It’s not officially Volunteers’ Week but if feels like that this week at Spirit HQ! This week we are delighted to have launched some major new funding initiatives to consolidate and extend Spirit’s long-term interest and investment in volunteering and celebrating the ongoing dedication of HEY! Volunteers that Spirit has supported since 2016.

When we talk to people about the ‘Spirit of 2012’ one of the enduring memories of that summer is of the Gamesmakers welcoming people to London and being an integral part of the whole games time experience.

Fast forward to 2017 and the ‘scandalous blue’ volunteers of Hull UK City of Culture proudly showed their city to the UK and the world.

Research consistently shows that volunteering makes people happier. And has many positive social and economic impacts: it helps build communities, strengthens social connection, promotes inclusion and civic pride, and can be a route to regular volunteering.

Mega events need thousands of volunteers to run well, and the organisations that deliver these large-scale events often provide and fund training and development and give access to skills and experiences that are hugely valuable to many of the local and regional volunteer led organisations that rely on day-to-day volunteers. Of course, not every event volunteer will go on and volunteer in their local community, but many will, and events can provide a valuable pathway to new volunteers once people have a taster or rekindled their passion for volunteering at an event! A trained cohort of volunteers ready to serve their city or region can be one of the most enduring lasting impacts of events.

Sustainability planning is a key element of the UK City of Culture bidding process. Evidence from Hull UK City of Culture 2017 shows that the City of Culture designation is a fantastic platform for creating a sustainable volunteering programme. But five years on, we really want to find out if the momentum of the bid itself can provide the same boost to cultural volunteering as winning the designation.

To help us do that, earlier this week (4 October 2022) we announced funding to help three places that bid for UK City of Culture 2025 unsuccessfully alongside the winner, Bradford, to develop the volunteer offers that were kick started by their City of Culture bid. These four projects will deliver significant volunteering opportunities for the people of Conwy, Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk, Medway and Bradford and allow us to test and learn what works, which we’ll share with the wider world so that others can benefit.

On Wednesday (5 October 2022) our Chair, Jane, Lady Gibson went to Hull to celebrate the HEY! Volunteers who Spirit has supported since 2016. At the event she said: “Spirit has learned so much from Hull – it’s a flagship programme and it continues to generate insights which inform and enrich our funding decisions. You are gaining a reputation for best practice in the sector. We know that the staff team are regularly contacted to share knowledge and advice with other volunteer programmes nationally, which is extremely exciting.”

In addition, yesterday (6 October 2022) we announced a development grant to the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee so that they can work with organisations across Birmingham and the West Midlands to develop plans to support the future of the huge surge in volunteering we saw for the Commonwealth Games this summer, with a large, young and diverse cohort of volunteers coming forward for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

As well as supporting these new developments, Spirit has funded a number of research and development projects this year to develop best practice on how to make volunteering more inclusive and support more disabled people to give their time and skills. More information about these projects is available on our website, alongside helpful resources like the Get Out Get Active and Inspired Action Volunteer Toolkits.

As one of the enduring legacies of the London 2012 Games we are very proud of the sustained investment Spirit of 2012 has made in volunteering with partners across the UK.