VOLUNTEER CENTRES AND VOLUNTEERING INFORMATION SERVICES
What do Volunteer Centres do?
Volunteer Centres provide a placement service between individuals and groups who want to undertake voluntary activity and organisations that are seeking to involve volunteers. Their primary function is to match individuals and groups interested in volunteering with appropriate volunteering opportunities. Volunteer Centres offer advice and support to both volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations through a range of services that include information provision, consultation, training and Garda Vetting.
Local Volunteer Centres provide an invaluable link between individuals wishing to undertake voluntary activity and organisations seeking to involve volunteers. Volunteer Centres believe passionately in the value of volunteering and the benefits of volunteering for all: the individual, the volunteer-involving organisation and the wider society. They contribute to community development, active citizenship and social capital and are a vital component of any national volunteering infrastructure, providing local support at the same time as informing future initiatives and national policy.
In addition to placing volunteers, Volunteer Centres stimulate and encourage volunteering by promoting volunteering at local, regional and national events and in local, regional and national campaigns. They work towards breaking down the barriers to volunteering, targeting specific groups of people who are under- or unrepresented in volunteering. Volunteer Centres develop volunteering opportunities through consultation with local voluntary and community organisations. They recognise the potential of volunteering and encourage groups and organisations – be they private, statutory or voluntary and community – to think creatively about volunteering roles and to develop imaginative, non-traditional opportunities for potential volunteers.
In addition, Volunteer Centres work to promote good practice in working with volunteers through the delivery of training and support. They campaign and respond to legislation that may impact on volunteering and, as local experts on volunteering, inform planning and policy at regional and national level.
Volunteer Centres would never claim to ‘own’ volunteering. Rather, they take a pro-active approach to facilitating and enabling volunteering. They will work with any organisation that seeks to do likewise.
What do Volunteering Information Services do?
The aims of Volunteering Information Services in Ireland are the same as Volunteer Centres. The difference between the two is that there is no walk in location with full time staff matching volunteers and organisations. Instead, this is done through the website of each Volunteering Information Service. VISs provide a very limited service resourced at about one day a week, focused on managing their website and the national database of volunteer opportunities I-VOL.
The overall aim of these websites is to increase the numbers volunteering in the local area and promote volunteering as a rewarding and fulfilling activity. The website also includes information on training available to volunteers and volunteer organisations, upcoming events and latest news, together with links to other relevant sites.
The Irish government is committed to developing the volunteering infrastructure in Ireland, including through supporting local Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services. This is outlined in Towards 2016 and the National Development Plan, 2007-2013. In June 2009, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs issued its Policy on Volunteer Centres.
Whilst the government is committed to supporting the volunteering infrastructure, due to the economic climate, funding is not currently available to fund the progression of Volunteering Information Services into full time Volunteer Centres at the moment.