Volunteer strategies on the rise

Contractors increasingly keen to use volunteers to establish community links on their projects.

Volunteers: News UK staff worked with Groundwork and Quadron - image: HW
Volunteers: News UK staff worked with Groundwork and Quadron - image: HW

Having a focused, developed volunteer strategy is an increasingly useful tool when winning new contracts as clients look for added value in difficult times.

Contractors say they do not rely on volunteers to complete essential maintenance but they do provide an extra boost for one-off tasks and areas that fall outside the original contract.

Quadron Services incorporates a structured volunteer programme into all its contracts. Staff contact with volunteers runs from supervision and informal teaching to certificated training programmes. It works with groups such as Groundwork, Thrive and directly with big companies like John Lewis.

Corporate development manager Andrew Kauffman said: "In the last three years it's really gone from strength to strength. Many tenders ask how contractors would be involved with volunteers and in tendering you've got to set yourself apart."

One way contractors can do this is to help voluntary groups apply for grants. Kauffman has secured £60,000 and Quadron £2.7m since 2006.

ISS Facilities Management Landscape managing director Phil Jones said enthusiasm has dropped since the first flush of "Big Society", but corporate clients are increasingly keen.

"Corporate social responsibility has become a major focus and they have annual budgets to spend. It's a big missed opportunity for local authorities but they don't have the resources for a full volunteer programme."

Community links are built into the Landscape Group's 10-year grounds-maintenance contract at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park under the Our Park Life banner. This year, employees facilitated 240 hours of volunteer work. Next year, it will be 200 days.

Technical operations manager Frank Hawkins said: "The park is a people's park and needs to go out to the community. We want local people to come here and feel they have ownership."

Community work Key driver in some areas

Securing Green Flags and lottery funding requires community working, and this has been a driver in some areas.

Funding can also pay for development officers whose job is community engagement. This year's Association for Public Sector Excellence survey shows that 96 per cent of respondents had friends of parks groups operating locally and friends and residents group volunteers were involved in 89 per cent of parks.

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