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Importance of flexible and responsive approach to age-friendly volunteering highlighted by 50+ programme evaluation

An evaluation of the government’s 50+ volunteering programme has highlighted the importance of making good use of volunteers’ strengths and skills and creating a flexible and responsive offer in order to develop age-friendly volunteering.

Older lady volunteering
Many charities were found to have removed barriers to allow more people aged 50+ to volunteer

The initiative by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport supported 39 organisations to test and develop ideas or grow existing models involving volunteers aged 50+. Projects from a wide range of fields, backgrounds and sizes were involved, from young people’s mentoring projects to new ideas testing the involvement of 50+ volunteers in community fraud prevention.

To learn lessons from the initiative, researchers at Nottingham Business School, part of Nottingham Trent University, undertook an evaluation which included 48 interviews with grantees, in-depth case studies, analysis of monitoring data and a review of learning partner evaluations which were commissioned by the funded projects.

With many older volunteers facing barriers to participation – such as transport, lack of confidence, bureaucracy, and fear of over-commitment - the evaluation found that many of the organisations had employed successful initiatives to help combat these.

These included changing their language from using the term ‘volunteering’ to asking people to ‘help out’ as a friend or neighbour and encouraging them to use their life experience and existing skills to support others.

Organisations also offered their volunteers more flexible opportunities to become involved in micro-volunteering, short-term projects or key tasks suited to their availability, some streamlined their application processes to make it less formal and easier to sign up, and others offered training to bridge the digital skills gap.

However, among the 50+ volunteering projects, offering flexibility in terms of the time committed wasn’t always possible and depended on the nature of the role. In the interviews, participants spoke of getting the right balance between offering volunteers flexibility but also making sure their roles are meaningful and purposeful and that volunteers feel connected to the project or wider organisation.

Lead researcher, Professor Daniel King, said: “Our evaluation highlights that developing a flexible offer for volunteers may not just be about the amount of time committed but also the type of volunteer role or activity and the processes and systems for involving volunteers.

“As we move towards recovery and as organisations look to re-introduce volunteers, building flexibility into volunteering programmes will be important and there are many examples of flexible approaches adopted and adapted during the pandemic which can be built on.

“As organisations bring back their volunteers or look to engage new ones, these lessons will be useful in efforts to sustain the engagement of those aged 50+ and ensure volunteering is age-friendly and inclusive.”

The full report is available on the DCMS website.

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    About Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Business School (NBS) at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) specialises in experiential learning and personalisation of business, management and economics education and research, combining academic excellence with positive impact on people, business and society. NBS has an unrivalled level of engagement with business, public and voluntary organisations. With 7,000 students, NBS is also one of UK’s largest business schools.

    NBS is a Quadruple+ accredited by EQUIS, AACSB, SBC and EFMD Programme level accreditation which are internationally recognised hallmarks of excellence and quality for business education and engagement with business. The School is one of 35 global business schools recognised as a PRME Champion and held up as an exemplar by the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME).

    NTU was named University of the Year 2019 in the Guardian University Awards. The award was based on performance and improvement in the Guardian University Guide, retention of students from low-participation areas and attainment of BME students.

    NTU was also the Times Higher Education University of the Year 2017, and The Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2018. These awards recognise NTU for its high levels of student satisfaction, its quality of teaching, its engagement with employers, and its overall student experience.

    It is one of the largest UK universities. With nearly 32,000 students and more than 4,000 staff located across four campuses, the University contributes £900m to the UK economy every year. With an international student population of more than 3,000 from around 100 countries, the University prides itself on its global outlook.

    The university is passionate about creating opportunities and its extensive outreach programme is designed to enable NTU to be a vehicle for social mobility. NTU is among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was awarded University of the Year in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2019.

Published on 6 December 2021
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School