the sake of non-profits who are not charities, and therefore not technically affected by the Charities Regulator code. We considered maintaining our code as a “gold standard” for those organisations that want to go above and beyond the Regulator’s code.

Knowing when it’s time to go

We decided to retire the code and disband our working group because it would be confusing to have two codes out there; and most importantly because we felt that we have achieved what we set out to do. Governance is now mainstreamed across the sector and with the Charities Regulator, and ten years since this process first started we can say with pride we’ve achieved our aims and pass the mantle on. As chairperson of the governance code working group, I am so proud to have been part of that decision. It’s not often you find yourself in the position to end something, for all the right reasons.

To read the full statement about the retirement of the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in Ireland, visit: https://www.governancecode.ie/.

Volunteering at Volunteer Ireland

Oscar Egan has been on student placement with Volunteer Ireland since the beginning of March. In that time, he has been an invaluable member of the team supporting a number of Team Impact Days and even volunteering to take part in the National Volunteering Week photo launch. In today’s blog he tells us a little bit about his time here. 

I’m coming towards the end of my internship at Volunteer Ireland and I’m having a good experience here. I am part of the corporate team which means working in the office and taking part in active volunteering projects.

A big part of our work is sourcing, organising and managing employee volunteering projects known as Team Impact Days. A Team Impact Day is a project in which a group of employees from a corporate company take part in a day of volunteering at an organisation such as a school or community centre in order to make a difference. The type of activities that take place are usually gardening, painting and refurbishment. The organisations where the work is carried out do not have the resources to do it themselves, so we make it possible through Team Impact Days.

I deal with the enquiries. I send information to people from companies who are interested in getting involved. We have an available projects list which is sent out once a potential client would like to proceed and find a project that suits the company’s availability and number of volunteers. Volunteer Ireland provides project management and also all the necessary tools.

The projects usually start around 9am and finish at around 4pm. The difference that is made during that time is phenomenal, as I know from experiencing it myself. The areas in which the projects are carried out are usually in rack and ruin at first and by the end of the day are completely transformed in a positive way.

I’ve taken part in many Team Impact Days so far and still have more to come.

Points of Light is the biggest volunteering organisation in the world and provides funding for major volunteering projects, usually over the space of a week. I took part in the first 2 days of Points of Light global Week of Possibilities project in Dublin and could already see the difference being made. I saw pictures of the room when it was finished and the difference that was made was unbelievable.

I’m finishing here at the end of June but am staying on to take part in a week long Points of Light project in Sligo. It will be a great way to finish my time here.

Jack Stephenson, 72 – Former Banker, Singer, Volunteer

Today is the last – but definitely not least – story in our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Jack is a retired banker who loves to play squash and sing in his local choir. Having moved to Waterford in 1969, Jack lives with his wife and has four grown up children and three grandchildren.

Jack has had many a volunteer role in his time but he currently volunteers with the Waterford Volunteering Information Service where he supports tourism in his area as a Meet and Greet volunteer every summer. This involves chatting to people, telling them about attractions in Waterford and the South East and directing them. Jack loves his role because he gets to meet all different types of people and enjoys chatting with them and hearing their stories.

Jack has also been involved in a number of committees as Chair/Secretary/ Treasurer including Dungarvan Lions, Tramore Tourism, Waterford Male Voice Choir and Waterford Choirs Association. He was part of a team that set up a choir of 240 people for the opening ceremony of the Tall Ships in Waterford in 2011.

When we asked Jack why he volunteers he said “Waterford is my home and I want to give something back to my local community. Some of the roles I’ve had like the squash club have been great because I’ve really benefitted from the club and then I was able to help it benefit others. The club gave me great enjoyment so I wanted to give some of that back.”

What advice would Jack have for someone who has never volunteered before? “Just try it, you won’t lose anything by taking that first step. The most important is to enjoy whatever kind of volunteering you do – so make sure it’s something you enjoy and you’ll get the most out of it!”

Sarah Murphy, 36 – Researcher, Business Owner, Volunteer

A wonderful example of skilled volunteering as part of our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Sarah is a Research Consultant and Lecturer in social policy, leadership and management in the community, non-profit and public sector. She has worked in research, policy and management roles in a number of different national and international charities. Sarah moved to Sligo from Dublin with her husband and two young children 18 months ago.

Sarah volunteers on the board of Sligo Volunteer Centre. Given her work as a Research Consultant, she has a particular interest in evaluation, strategic planning and governance. Having been part of a non-profit board when she lived in Dublin, she wanted to find something similar in Sligo. Sarah was particularly keen to find a board volunteer role as she felt she had very specific skills that could really help a small organisation.

Since joining the board, she has taken an active role in helping the Volunteer Centre develop their new strategic plan. Aside from attending board meetings, Sarah has also used her professional skills to support the strategic planning process by analysing previous annual reports and facilitating a focus group among staff to help shape future work.

We asked Sarah if being on a board was a big time commitment given that she has her own consultancy and a young family. “The great thing about being on a board is you can be as active as you would like to be. We meet about 6 times a year but I’ve been a lot more involved this year during the strategic planning process. It can be challenging sometimes with work and childcare but in general it is very manageable, especially when meetings are planned in advance so I can organise around them”.

What advice would she give someone who never volunteered before? “I’d definitely recommend getting involved. Be realistic about the time you can give and then look at what your strengths are and find something that works for you. It is very rewarding and there are so many different volunteering opportunities out there. Even if you only have 2 hours to give every month, that’s a valid commitment and could really help an organisation. I really get a boost from seeing my skills have an impact on the Volunteer Centre. As someone who recently moved to Sligo, I also found it was a great way to learn about the area and the local community.”