Volunteering is an activity that the government does not understand. For politicians, the populace is seen in crude terms, often through the lens of focus groups.
A report from CFE entitiled Cultural Volunteering in the East Midlands, paid for by a collection of publicly funded bodies, apparently demonstrates the “value of volunteering both to the individual and the organisations they volunteer for". This is not exactly a revelation.
The policy recommendations make depressing reading. It argues for the development of a regional policy and strategy on volunteering. While local government “is expected to facilitate an environment in which volunteering is increased and ensure local people can identify opportunities to volunteer and thus fulfil an active role within their communities".
Included in the recommendations is the suggestion that “Local authorities could maximise the engagement of cultural organisations and volunteers by providing volunteer managers in cultural organisations with appropriate information about services, polices and decisions". In essence this is a blueprint for undermining volunteering in the East Midlands.
By its very nature volunteering is set apart from the coercive state. Although usually well intentioned, politicians are taking away the autonomy of charities and with it the values that make them distinct from politics. It is a pity that many charities are happy to lap up public funds not realising that they are drinking poisoned water. Further, they are undermining those charities that know better.