Trialling what works in retaining volunteers aged 50 and over
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Trialling what works in retaining volunteers aged 50 and over

At a time when there is increasing pressure to do more with less across our public services, the need to find better models of service delivery and ways to reduce cost could not be more pressing.

So what solutions are out there, and how do we know what works?  

The Join In Stay In fund aims to find out.

One part of the solution is recognising where volunteers can improve public services in ways paid professionals are unable to do alone. Volunteers can spend time in ways the public purse can’t stretch to (such as through mentoring).

Volunteers can also reach people paid professionals can’t (through peer support models for example). Through social action, we also see how the power structures of public services can change, as members of the public start to shape services they care about through volunteering.  

Nesta and the OCS has a strong track record in growing social action, and this fund will build on our collective legacy

Another part of the solution is also to reduce the costs involved in retaining volunteers. Some organisations have conversation rates to regular volunteers as low as 5 per cent. This is money that could be better spent on delivery.

Through the Join In Stay In fund, the Behavioural Insights Team will run randomised control trials with organisations we are supporting, to learn what techniques get more people coming back, without huge increases to costs.

The team has a strong legacy in surfacing more insights about what works best in mobilising the talents and energies of people to give their time or resources for public benefit.  

As Sarah Hanson, project lead of the Family Mosaic Housing Trust, reflects: "For many of our customers, it can be difficult to find the time or opportunities to volunteer, or for some just to have the confidence to take the first step, so it will be great to support new volunteers in giving back to their communities. The Join In Stay In Fund is a great opportunity for us and project partners, Peabody, Genesis and Viridian, to combine our research expertise with the fantastic work each organisation’s volunteer teams do every day.”

Finally, we know that for the volunteers involved, social capital and wellbeing improves.

The act of more people getting involved in services they care about through volunteering, can lift the health of society as a whole  

The Join In Stay In fund will also offer more insights about the inner motivations of volunteers and the extent to which social action can help shift the power dynamic between public services and the people they serve.  

All of this insight would not be possible without the energy, support and involvement of the organisations we are supporting through the fund.  We are thrilled to be working with:

  • Barnardos, who will mobilise volunteers across England to renovate children's centres and support children through a wide range of volunteering roles, such as mentoring and support roles.
  • CSW Ltd, who will work across Somerset so volunteers can engage more people in shaping the design and delivery of community transport networks

  • Family Mosaic, who are partnering with other London-based housing associations to mobilise volunteers to mentor, skill share, befriend and improve their local environments

  • Leicester City Council, who are partnering with Leicestershire County Council and environmental charities for volunteers to improve parks and open spaces, and help more people be active across Leicester

  • Marine Conservation Society, who will be mobilising volunteers across coastal towns in England to improve beaches and marine habitats.

Towards the end of 2017 we will be able to share the first insights from the Join In Stay In fund with the wider sector.

Learn more about the Join In Stay In Fund


Lydia Ragoonanan

Lydia Ragoonanan

Lydia Ragoonanan

Senior Programme Manager

Lydia was a Senior Programme Manager within Nesta's Innovation Lab.  She developed and managed a range of practical innovation programmes.She worked on a range of social action funds, …

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