The Department of Rural and Community Development has published a draft of Ireland’s first-ever national volunteering strategy. The draft is currently in its final phase and it’s hoped that the strategy will be published before the end of 2020.

To inform our own submission, we held two consultations in Dublin City Centre in January and a number of Volunteer Centres held their own local consultations.

You can read our submission on the draft national volunteering strategy in January 2020 here.

You can also read our submission to the initial consultation in January 2019 here.

Why is it important to develop a National Volunteering Strategy?

Volunteer Ireland and the network of Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services have been advocating for a national volunteering strategy for many years and we are now almost there. Volunteering in Ireland faces many challenges, such as changing demands from volunteers, demographic changes and lack of resourcing.  A national strategy is a chance for people who live and breathe volunteering every day to have an impact on developing volunteering in Ireland.

What should be the key priorities in the National Volunteering Strategy?

Volunteering in Ireland is at a turning point. With an ageing volunteering population, it is increasingly important to engage new volunteers and adapt to how people want to volunteer. More and more, people want more flexible volunteering roles and this crisis has shown us that organisations are willing to adapt – with the right support. We have an extremely strong culture of volunteering here and with so many people offering their support during COVID-19, now is the time to embrace this and future proof volunteering. Key actions such as providing a bursary fund for volunteer involving organisations, delivering a national communications strategy on volunteering and commissioning research are vital first steps.

As per the draft of the strategy, we feel that the most urgent priorities which should be delivered first are:

  1. Strategic Objective 1- Action 3.1: National survey on volunteering. This is required to give a baseline to measure the strategy against. 
  2. Strategic Objective 3 – Action 3.1: Develop a national communications strategy. This is critical to raise much needed public awareness of the impact and availability of volunteering. 
  3. Strategic Objective 2 – Action 5.2: Provide a bursary fund to support volunteer involving organisations to build capacity in their organisations. This grant will allow small and volunteer led groups to reduce barriers to volunteering and cover costs like training and expenses for volunteers. 
  4. Strategic Objective 5 – Action 1.2: Commission a report on the economic and social value and impact of volunteering on our economy. With little research on volunteering in Ireland, this will provide valuable data about the services undertaken by volunteers and their impact.
  5. Strategic Objective 5 – Action 2.3: Provide a shared “volunteer manager” service to volunteer involving organisations with one full time volunteer manager in each region, hosted in a local Volunteer Centre. The majority of volunteer involving organisations operate without a volunteer manager meaning best practice volunteer management around recruitment, training and support is often a challenge. This will provide vital support to these organisations to continue to engage volunteers.