Tweet your useful updates

Yet another way to contribute information to VolResource is our Twitter account. Send us a tweet, and depending on the content, we can take it as a news item for Voluntarynews.org.uk, an update for a VolResource article. Or we could simply retweet it to @volresource followers (over a thousand, and growing).

The Twitter feed also now appears in the site footer, with a simple ‘tweet to @volresource’ box (you’ll need a Twitter account to use this, of course).

Background to the sector and effective organisations

An attempt to give some context for the rest of VolResource website, and associated projects. First created March 2006.

Voluntary and community organisations – Overview

Voluntary organisations can be confusing for those new to the sector, or newly given responsibility when they have previously been happily working away in the frontline. It can be difficult to know where to start – that’s what we will try to help with here. Your site editor has thirty years of baggage to put to one side first, so this may require some refinement!

Workers, managers, pundits and consultants will often refer to the voluntary sector as if it is clear what we are talking about. A quick look at our Glossary should show that is not necessarily so. Sometimes referred to as making up the third sector, voluntary organisations can be very different to those in the first two, private business and public authorities. But there are in fact few hard boundaries – small local firms can have much in common with community groups employing staff, and national charities will have similar management problems to larger companies. One way of looking at it is as a 2 dimensional continuum (courtesy of OUBS): informal groupings to institutions and bureaucracies, and social goals/public benefit via mutual benefit to private/economic goals. (See organisational management page for some more in this area.)

VolResource works on the basis that housing associations, academic institutes, trade unions and trade or professional bodies are on the edges, for one reason or another. That doesn’t mean that none of what this site covers is relevant, just that they operate in specific contexts (and their own support systems).

Sector trends and issues

Professionalisation, public services

There has been a lot of change in the sector over the last 20 or 30 years. It has grown in its range and numbers, and it is often thought to have increased in professionalism at the expense of passion, innovation and informality. While this may well be true, there are still a lot of community groups, ad-hoc campaigns and new approaches to problems out there. Some may be hidden under new labels, such as ‘social enterprise’, and others not fit government funding priorities so exist on a shoe-string. New regulations around child protection, for instance, can undoubtedly make an impact on how easy it is to set up a youth group but difficulties can be exaggerated and distorted.

Passion, innovation and informality have long been valued by those involved in voluntary groups. But they have both strengths and weaknesses. Poorly thought through ideas, inadequately managed processes or untested facilities can all result in a lot of wasted effort (and resources), and might even make things worse, rather than better. A little time and care before, during and after taking action can avoid many of the pitfalls and should lead to things going forward rather than standing still or going round in circles.

What you need to know

With increasing attention from politicians on what voluntary organisations can deliver, and a higher profile for some charities from recent natural disasters and upcoming new charity law, the ‘operating environment’ is increasingly complex. But most people in most organisations still just need to get on with establishing good practice.

We say ‘good practice’ rather than ‘best practice’ on purpose. The latter is often taken to mean referring to a checklist of policies, set ways of managing meetings or appointing trustees etc, without recognising that every organisation’s circumstances are different. Committee members/trustees with different backgrounds, and even some support organisations, seem to think that management practices they have learnt elsewhere can be applied wholesale. Claiming that your organisation has to start from scratch on everything, because it is unique, is equally a poor approach. VolResource believes that by using some thought, you can learn from commercial businesses, the public sector or other charities, but application by rote is a route to failure.

Find what you want and act on it

If approached in the wrong way the large amount of material on this site could make things worse.

There is an awful lot involved in running a successful organisation or project, whatever its size or complexity. It can be a daunting prospect. You can’t do everything at once, and trying to do too much can end up with nothing done well, and probably much having to be redone (by you or someone else after you’ve burnt out!).

Work out what is important for your particular circumstances. It can help to talk things through with someone from outside, whether from an official support body or not, as an ‘uninvolved’ view may well spot something you have taken for granted, and just by having to communicate what you are trying to do often clarifies the issues.

Don’t forget about the other issues – perhaps people with a particular interest can be found to help with them or come up with a timetable to work through them. Just don’t lose the focus.



Our approach

VolResource attempts to bring together the wealth of information and support that is available for voluntary organisations, but can be difficult to track down, or even to know that it exists. Things have improved since VolResource first appeared, in spring 1999, but there’s still reason enough for us to continue. We don’t claim to be definitive, and instead aim to be a starting point, particularly on ‘what is useful to those relatively new to the sector or a particular aspect of its work’.

By signing up for the email newsletter you can be kept informed of relevant developments on specific sector issues, new advice and regulations in admin and management plus new online resources as we find them – it can take a little while for us to update relevant pages on the VolResource site.

The site can also be used as a database of contacts. See pages marked with the ‘contact list‘ category.

Fundraising has largely been left to one side, as a particular area of expertise which has plenty of coverage elsewhere – see Fundraising resources.

The site will continue to be developed and updated, as useful material is published, the sector changes or new thinking appears. VolResource aims to use developments in internet and other communication technology to further reduce barriers within the sector which has previously kept useful, hard-won knowledge within relatively small circles.

Contact VolResource

Contact form

You are encouraged to add comments direct to articles, or use the content creation form on the How to contribute page. But you are also welcome to drop a line to VolResource using the form below.

If you have come here from the old version of VolResource with suggestions for amendments, please note that usually changes will be made on this site instead.

If you wish to register to add/update material direct, please say so via the form, indicating areas of expertise/pages of interest.

Your email address will only be used to reply, if appropriate. We never spam. Website info is useful if you are contacting from an organisation, in case we aren’t familiar with its work.

Note: also see VoluntaryNews on adding news for, or by,  voluntary organisations.

Your contributions welcome

The quickest way to add your ideas, provide updates, and so on is via the comments system. There’s (at least) one on this.

Updates

To make a more substantial addition to VolResource material, in the Updates section, there is also a pretty straightforward content form on the How to contribute page.

Authors

Anyone can also ask to be added as an author to an existing page – this requires signing up a site user and letting us know which page(s) interest you. Of course we’ll have to check that potential authors aren’t likely to be spammers in disguise.

Editorial discretion is retained by VolResource, but with a (hopefully) light touch on both comments and Updates.

Resources for the Voluntary Sector

Front page: basic intro to the site

VolResource aims to make it quick and easy to find useful information on anything to do with running a voluntary organisation (whether a community group, charity or other non-profit body), across the UK.

We’re always on the look-out for relevant web links to add, redundant old ones to remove, additional practical resources, changes in advice sources, new sector projects, etc. We would appreciate your help in reviewing the content. You can use the on-page comments to make a contribution, or add an Update piece for longer material. See About page for more.

Our email newsletter, carrying the latest resources and practical news of interest to those involved in third sector organisations, is being retired Dec. 2016.

To find what you want

… in the wide range of material specifically compiled for voluntary organisations, there are two main options –  the navigation menu above and an annotated Articles Index (Table of Contents). There is also a Simple Site Map, with a couple of other options. Note: not all sample documents appear on the main menu.

Alternatively, the site search box is top right *. Almost all articles will have suggestions for connected (tagged) content at the end, just after the sharing buttons. Further help is on the About page.

For a bit of an introduction to the purpose and approach of this site, see Background to the sector and effective organisations. If lost for where to start, how about key sector information sites page?

* On smaller screens, the right-hand sidebar shifts to the bottom of the page.

Latest Updates

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About

Using VolResource, contributing to the site, privacy, disclaimer; re-use of content, advertising, credits, site design, contacts.

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About the site

VolResource aims to provide practical resources for people involved in charities, voluntary or community organisations, making use of information technologies to inform you about anything to do with making an organisation tick. Our starting point is ‘what is useful to those relatively new to the sector or a particular aspect of its work?’.

This site brings together

  • Basic information and tips on key issues in Briefings pages, along with listing relevant website resources containing more material.
  • Contacts for specialist service providers and other suppliers – you can use VolResource as a directory. Also some guidance on what issues to think about when selecting suppliers or systems.
  • A small selection of sample documents and checklists.

Hence there are four ‘article types’ on VolResource: Briefings, Resources, Contacts, Checklists/forms. These links take you to an “archive” of all articles included under those types – not the most user friendly way of browsing but they could serve as a reference. See Finding Your Way Around, below, for other navigation options.

All web links are checked regularly, using a combination of technology and human judgement, to make sure they are still current. Sample Documents and fuller Briefings will tend to be reviewed less frequently than Contact listings or Resources.

Site visitors are encouraged to help update and improve the material – see ‘Add your comments‘ below. The rule of only covering fundraising at a basic level has gone, and VolResource is happy to accept further material for possible inclusion under Fundraising Resources.

Please read our Disclaimer below.

Archive

This version of VolResource started December 2013. The material was originally copied across from the old site, which has been kept ‘live’ as a very lightweight, basic but very out-of-date alternative. Old news pages have transferred to the VoluntaryNews Archive. Some sections have been dropped in the transfer – most of the rather ancient general computer and web advice/resources, case studies, ‘books direct’. Also gone are out-of-date forms and surveys, plus some pages have been merged.

Finding your way around

For site search, please use the search box (top right, or below on smaller screens). Of course, there is a ‘nav menu’ at the top of the screen too – minimised to a button on small screens but then also appearing in full in the footer.

VolResource anticipates people coming at an issue from many different angles and starting points. This means it is difficult to anticipate how site visitors will be looking for a particular topic. The old site has rather complex multiple cross-references and alternative routes. Instead, the ‘new’ version offers these features:

News, events, social media, jobs

Our VoluntaryNews website carries news and events – charity news and other submissions welcome.  The email newsletter ceased publication, December 2016.

CharityBlog is our social media site, with links to interesting and sample sector blogs as well as a space for views. The VolResource Twitter feed flags up new items from CharityBlog, this site and occasional other material.

Add your comments, improve the content

VolResource first appeared back in spring 1999. While it has been continuously revised over the years, much content now needs a thorough review, new relevant web links added and redundant ones taken out. Our regular trawls should however have removed most dead links.

We encourage your help to improve the information, and particularly welcome input from those directly involved in voluntary organisations of all types. Consultant and supplier contributions are also welcome, but please show the source clearly.

  • Comments (available at the bottom of every article) are the quickest and easiest way. Do use these to add information on providers of relevant services/goods, new resources, or to highlight out-of-date web links. Alternatively, send these in via the contact form.
  • A fairly simple form enables you to add longer material as Updates, subject only to basic VolResource checks before publication. The latest appear on the front page, in the VolResource Twitter feed and on the Facebook page. Plus they will show under tags and topics.
  • Why not use your particular area of expertise to improve an existing page or two? Ask to be made a page editor via the standard contact form – please tell us which pages interest you. (You may be able to register for a site account in anticipation, with drafting permissions given quickly to those we know.)

Relevant news submissions from charities, sector suppliers etc. should be made to VoluntaryNews.

Note that including email addresses in anything published on the web is likely to lead to ‘harvesting’ by spammers.

VolResource retains editorial discretion to use, remove or edit all material, but the idea is to keep this light. Please let us know if you come across any inappropriate or otherwise problematic material.

Disclaimer

VolResource aims to be a reliable and relevant source of information for the voluntary and community sector. We are independent and take a direct and practical approach to most matters. However, we must make the following disclaimer.

The information published by VolResource is tailored for the medium. It can’t hope to be totally comprehensive, and material may become out-of-date. We use our best endeavours within the resources available to ensure that content is accurate and current, but can give no warranties. Opinions expressed on this site are based on information at the time of writing, and circumstances may have changed since. The site is aimed at those involved in the sector within the UK, although we will not always be able to highlight differences in law or practice in Scotland, N Ireland or other areas (we do try!).

Further, every organisation has its own quirks and special needs, and it is the user’s responsibility to apply information appropriately. Ultimately an organisation has to take its own decisions.

Reading about something here may not be enough – this is no substitute for professional advice when it is needed. Sometimes it is impossible to avoid consulting professionals, but the trick is only doing this when necessary and with enough background knowledge so as to reduce the chargeable time. We hope that VolResource will help you get better value and avoid unnecessary cost.

Thanks for taking the trouble to read this – now get on with it!

Privacy, spam

VolResource only uses cookies (small text files placed on your device) for limited purposes.

Information requested in response forms or sent via emails is only used to provide the related service or in analysis of aggregate usage. The software running for this site (WordPress), along with Google Analytics add-ons, collect visitor information for usage and trends analysis, allowing us to correct errors, improve features etc. The adverts system operated by Google also uses cookies to help serve appropriate advertising. Cookies are an integral part of the log-in process for registered site users, too.

We do not send spam or commercial emails, or sell on email addresses. Spammers can “spoof” where email comes from, but we only send out from a limited number of accounts. If you receive anything which appears to be from us, but starts with info, webinfo, listing, news or consult (and some old ones we can’t remember) you can guarantee it is spam, or worse.

More

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