Following on from today’s excellent #ttvolmgrs topic "I’ve always shouted in words, but now I have numbers too…and that makes me very happy" it got me thinking about case studies.
Now I’m sure we all have many heartwarming stories about the services we provide. In fact, any front-line charity that doesn’t, really isn’t doing its job properly. But whilst these case studies are great for our individual organisations, they don’t really do much for the volunteering sector as a whole.
There are many worthy causes out there which volunteers play an invaluable role in supporting but – honestly – I don’t really have the interest to read case studies about them all. And consequently I don’t have the fully rounded picture about how integral volunteers are to every aspect of our society. Sure, I have a superficial knowledge of this but if I – someone who is passionate about volunteering, has worked in the field for nearly 20 years – don’t have the full picture than how can we expect our policy and decision-makers to do so?
So is there an alternative?
Maybe so. Maybe we need to look at in a more longitudinal and rounded way. Maybe we need to look at volunteering's impact on a person’s life rather than on a specific problem at a specific time. And during that life look at how volunteering has helped and supported them. We could tally up numbers and time, we could make some approximations as to the outcomes it's had. But what it would do, is present volunteering in a much more holistic way.
So as an example, when I was born my mum was in hospital for two weeks, during which volunteers came round with tea and biscuits every day which lifted her spirits; from six we regularly went to the community swimming pool which was built and run by volunteers; at 11 I did football training on Saturday mornings with volunteer coaches; I watch Watford play where St John Ambulance are always in attendance etc etc.
As that starts to build you get a better picture of the sheer scale of volunteers who have affected us all, individually and collectively, and a better understanding and appreciation of how volunteers touch every single one of us, whether you realise it or not.