“We’re finding that people are waiting to volunteer when they are later in their careers”, said Chris Owens, CFO and Company Secretary of research charity, Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM). “Certainly, we would like to increase the number of people volunteering under the age of 45, because there's a lot of people with critical skills who could really build on their experience by volunteering outside of their workplace.”
Owens is also Chair of the Advisory Group for the ICAEW volunteering community and finds it interesting that the age profile within the community, at present, is mostly people above the age of 45. He believes this is because ‘there's a recognition that as you get older, you are more experienced, you're wiser and you probably have more to bring in’. However, he would like to see this demographic broadened so that young accountants are aware that once they have completed their training, they have a lot to offer from any age.
“I think the message would be, if you've been trained as an accountant, you've got financial reporting skills and you can help other people even at a younger age. I started as a skills-based volunteer when I was in my late 20s and you can certainly do that”, he said.
Owens knows the benefits volunteering can have from a young age as he started volunteering from 16. He was brought up in a Christian family, and his very first volunteering role was when he started helping out at his local Sunday school. A few years later he went to University in Southampton and joined a church, ‘I deliberately went there to help serve the kids in the area’. It’s something he started before he was an accountant, and continued ever since, ‘I could say it’s in my blood I suppose’, he says.
Volunteering as an accountant
Overall, Owens has been volunteering as an accountant for 20 years, with the bulk of that time spent helping out multiple charities. Most of his work in the charity space has been as an independent examiner, supporting eight charities over this time, but currently working with five.
“When the legislation changed most small charities no longer required an audit and could have an independent examination instead. I was approached to see if I could help with that - I was very willing to help. It picked up from there really, then through word-of-mouth referral I was asked to support more charities. And it has significantly cut their governance costs which means they have more funds for charitable activities”, he explained.
ICAEW’s Volunteering Community
The ICAEW volunteering community has been set up to provide resources to chartered accountants so they have all the relevant tools available to them, which makes them more effective in their volunteering roles. There is content available for trustees of a large not-for-profit, or simply for people looking to help a local charity with their accounts, memberships are also open to everyone, including non-ICAEW members. Community membership provides free access to ICAEW’s online trustee training modules and also includes management liability insurance for UK volunteering activities. Owens explained that ‘the aim is for the ICAEW Volunteering Community to be the first port of call where they can go to access resources they need’.
Owens added: “There's also a platform (ICAEWVolunteers) where organisations can advertise volunteer opportunities, meaning you can simply go on the platform and see what options are available in your area or on sectors that you've got a heart for. You’re then able to apply for roles with these organisations directly from the platform.”
‘To mark Volunteers’ Week ICAEW Insights champions its volunteering community’
Volunteers’ Week is led in partnership by NCVO, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteer Now (Northern Ireland) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action and supported by organisations across the UK. It takes place between 1-7 June as a “Time to say thanks” to the volunteering community