Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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Working in the voluntary sector

3.1 Purpose of a voluntary organisation

You will now look at the function or purpose of an organisation. If you have already studied the badged open course, Introducing the voluntary sector [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , you will be familiar with a classification of voluntary organisations by Charles Handy (1988). He distinguished between mutual support groups, service delivery agents and campaigning bodies:

  • Mutual support groups – ‘those organisations […] created in order to put people with a particular problem or enthusiasm in touch with others like themselves who can give them understanding, advice, support and encouragement’. Examples include hobbies and sports enthusiasts or local support groups for people with addictions and health problems.
  • Service delivery agents – ‘the biggest and most visible of the voluntary organisations’ providing services to those in need. They often have many paid staff and operate across the UK. Examples include the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Citizens Advice.
  • Campaigning bodies – some organisations were created to campaign for a cause or to act as a pressure group to represent and fight for a particular interest. Examples include Greenpeace and 38 Degrees.

Many voluntary organisations inevitably fit more than one category. Many organisations campaign, even if they have government contracts, while some small mutual support groups might move into campaigning or seek a contract for service delivery. An organisation might have started firmly in one category but, over time, have shifted their role.

Activity 4 Your organisation

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Look back to the list of how voluntary organisations differ and think about how an organisation you are interested in ‘fits’ in the voluntary sector.

Table 2 has been partly filled in to provide an example for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) (a building conservation charity). As you can see, the table matches SPAB to each of the different aspects of voluntary organisations.

Complete the table for an organisation of your choosing. You do not need to worry about exact numbers or detail, rather just give an impression.

Table 3 The character of a voluntary organisation

AspectExampleYour organisation
Type of organisation (mutual support, service delivery, campaigning)Campaigning
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Registered charity?Yes
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Involvement of volunteersYes – trustees and volunteers across many activities
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SizeSmall by number of staff and income
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ReachNational reach
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FundingLargely donations
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HistoryEstablished 1877
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LocationUrban head office
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Words: 0
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Comment

This activity will have given you the broader context within which different organisations operate, and, in particular, how an organisation you are interested in fits into the voluntary sector. If you are already working or volunteering, it may be the first time you have thought outside your day-to-day role, although of course when you first took on your role, you probably looked at the values of your organisation and how they fitted with your own.

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