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What If There Were No Volunteers For A Week?

Published on: 7 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 7 Jul, 2015

Organisations everywhere, both large and small, rely on volunteers to help them operate.

But what would happen if that volunteer help dried up?

Voluntary Action South West Surrey carried out a survey in which it asked local charitable organisations what the effect would be if they did not have their volunteers for one week and all described the hundreds of local people whose healthcare, recreation and quality of life would suffer. 

Emma Robinson, the business support manager at Voluntary Action South West Surrey, collated the information that is listed below. It gives a stark insight into how vital volunteers are to so many organisations.

Emma said: “Without people freely giving their time to help others many aspects of everyday life and some key support services would be severely impacted.”

Volunteers are need to help run the shop!

No volunteers, no charity shops! These three volunteer at Shooting Star Chase’s shop in Guildford.

Parity for Disability provides services for people with multiple disabilities, their families and carers. It has 93 volunteers.

Its response to the effect it would have if it had no volunteers for one week was: “The services would not exist. Without volunteers we would not be able to operate our charity shops which raise a significant part of the £60,000 we need each year to cover costs. Volunteers also ensure that the charity’s fundraising events can take place. Without an IT volunteer maintaining the day service and office computers these wouldn’t be effective.” 

The Guildford Talking Newspaper has 35 volunteers.

Effect of no volunteers: “There would be no Talking Newspaper for our blind and visually impaired readers to listen to. This would affect about 95 people.”

SATRO is an educational charity working with young people in South-East England providing real life experience of all aspects of the working world through a diverse and challenging range of programmes. It relies on 850 volunteers.

Effect of no volunteers: “We quite simply would not be able to run these events. Volunteers help run the games and activities and share their business knowledge which is invaluable to the students. This would impact approximately 556 students per week.”

Royal Voluntary Service Meals on Wheels in Waverley has 250 volunteers.

The effect of no volunteers for the organisation: “If an older person has no other means of getting food then they will quickly become malnourished which could lead to illness. The volunteer delivering the meal could be the only visitor a housebound elderly person gets during the day. There are about 150 recipients in Waverley of this service.”

But what if there were no volunteers at all? Emma Robinson said: “If organisations simply had no volunteer help then the apocalyptic scenario creeps nearer.

“For example, community litter clear-ups, and volunteer-involving recycling and upcycling projects help keep neighbourhoods clean and tidy, and reduce the amount of stuff sent to landfill.  

Local Marks & Spencer staff members volunteered to help do a litter pick along the Wey Navigation in Guildford as part of the national Big Beach and Waterways Clean-up event.

Local Marks & Spencer staff members volunteered to help do a litter pick along the Wey Navigation in Guildford as part of the national Big Beach and Waterways Clean-up event.

“Local volunteer-involving organisations include Keep Britain Tidy, the Guildford Bike Project, Guildford FurnitureLink and of course charity shops. There are more than 213,000 volunteers working in charity shops throughout the UK.” 

John Thurlow, Mayor David Elms, and laura Thurlow cut the ribbon pictured with some of the young people who work at The Guildford Bike Project.

Social enterprise scheme The Guildford Bike Project celebrates its second anniversary in 2014. Volunteers learn new skills and help get bikes back in use for customers.

Emma also points out that it is unlikely that the National Health Service could not continue to be free at the point of delivery without the support of unpaid voluntary workers.

In addition to the thousands of hospital volunteers, many front-line and support services are provided by volunteers. These include emergency blood delivery, first responders medics, neighbourhood transport to medical appointment, mental health support groups, disability therapy groups, day centres and hospices.

The Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care, based in Farnham, has nearly 1,000 volunteers, for example. While other locally based charity organisations linked to healthcare include: SERV Blood Runners, Care for Guildford, West Horsley Wheel of Care, MS Therapy Support Group, Canterbury Care Centre, Alzheimer’s Society, Bells Piece, halow project, Guildford Club for the Disabled, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Parity for Disability, PTSD Resolution, Seeability, TALK, Sight for Surrey, Dyscover.

Volunteer Sam Jones from Guildford won the UK-wide Woodland Trust's Volunteer of the Year award

Volunteer Sam Jones from Guildford won the UK-wide Woodland Trust’s Volunteer of the Year award.

What would happen if the Surrey Hills became covered in Japanese knotweed or other vegetation and there was no one to help clear it?

Volunteers carry out much of the daily conservation work, footpath maintenance and habitat management needed to keep areas of outstanding natural beauty beautiful and sites of special scientific interest interesting. 

Local organisations who rely on volunteer help include Surrey Wildlife Trust, Pewley Down Volunteers, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. And nationally more than 60,000 people volunteer for the National Trust every year.

Other areas in which volunteers add much support include those who mentor and advise thereby providing vital one-to-one support to struggling families with young children. On average it costs local Home-Start charities just £1,000 to £1,200 to support a family for an entire year. 

Volunteer reading assistants in schools provide many children with help they would otherwise not receive. According to a survey by Book Time and Booked Up, only one in five parents easily find the opportunity to read to their children, with the rest struggling to read to their children due to fatigue and busy lifestyles. 

Volunteer helpline operators, mentors, advisers and counsellors help offenders, those in debt and those with addiction problems. Police support volunteer roles include counter service, admin support, puppy development, crime trend researcher. Surrey Police Support Volunteers worked a total of 32,000 hours in 2013.

Volunteer advisor at Ash CAB Sheila Berti celebrates her 80th birthday.

Volunteer advisor at Ash CAB Sheila Berti celebrates her 80th birthday.

Local organisations who are involved in this valuable work include Citizens Advice, Catalyst (formerly SAdAS), Surrey Drug and Alcohol Care, Circles South East and Surrey Police.

Thousands of volunteers help keep our waterways flowing freely. There are more than 450 volunteer lock keepers working on canals in England and Wales.

Organisations operating locally who need volunteers include the Canal & River Trust, Swingbridge Community Project, Waterway Recovery Group, National Trust River Wey and Godalming Navigations.

Emma adds: “Doing good does everyone good. The very act of volunteering itself brings health and wellbeing benefits to the millions of people who give their time to help others.”

According to NCVO, which champions the voluntary sector and volunteering, 13.8 million people in the UK volunteered at least once a month in 2013/14.

You can see hundreds of the volunteer roles available in South West Surrey on Voluntary Action’s website. Click here to view.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey is based at 39 Castle Street, Guildford GU1 3UQ. Visitors are more than welcome to call in and speak to an advisor about volunteering opportunities. Call 01483 564456. An outreach service is also provided in Ash.

For those interesting in volunteering in Waverley, visit or call Voluntary Action’s centre based at Farnham Library, 28 West Street, Farnham GU9 7DR. Tel: 01252 725961.

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Responses to What If There Were No Volunteers For A Week?

  1. Pete Brayne Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    And don’t forget that the absolutely critical function of governance of each of these important charities relies on voluntary trustees.

    In my 14 years of leading a charity I have been privileged to have had a skilled group of trustees giving hours of time out of their busy professional lives in order to lead and take responsibility in a growingly complicated regulatory environment.

    I’ve come across a number of failing charities and this can always be traced back to poor governance. That’s why I am spending my final years before retirement trying to support strong charitable governance.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Not forgetting the 15 Surrey REMAP volunteers who build tailor-made, unique pieces of special equipment given free to the disabled across Surrey. The 15 are part of the 1400 or so scattered the length and width of the UK.

  3. Richard Nelson Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    As a small, local charity supporting young adults with a learning disability we are totally reliant on our amazing group of volunteers. They show us such loyalty and commitment and make all the difference to the day to day, smooth running of halow.

    If you are local and want to help make a difference, why not give a few hours of your time to a local charity like the halow project? Our volunteers tell us they find it great fun, at times humbling but above all incredibly rewarding.

    There are a variety of volunteering opportunities available in various, local locations – on different days of the week – during the day and in the evening. If you can spare a few hours and want to make the difference, please get in touch:

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