The imperfect volunteer

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

My name is Adam Crossley and I’ve been Chair of Trustees at the Sophie Hayes Foundation (SHF) since I helped co-found our charity over seven years ago. That’s seven years of voluntary service. I don’t know how many hours that comes to. Board meetings. Team days. Time spent sitting at a desk drafting agenda or reviewing policy. Probably totalling days, weeks and months of my time given freely; I have never taken even a penny salary of SHF funds. So I’m writing today on the undervalued importance of volunteering, because without it the worlds of small charities wouldn’t go round, and we’d all be the worse for it.

We know why people volunteer, because they’re passionate about something or because they can achieve something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve. Let’s face it my volunteer work as a trustee isn’t thrilling. It’s about strategy, management and policy and I can achieve plenty of that in my business day job. So I volunteer because I’m passionate about fighting against modern slavery and human trafficking. Passion is the reason why I volunteered for other anti-trafficking charities before I was fortunate enough to meet Sophie and start SHF with a small group of other committed volunteers. Passion is why SHF remains my way of trying to make a difference, trying to help survivors of slavery find their voice and their life again. By the way most volunteers do way more engaging and impactful things than I do, such as the many SHF volunteers working directly with survivors and making a real difference (actually good charity management is really important for making that happen, honest, but it doesn’t make a great blog topic!).

But whatever your motivation it’s that voluntary service that makes such a difference for hundreds of small charities across the country. It can be your contribution as a ‘pure’ volunteer or it can be that ‘above and beyond’ voluntary service you give as a paid staff member; always putting the extra hours in, almost caring too much. In business we’d call that ‘discretionary effort’ i.e. doing more than you’re getting paid to do. But these voluntary efforts really are the foundation stone for so many charities like SHF. Reflecting on my last seven years it makes me wonder what the total volunteering time across the UK is, if you added together every volunteer hour given? Is that a failure of society that so much needed effort goes unfunded? Or is it the hallmark of a caring society that so many people are willing to give so much time? I don’t know the answer but I do know that this army of volunteers adds more to society than they are recognised for. For SHF my constant gratitude goes to those people giving their time to help survivors help themselves. Thank you and please look after yourselves as you look after others.

As for me, I haven’t always been the perfect trustee. Actually I’ll rephrase that: I always haven’t been the perfect trustee. But I’ve stuck around and I’m still trying. So here’s me raising my imagined glass to those imperfect volunteers who’ve stuck around. Thanks.

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