Valuing the contribution of volunteers to community businesses supported by the Community Business Fund

This research seeks to understand the value of volunteers to community businesses supported by the Power to Change Community Business Fund (CBF). To do this, the report looks at:

  • the types of roles that volunteers fulfil;
  • why community businesses decide to engage with volunteers and why some roles are fulfilled by volunteers;
  • the types of value volunteers brought to businesses; and
  • what investments are made by community businesses to maintain their volunteer offer.

The research finds that community businesses funded by CBF engage volunteers for a variety of reasons including ideological reasons, quality reasons and for business viability. Volunteers fulfil a range of roles including outdoor and practical volunteering to being on the board of trustees. However, the research also finds that engaging volunteers is not ‘free’ and there is a wide range of associated costs to sustaining a volunteering offer such as recruitment, management, training, and support. Despite the costs, many community businesses predict that volunteers will become more important in the future and indicated that they intend to increase the number of volunteers they engage, with a particular aim to increase the diversity of their volunteers.

“We are firm believers in that volunteering [is] part of a process that [benefits the community] … For us it is about helping people develop their skills, confidence and attributes so that they can be helped to be moved on to becoming part-time working, or gain professional qualifications and then utilise that experience to gain a paid job,  if that is what they are seeking.”