Research & INSIGHTS
- There are 374 refugee organisations in the UK.
- Averagely one organisation needs to sponsor 245 refugees.
- The figure increases to 458 for the Greater London area.
We did research on volunteering. From a book, Community Fundraising, we learned that non-profit organisations are reliant on volunteers. However, many volunteers would stop volunteering for both controllable and uncontrollable factors, such as receiving an inadequate amount of orientation, training, support or supervision; or finding that volunteering is too time-consuming. To prevent and solve this problem, organisations should make their experience positive. For instance, organisations should have developmental and supportive management, giving volunteers space and autonomy within their roles and opportunities to take initiative; and organisations should give volunteers a sense of confidence that the organisation and work are worthwhile and deserving of feelings of pride.
After desk research, we visited the White Eagle Appeal for the first time on 16 October 2022. Ukraine refugees and local neighbours attended a Sunday fundraising event which was touching emotionally. During the event, we interviewed Stephen, the volunteer lead of White Eagle Appeal. We learned that the organisation was initiated by Magda, a businesswoman who has a trading company between Uk and Poland. She donated some space in the original Polish club for the organisation to hold refugee helping activities. There are volunteers sorting donations on the site and sending out lorries to refugees in Poland and Ukraine every week. Once a week, there is an English class for refugees to help them to get used to life in the UK. Besides, the organisation also provides other help to the refugees, for example, there is a boutique on the first floor of the site where refugees can take clothes and life basics for free.
Stephen then told us the challenges of the organisation. First, fundraising is hard because it is purely based on people’s will on giving, while the costs of sending out donations partly rely on cash donations. The organisation needs more donations to buy life basics and first aids as well. tax credits from tax deductions which is a big source of funds. Second, White Eagle Appeal is totally based on volunteer jobs. Sometimes volunteers would take on some tasks but would not commit to it, which means someone else needs to take over the tasks later. This results in a situation that most of the volunteering work is done by core volunteers who are mostly retired. The organisation wants to do more, but it needs more volunteers and energy. Third, White Eagle Appeal does not know whether it should turn to a charity. Now the organisation is registered as a non- profit organisation but not a charity. As a non-profit organisation, White Eagle Appeal could operate with more freedom, but it cannot receive tax credits from tax deductions which is a big source of funds. We visited White Eagle Appeal for the second and third time with a question list for volunteers about their experience for being volunteers. Questions include: How did they join WEA, Their engagement frequency at WEA, Whether they talk about WEA with people around them, whether they engage with other volunteers, their previous experience in volunteering, and finally the level of awareness for the status of WEA at the moment.
And here are some of the highlights from their answers:
MARY: "I engage in many other organisations as well... I told my family and friends about White Eagle Appeal, and people are not hard to get engaged once they are being asked."
OLENA: "I’m Ukrainian and I came to White Eagle Appeal to help immediately since day three of the war. I started with bringing supplies and became a long-term volunteer afterwards... I talked to my friends back in Ukraine, and they told me that there is nothing in hospitals. Literally nothing. I think medical supplies are the most needed at the moment."
KATE: "I’m Ukrainian and work in London, and I’m one of the initiators of White Eagle Appeal. We already held some volunteer meetings to make us exchange information and talk about our own lives... I also volunteered in other NPOs before, and I found that White Eagle Appeal is different in communication channels and delivery system."
STEPHEN: "Getting medical supplies from local hospitals requires building a very good connection with them at the very beginning. Once it starts, the hospital will be able to refer us to other hospitals for more donations. It was not easy to find these connections at first."
BERNARD: "I learned White Eagle Appeal on TV and come here twice a week... WhatsApp is the only type of communication method I use, because it’s simple for me to use."
We have also set up an online survey for those volunteers who were unable to talk with us in person. Most of them would think that having more time would be the most important factor for them to be more engaged with WEA. And secondly if there are other types of volunteer jobs they are interested in, they would be more involved in WEA.
1. Volunteers are willing to do something but don’t know how.
2. An organisation receives less official resources when it is hard to build authoritative networks without a charity status.
3. Volunteering is more than physical and on-site work.
From our observations and interviews, we have classified the volunteers into three groups according to their involvement. We found that the core volunteers carry out most of the workload. And within core volunteers, there are proactive volunteers that are well-informed and assertive when they want to bring any help to the organisation. We compare them to the core of the earth which contributes most of the energy. Occasional volunteers participate in volunteering activities once or twice a month, and would contribute a big amount of their effort and time whenever they come. Their enthusiasm for the activities has not completely diminished. However, as they have other concerns in their daily lives, they are not able to spend a lot of time keeping up with WEA
’s information releases. Over time, they have missed out on many opportunities to participate in activities and have become confused and disconnected from the WEA and the current needs of the refugees. Inactive volunteers were those interested in volunteering in the early days of the war, but as events developed, they gradually became marginalised within the volunteer community.