For a charitable organisation, having access to a broad range of professional skills can be challenging when resources are already stretched. Whether seeking IT or marketing expertise, financial or legal advice, a trusteeship or practical help, Inspiring Scotland’s Specialist Volunteer Network (SVN) can step in. The Specialist Volunteer Network (SVN) is one of Inspiring Scotland’s unique offerings to the sector – providing free support to charities across the country.
In 2021 our Specialist Volunteer Network team supported received over 583 individual requests for support which turned into more than 2,000 hours of free support to around 200 charities. This support is valued at over £600,000.
SVN Executive Elaine Crichton leads the team along with SVN and External Engagements Coordinator Tommy Seymour.
With a network of over 500 Specialist Professional Volunteers, Inspiring Scotland provides a free, personalised service to match the skills of a volunteer to the support needs of the charity, creating a relationship that is fruitful for all involved. Being a bespoke, personalised service is what makes the SVN unique. “We could just be running a database,” said Elaine “But that’s how the magic happens, that’s just what we do. People will say ‘I didn’t think you could do that’ or ‘you’ve solved all my problems in one phone call.’
“Whether that’s saving you money, making you feel good, solving a problem that’s been giving you sleepless nights – it’s all of that and more.”
In 2021 the SVN team also launched its second corporate partnership cohort with Edinburgh-based global research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie with 21 employees signed up to support five charities. Corporate partnerships can help to connect employees with their communities as well as identify transferable skills. According to Elaine “Corporate partnerships can help to connect employees with their communities as well as identify transferable skills. You are giving back and meaningfully contributing to social change.”
One of the charities supported during the year was Comunn Eachdraidh Nis based on the Isle of Lewis. Through SVN, Wood Mackenzie Professional Volunteers supported the organisation to review their business plan taking into consideration the impact of the pandemic and results of a community consultation.
Malcolm Dickson, Research Director with Wood Mackenzie, said:
“Working for these charities has been genuinely inspiring. The dedication of the teams and the scope of what they deliver is incredible.” Another organisation who have received a wide range of Specialist Volunteer support is PEEK, which supports children and young people in the East End of Glasgow. Support provided has been in a wide range of areas such as board governance and training, strategy development, IT training, digital and communications strategies and HR support for pay benchmarking”
Michaela Collins, CEO of PEEK said SVN had given the charity “amazing support”.
“Every request for pro bono support via SVN has been met and exceeded our expectations,PEEK would not be the same charity without unwavering support.”
Looking to the future, Elaine and Tommy want to expand the reach of the network in order to help even more charities to save time and vital funds. They are eager to spread the word about how the SVN can make a difference and see it as being a vital resources in the current cost of living crisis.
Tommy explains: “We have over 500 volunteers on our books and, last year we worked with just over 200 organisations, so immediately there’s more volunteers than support requests.
“Our long term goal is to have every volunteer deployed at some point in the year and, ideally, to be at a stage where we have no volunteers free, and be taking on more volunteers.”
Elaine adds that it is as straightforward as possible for charities to put in service requests:
“It’s as simple as send us an email or give us a call. There’s no form filling.”
There are over 25,000 registered in Scotland, and every one can make a request for assistance. Accessing this professional support can save charities time and money, allowing them to concentrate on frontline services.”
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