We're TimeBank, the national volunteering charity. We recruit and train volunteers to deliver mentoring projects that tackle complex social problems. We also work with businesses to engage their staff in volunteering.

In this manifesto we've outlined what we want the next Government to do to support volunteering. We believe that great volunteering can transform the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries by building stronger, happier and more inclusive communities.

Don't reinvent the wheel

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – there’s far too much of that happening already, with ill-thought out initiatives calling for more people to volunteer without acknowledging the numbers that already do. We urge you to work with existing volunteering organisations to draw on their skills and experience.

Recognise that volunteering is not free

What we do need is recognition that volunteering is not free. Organisations invest substantial resources in volunteering – and this at a time when the voluntary sector is being called upon to do a great deal more with a great deal less.

The existing national volunteering infrastructure must be recognised and supported by Government if it is to deliver its full potential.

Be clear about what you mean by volunteering

Many different terms and descriptions are used to describe volunteering: ‘active citizenship’ ‘citizen service’ ‘civic engagement’ ‘voluntary work’ and ‘community benefit work placement’. This has led to confusion and a perception that volunteering can be a compulsory activity. The Government should clearly advocate that volunteering involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or communities. It is freely given and not for financial gain, incentive or obligation. The principle of non- payment of volunteers is central to society’s understanding of volunteering.

Acknowledge the value that volunteering brings

Around 15 million people in the UK volunteer regularly and the ONS values their economic worth at £23.9bn. And this doesn’t even measure or recognise the rising incidence of informal or infrequent volunteering.

Yet volunteering is consistently and systematically undervalued – by organisations, policymakers and wider society. We want the Government to promote the value of volunteering and encourage a climate in which it flourishes.

Encourage volunteering's role in early intervention

We want the Government to recognise that dealing with problems at their source is better than picking up the pieces afterwards. We believe volunteering has a vital role to play in the early intervention agenda and that it is a proven and cost-effective way of tackling complex social issues in our society, from the challenges of an ageing population to community integration.

Partnerships made up of voluntary, statutory and private sector organisations can ensure that local services are better planned, coordinated and delivered – and deliver better value for money.

Lead the way on employee volunteering

We actively encourage employers to support their staff into volunteering, both as an entry point to volunteering and as a way of giving back to the community in which the business is based. We want the Government to lead the way – to encourage its own staff to volunteer and invest in the programme to enable all its departments to engage in meaningful volunteering.