Volunteering in Civil Society Organizations
Modified on: Tue, 1 Aug, 2017 at 10:01 AM
Research conducted by CIVICUS shows that many civil society organizations (CSO’s) rely heavily on volunteers to fulfil their functions.According to the report the view is that “unpaid volunteering is an important pillar of the functioning of most organisations... volunteeringwithout any reimbursement is the case for 86 out of 104 membersof professional associations, for 46 out of 70 members of developmentorganisations; and for 40 out of 49 members of environmental organisations.” They add, “Voluntary work is crucial, especiallysince a vastmajority of CSOs do not have any salaried employees. The development of civil society therefore strongly continues to rely on voluntaryworkers’ contributions. With CSOs lacking in their own financial resources, voluntary workers are a vital source to the development of civilsociety.”(Civicus, 2011).This reliance by CSOs on volunteers presents challenges both for volunteers and CSOs: turnover ofvolunteers as compared to paid staffpresents a challenge for CSOs in the continuity of their operations, while the financial and infrastructural challenges of many CSOs mean theyare oftenincapable of supporting volunteers adequately.The research further shows that because of gaps in education and employment, “voluntary workers lack the necessary skills andexperienceneeded and that affects the qualityof output or outcome of CSOs and their projects. Further, mobilising voluntary workers seems to bebecoming difficult due to potential volunteers’ lack of time and competition with paid activities. Organisations are said tohave significantneeds but findit difficult to define them, organise them and then mobilise the required human resources. CSOs also note that the receptionarrangements and proper management systems of voluntary workers is generally very weak or even non-existent. Voluntary workers areoften left by themselves unsupported and rarely receive any positive feedback for their work.”The report further make the following recommendations given to promote volunteering by CSO in the country:
Youth developmentin South Africa is largely driven through CSO`s.Youth Development CSO`s are focusing on the power of young people asactive agents for change in society. Theyteach young people to take responsibility for their lives and train them to become leaders in theircommunities.The civil society sector focuses on the strength of young people and regard young people as actors for change.Theseorganisations in South Africaare facing the same challenges as other CSO`s, hence the importance of capacity building, offering networkopportunities andfinancial support in working with volunteers.The smaller initiatives, often started by young people, need support of thebigger players in the field in order todevelop into more structured organisations whichbecome eligiblefor funding.The mentoringprogramme should address this
- CSOs should engage volunteers in long-term, regular commitments, rather than ad-hoc projects.
- Volunteering should be better recognised and should have meaningful impact in CVs, including through award or recognition schemes.
- Those who receive volunteers should prepare certificates recognising voluntaryworkers, volunteers and trainee’s contributions. Their contributioncould be taken into account in the development of their professional careers and in their social development.
- Better management systems should be in place for volunteer sending and receiving organisations.
- CSO should clarify processes and procedures for the voluntary worker while specifying the reception arrangements, the follow-up mechanismsand the ways of expressing gratitude towards voluntary contribution, in particular by keeping records of the time they devote to civil society.
- CSOs should be given training and capacity building in working with volunteers.They will strive to make young volunteers co-owners of theirprojects, stimulating self-governed initiatives.CSO’s should always prioritize the interest of the young volunteers as a growing individual
- CSOs should consolidate and develop partnerships with the state by receiving skilled and voluntary personnel from governmentsto contribute totheir activities. This could also be areciprocal process with CSOs sending volunteers to state institutions.
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