Graduate Fog today posed the challenging questions: Are exhausted Oxfam interns really volunteers’? Reporting concerns that Oxfam (and potentially other charities) are using the exemption in the minimum wage legislation to avoid paying these ‘volunteers’. However the debate as to whether they are to being treated as workers with certain expectations and roles while not being rewarded is a contentious one. Graduate Fog suggest that Oxfam “runs internships across a variety of departments, including HR, marketing, IT, accounting and digital media” and asks “Are these desk-based admin roles really ‘volunteer’ work?”
Over 50,000 people applied for the 15,000 volunteer roles in the Commonwealth Games currently underway in Glasgow. Various news stories (particularly in the local press) are reporting on how they are getting on. Here are the links to some of the recent stories:
Looking across the Web for opportunities advertised for volunteers we have noticed many third sector organisations recruiting volunteers specifically to manage their social media presence.
A quick view of an admittedly non-representative sample would suggest that many of these adverts read like employee roles with clearly specified duties and skills required (see previous post for some of the issues related to the definition these roles). Moreover there often seems to be an assumption that ‘personal’ social media use will easily translate to an organisational context. Phrases such as “No special qualifications are needed although experience of using Social Media.. and good Internet and computer skills would be an advantage” often appear in such adverts. We also note that these roles are often combined with broader fundraising and administrative volunteer opportunities – many of which imply that the volunteer will need to have use of their own laptop.
At the same time, and in link with the promotion of social media and Web 2.0 as a necessary channel for third sector organizations, we have also noticed the rise in advisors and consultants offering their services to maximise ‘reach’, ‘impact’ and other (often intangible) outcomes. Here in contrast to a focus on social media as a volunteer activity, fees are paid to professional advisors.
This leads us to wonder how the management of social media plays out in third sector organisations given the different stakeholders involved. If you have any experience of working this area or simply want to share your views please get in touch!
This interesting piece on Thirdsector.co.uk highlights recent debates about the rights of volunteers, prompted in part by the issues raised by National Trust and English Heritage volunteers, as reported here in the Telegraph. Here the specific concerns appear to relate to issues of extended opening hours and duties of guides in various properties, with particular note made of the impact on ‘older’ volunteers.
The Third Sector piece highlights the ‘risk’ of volunteers “successfully claiming that they are in fact employees with a legally binding contract of employment“.
Interestingly this is an issue that has appeared many times in the past. The guidance from the DTI in respect to volunteer workplacements in creative industries goes so far as to suggest volunteers are those “who come and go as they please and who are under ‘no obligation’ to perform activities in accordance with instructions will not be under any obligation to perform work or services“.
This then presents a dilemma for both volunteers who may seek guidance about their activities and for those attempting to manage these relationships.
Let us know if you have a view on this issue!