As governments and businesses slash their budgets to balance their books, the voluntary sector is becoming ever more important. Charities, associations and sports clubs have to rely on the goodwill of volunteers in order to function.
Voluntary organisations perform important functions that may profoundly affect peoples’ lives. That the beneficiaries for one reason or another cannot pay a commercial rate for the work that is done does not mean that it is not important, or that the service should not be delivered professionally and to a high standard.
In any organisation, there are pleasant, satisfying, enjoyable tasks, and there are inevitably tedious mundane and boring tasks. The challenge for voluntary organisations staffed entirely by volunteers is how to get the boring tasks done, and done well, when there are no sanctions against volunteers failing to perform.
The heads of voluntary organisations must expect a high standard of work from their volunteers, and inspire them to deliver this, even when it entails boring, mundane and repetitive work. There are several ways this may be done:
· Find ways to make the boring work fun – by working as a team, making it competitive, making it part of an activity where the other parts are fun,
· Automating wherever possible
· Emphasising the importance of the work, showing that things would grind to a halt without it
· Ensuring that there are ways that the beneficiaries can show their appreciation to the person directly
· If all else fails, paying someone who needs the money to do it
A major category of boring work for a voluntary organisation concerns the management of the finances. This work is continual and repetitive, but vital to the health of the organisation. The Treasurer accepts this burden. Whether it is voluntary donations or government grants, the money only flows in if there is complete confidence in the governance of the organisation. Expenditure has to be demonstrably for the purposes for which the money was given. The organisation’s books have to be open and transparent.
The Treasurer therefore has to enforce rules that ensure an effective audit trail for everything that happens. It is very difficult to dress this up as anything but a policing task, which will often seem at odds with achieving the aims of the organisation – bit it is unavoidable.
If the Treasurer does not have the wholehearted support of the other officials of the organisation in making this happen, his/her task is not only tedious, but lonely and unpopular too.