Supporter Services Coordinator, Seona Deuchar, reflects on her time working with volunteers at The Vegan Society.
Reflecting on volunteering, and the volunteers I get to work with daily, makes me genuinely quite emotional. I’ve been volunteering since I was 16, and I’m still volunteering now alongside work. It’s taken many different forms, and funnily enough my first foray into volunteer coordination was in a voluntary capacity. I always assumed that coordinating volunteers would be challenging, but I forgot how driven and passionate volunteers are. It’s rare to find such a gold mine of truly determined people, but I firmly believe if you find a collection of two or more volunteers, there’s very little you can’t get done. Working with people who are there for the sheer love of the cause is a dream, and I count my blessings every time I email someone with a “please” and never have to worry about not being able to find a “yes”.
Volunteers are truly special, and in the charity sector we simply couldn’t achieve everything we do without them. Over 2016/17, 11.9 million people formally volunteered once a month in the UK – that’s just over 18% of the entire population, and an astonishing number.
At The Vegan Society we have over 1,000 volunteers registered, across every continent, and this level of support not only helps us in very practical ways, but inspires us and reminds us of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. From going to events, to stuffing envelopes in the office, the range of skills and tasks is unpredictable and ever changing. (A special thank you to everyone who’s ever come into the office and ended up frantically packing bags and leaflets, you’re the real MVPs).
Our specialist volunteers have expertise on such a wide range of skills, including (but not limited to) legal, app development, marketing, writing, translation, and even laboratory based scientists. And vegan vets… can’t forget the frantic emails about “can [insert animal here] be vegan?!”
I can’t remember a time where I’ve not been able to fulfil a need from the team here in some kind of way. Volunteers have been willing to travel long distances, cut work short, wear t-shirts too large or too small, and spend entire days chairing meetings to facilitate the aims and objectives of the society. They come from all walks of life, with one central goal: to be involved with something that they believe in, and I’m of the opinion that it’s this central desire that drives us forward. Working in the charity sector there’s no shortage of stories about staff getting very hands on to chip in – our very own CEO has been known to fix his office door with a letter opener and a spoon. Passion is a common thread in the charity sector: passion for the cause, the people, and the work. This is also a common thread across the voluntary/charity sector, with 49% of people formally volunteering saying they got involved because they wanted to “improve things/help people”, and 32% saying “the cause was really important to me”.
I want to make a public and honest promise: we do not forget this for a second. We know volunteers come for many more reasons, like CV development, but we know people come to us because they care. Our presence at events would simply not happen without our volunteers – for every event we attend as a staff team, another two are attended by volunteers. We have a special few who really lead and attend a remarkable amount annually. You can read Annette’s story in our latest annual review, and Ann’s in yesterday’s blog post. We have a fantastic record of long relationships with our volunteers, and it’s something we’re really proud of here. I’ve been working for The Vegan Society for just over a year and over that time I’ve gotten to know so many incredible people and I was made to feel very welcome very quickly by them. Anna, our office volunteer who was named as Volunteer of the Season in Issue 1 of The Vegan this year, started volunteering just after I joined as staff, and she’s still going strong coming in every week to send out leaflets to campaigners around the world. Adam, who was a regular weekly volunteer when I first started, is now on staff as a wonderful colleague, and I hope I get to retain the joy of their company, along with all of our volunteers, for as long as I possibly can.
Working with volunteers is a blessing and arguably the best part of my job. A very heartfelt thank you to everyone who volunteers, to everyone who has offered their hand to us, and to everyone who helps our movement in any kind of way. Together, there is nothing we can’t do. For the animals, for the people, and for the planet. Thank you.
This blog and many others are written and proof read by a team of skilled and dedicated volunteers. If you’re interested in getting involved with writing for The Vegan Society, please email volunteer[at]vegansociety[dot]com with some examples of your work and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.