Webinar recording: The challenges of recruiting and retaining volunteers

In this recording of our webinar (original event 18 March 2022), a panel of guest speakers discussed the challenges of recruiting and retaining volunteers, particularly in the context of the pandemic.

Volunteers are difficult to come by – increasing regulation, rising retirement ages, less regular working hours and less stable working lives have probably contributed to fewer people volunteering.

Then Covid landed volunteers running groups or buildings (such as village halls) with additional responsibility for the well-being of participants and audiences, with frequently negative feedback, because Covid has been so divisive. Many more volunteers have headed for the hills in the last two years, with others left feeling particularly vulnerable during the pandemic due to generally being in a higher age bracket.

We welcomed:

  • Holly Lombardo - Director of National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), the UK's leading, dynamic national framework for professional rural touring, with over 2,500 events a year that are created or mediated by volunteers
  • Robin Simpson - Chief Executive of Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts) and has worked with volunteers and volunteer-led organisations for most of his career
  • Sue Torres - Founder and Director of Wicked Events which specialises in recruiting and managing volunteer stewards at many events and festivals across the UK; she has a wealth of advice on how to inspire, recruit and retain volunteers
  • Richard Boardman - Research and Development Manager at the Sport and Recreation Alliance, and will be able to bring a perspective on volunteering from a different sector which is yet very similar at grassroots level to community arts and crafts groups and other volunteer-led activity

The views represented by the speakers in this webinar are their own, and do not represent the views of Making Music.

During the event, a question came up about free performance tickets as rewards for volunteers, which we answer below.

Q. In an unincorporated association, are you allowed to give ‘free tickets.’ Could that not be classed as a financial reward that should be subject to tax?

A. Making Music guidance is that volunteers should not be paid or receive a benefit in kind for their time. If you do pay or give benefits in kind to a volunteer, the volunteer could be classed as an employee. This would mean you have to pay them and consider Income tax and National Insurance, as well as giving them employment rights.

You can cover volunteers’ expenses, such as food and travel or anything that they genuinely need to perform their role. So, if someone is volunteering at concert a free ticket is fine as they need to be at the event to perform their role. However, if you give them free tickets for another concert as a reward for volunteering, this would be a benefit in kind.

For more useful information on volunteering, check out our resources.

Useful links:

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.