BIG Wales Volunteering was an important project undertaken by WCVA and the 22 local volunteer centres in Wales, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which ran from April 2012 until March 2014.
The project was established because volunteer centres in Wales
were experiencing an increasing demand for volunteering
opportunities and reductions in public expenditure, changes in the
benefits system and the recession generally were also expected to
increase enquiries about volunteering from newly unemployed people
and people with higher support needs.
Many third sector organisations were finding it difficult to meet
the demand for appropriate volunteering opportunities so volunteer
centres were finding it harder to place potential volunteers,
particularly those with higher support needs.
The project was designed to improve the ability of volunteer
centres to work with volunteer-involving organisations to create
new volunteering opportunities and to identify support for
volunteers with higher support needs. It was hoped that volunteers
would benefit in ways such as growth in confidence, development of
skills and improved feelings of self worth. Greater support was
offered for volunteers with higher support needs and/or who were
not currently working but ultimately aiming to take on paid
Throughout Wales, it was envisaged that improvements would take
place in organisational practice as a result of learning from this
project and that this learning would be shared amongst WCVA, the
network of volunteer centres and with volunteer-involving
Each volunteer centre in Wales had a part-time member of staff to
work on the project and chose its own activities to undertake in
order to achieve the project's aims. Each took account of local
needs and priorities.
During the project, volunteer centres worked with 4,711 individuals
who expressed an interest in volunteering. Of these, 2048 moved
into a volunteering placement.
Of those who took up a placement, 1,196 identified themselves as
having extra support needs and 1,662 of the volunteers were
Positive outcomes were reported by volunteers and we have case
studies to demonstrate the benefits to the volunteers who were
active during the project.
Through the project, volunteer centres identified and developed
closer links with other agencies whose customers would benefit from
volunteering. These included Job Centres, mental health teams, drug
and alcohol agencies and ethnic minority groups, among others. It
also allowed volunteer centres to trial more innovative ways of
working including group volunteering, the volunteering OCN
qualification, buddying and offering taster sessions.
Volunteer centres were able to share their learning and best
practice and work more closely with volunteer-involving
organisations to develop their practice.
WCVA and volunteer centres have incorporated the learning into
their everyday practice, with modifications to the Volunteering
Wales website, the volunteering brokerage process and a more
'person centred' way of working generally. A number of initiatives
trialled during the two years have resulted in additional services
where additional funding has been found. More generally, volunteer
centres report a refocusing of their effort on those with higher
support needs as a previously overlooked group and better working
with partner agencies as outcomes of the project.
Some of the learning from the project has been developed into
resources; four inspiring digital stories showing the benefits of
volunteering for the participant and ways in which practice has
changed in volunteer centres and volunteer involving organisations.
There are also nine 'top tips' good practice information
Volunteering Project - Volunteers with extra
BIG Wales Volunteering Case Studies:
Case study 1 -
Case study 2 -
Case study 3 -
Case study 4 - Stephen
Case study 5 -
BIG Wales Volunteering Top Tips:
Top tip 1 - Are
you accessible to people?
tip 2 - Get to know the volunteer
Top tip 3 - Make sure your information is easy to read and
Top tip 4 -
Top tip 5 - Be realistic about the support that you can
Top tip 6 -
Consider the costs of volunteering
tip 7 - Consider the emotional needs of the volunteer
Top tip 8 - Do
you have a support structure?
9 - Help people get ready for volunteering
BIG Wales Voluntering Digital Stories:
Community Farm uses an inclusive approach and
involves volunteers with many and varied needs. This is
Volunteer Centre explain how group activities have been
organised to help people like Darren into volunteering.
How Interlink (Volunteer
centre in RCT) helped Jonathan to overcome barriers and gain
skills and confidence through volunteering.
Volunteer Bureau works closely with local JCP
offices to provide volunteering experience for people who are
seeking work. Christian, once homeless and unemployed, now
has a job that he loves.
The BIGWales Voluntering Evaluation
Report was published in August 2014.