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 work.

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 organisations.

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 unemployed.

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 sheets.  Big project Stephen NPTCVS


Big project Sabina SCVS 232x174


BIG Wales Volunteering Project - Volunteers with extra support needs

Easy-read recruitment/info leaflet

BIG Wales Volunteering Case Studies:
Case study 1 - Martin
Case study 2 - Chantelle
Case study 3 - Sabina
Case study 4 - Stephen
Case study 5 - Jennifer

BIG Wales Volunteering Top Tips:
Top tip 1 - Are you accessible to people?
Top tip 2 - Get to know the volunteer
Top tip 3 - Make sure your information is easy to read and understand
Top tip 4 - Manage expectations
Top tip 5 - Be realistic about the support that you can offer
Top tip 6 - Consider the costs of volunteering
Top tip 7 - Consider the emotional needs of the volunteer
Top tip 8 - Do you have a support structure?
Top tip 9 - Help people get ready for volunteering

BIG Wales Voluntering Digital Stories:
Swansea Community Farm uses an inclusive approach and involves volunteers with many and varied needs. This is Jason's story.

Flintshire 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.

Vale 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.