» BLOG: Guaranteeing a brighter future for people with Big Hearts

BLOG: Guaranteeing a brighter future for people with Big Hearts

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For Volunteers’ Week, Innes Shirreff – the Operations Manager at Big Hearts, reveals how we’ll adapt in the future to continue to generate powerful social impact through volunteering after a year in which the number of Volunteers involved with our charity increased by 30%.


What have we learnt from the last 12 months

Toilet rolls go first, then pasta. Zoom isn’t just something on a camera. I took the hospitality sector for granted. Fresh air is great. Key workers are amazing. Empty football stadiums are rubbish. 


Like many charities we’ve continually adapted across this challenging period. Our volunteers, my colleagues and I get to see our social impact up close, and we do our best to share that impact with our supporters to raise awareness of what we do. Sometimes that’s easy, other times it’s not. This year, between the thousands of phone calls, the tens of thousands of packed lunches, hundreds of hours of befriending and the dozens of reminiscence articles written, we’ve often received amazing feedback. Our annual report, released last week, shows the tip of the iceberg of that impact. Volunteers were at the heart of the majority of that work.


If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the last 12 months it’s that volunteering is an essential component of society, particularly in times of crisis. Largely thanks to furlough and emergence of more remote roles, the average age of our volunteers dropped, and we increased our level of female volunteers to over 50% for the first time. The volunteer landscape has changed and we want to keep the flexibility that many people appreciate. Therefore, volunteering at key times of the year, such as Christmas, will be a focus for us going forward.


Talent is equally distributed, opportunities are not

In September 2020, within 139 pages of the annual programme for government the Scottish Government announced a Youth Guarantee as part of our country’s economic recovery. I’ll confess to not reading every page, but what caught my eye was this bold, ambitious statement that everyone aged 16-24 will have access to work, education, training or volunteering. Whilst not specifically targeted at the third sector, I believe Big Hearts has a role to play and so this week we’re announcing a commitment to those in that age bracket who participate in our projects that we’ll offer you a volunteering opportunity with us, or help you find a suitable role with another organisation. 


For Big Hearts, that means we’ll make sure young adults have the opportunity to progress beyond their initial engagement with us. We see that as an exciting and vital development to our volunteer programme, as well as further aligning our work with national priorities. Our aim is that a minimum of about 15-20% of our volunteers each year will have progressed through one of our support programmes, before themselves beginning to help others. I’ll look forward to telling you about their achievements this time next year.


Supporting the future of Big Hearts

In 2021 we begin to take on two brand new opportunities which extend our work with young adults from different backgrounds. You’ll hear much more about Off the Bench and Welcome Through Football across the next few years. On top of that, we’ve got an exciting development at Tynecastle Park which we’re itching to show you over the coming weeks which will undoubtedly help elevate our work to a new level. We’re also in the process of renewing our Investing in Volunteers accreditation, to ensure that we continue to provide high standards of support for all volunteers.


Alongside this, like everyone else we hope to get back on a pathway to normality over the next few months. As we do that, we’ll unveil an ambitious new three year plan taking us towards 2024, with an emphasis on tackling social issues on our doorstep in Gorgie, Dalry and South West Edinburgh. Make sure you’re signed up as a Big Hearts Supporter & subscribed to our newsletter to stay updated.


Finally, in our most recent survey of volunteers, 98% said they’d recommend volunteering with Big Hearts to friends and family. We hope one day soon you’ll be back in your seat at Tynecastle, telling your friends about our work and helping to recruit some new #PeopleWithBigHearts


Stay safe.

Innes Shirreff


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