The Department of Rural and Community Development published Ireland’s first-ever national volunteering strategy on 5th December 2020. Volunteer Ireland, along with the network of Volunteer Centres, worked closely with the Department and other stakeholders on the development of the strategy and look forward to delivering many of the key actions.

During the development of the strategy, the Department of Rural and Community Development held two consultation phases. You can read our submissions to those consultations below.

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 have 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. 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.
We feel there are five key areas which must be prioritised.
Evidence, data and value
In order to successfully deliver the actions within the strategy, it is vital to first develop a baseline of data so it’s impact can be clearly measured and evaluated. The priority actions in this area are:

  • Action 8: National Survey on Volunteering to provide baseline data on volunteers
  • Action 33: Explore the potential of the CSO regularly including a question on volunteering in their quarterly national household survey annually
  • Action 34: Inclusion of a question on volunteering as part of the 2022 Census of Population and beyond
  • Action 48: Commission an evidence-based report on the economic and social value and impact of volunteering on our economy

Developing new types of volunteering roles to meet changing needs
Volunteering has been evolving at a rapid pace in recent years and has been further accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical that the strategy supports organisations to meet the changing needs of volunteers. The priority actions in this area are:

  • Action 13: Support VIOs to introduce task-based volunteering as an alternative to role based volunteering where people can volunteer for a task as opposed to committing to a role
  • Action 53: Support Volunteer Involving Organisations to create more diverse roles e.g. short-term, virtual, micro, one-off and episodic volunteering

Investing in I-VOL
I-VOL, the national volunteering database, is critical to making volunteering more accessible and also supports a range of other actions in the strategy. The priority action in this area is:

  • Action 15: Support the ongoing development of the national volunteering database, I-VOL (website and app) where individuals can easily find volunteering opportunities

Diversity and inclusion, including removing barriers to volunteering
While Ireland has a strong culture of volunteering, there are still a number of real and perceived barriers that need to be addressed in order to make volunteering inclusive and accessible to all. The priority actions in this area are:

  • Action 18: Develop a research-based toolkit for VCs/VIOs on how to develop volunteer programmes for young people in collaboration with NYCI, Campus Engage, Foróige and other stakeholders
  • Action 22: Undertake an examination of the current Garda vetting process
  • Action 23: Represent the views of the sector in relation to the impact of the cost and availability of public liability insurance on volunteering through engagement with Insurance Reform Sub-group of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment, which was established to implement the Government’s insurance reform agenda

Building capacity of volunteer involving organisations
Empowering organisations that involve volunteers and building capacity to help them effectively engage volunteers is the key to supporting and facilitating volunteering in Ireland. The priority actions in this area are:

  • Action 21: Provide a shared “volunteer manager” service to Volunteer Involving Organisations
  • Action 24: Introduce a standard tiered code of conduct(s) for Volunteer Involving Organisations, to offer protection and clarity on expectations of the volunteer and the VIO
  • Action 26: Provide a bursary fund to support Volunteer Involving Organisations to build capacity in their organisations
  • Action 28: Provide  funding to Volunteer Centres and Volunteer Ireland in order for them to provide support and capacity building to Volunteer Involving Organisations and volunteers
  • Action 51: Provide on-going guidance and support to VIOs on a range of issues such as volunteer management/leadership
  • Action 54: Provide networking and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for volunteer managers

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