Advertising for volunteers – getting it right

Guest blog by Sonia Tse, Employment Law Adviser at Ellis Whitam.

Writing a role description is never an easy task. Most employers worry about whether the terminology and phrasing they use will be considered discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. Charities, unfortunately, have much more to think about.

Often charities will look to recruit volunteers to help with the day-to-day running of the organisation. You may struggle with attracting the right people to these positions and getting sufficient interest if you have numerous vacancies available. It is vital to make sure that the advert is as enticing and appealing as possible, but you must bear in mind that a job description for an employee is not the same as a role description for a volunteer. They may look similar, but they are different and should not be confused!

You could run into a myriad of legal problems if you do not properly distinguish between an “employee” and a “volunteer”.  Employees have a wide array of employment rights and protections, for example to not be unfairly dismissed, not to be discriminated against and to be paid the National Minimum Wage. Typically, volunteers do not have these rights. However, you should not automatically assume this. If you have signed a volunteering agreement, the volunteer may be able to argue that they are entitled to employment law protections.  If an Employment Tribunal looks at the nature of the relationship and believes that the person recruited is being treated as an employee rather than a volunteer, you may be breaking a number of employment laws and face costly consequences.

One important way to avoid these types of claims is to get the drafting of the advert right. You should explain what your expectations are for the volunteer, rather than what obligations and duties you will impose on them. This means you should not imply that they are under a contract or agreement to perform certain tasks or work particular hours – the volunteer should be able to accept and decline as they wish.  You should also avoid writing legal jargon and use flexible terminology such as “your usual duties will be” or “it is expected you will”. This will help make the relationship sound less contractual.

For advice about your job advertisements.  ACEVO members; please contact 0845 226 8393, ask for the Partnerships Legal Team and quote your ACEVO membership number.



Guest blog by Matthew Mitten, Director of Enrolsme

By 2018 every employee in the UK earning more than £10,000 per year, and over the age of 22 will have been given the option to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension. This includes charities. Those staff which opt in will see at least eight per cent of their earnings going into a pension – at least three per cent of that coming from their employer.

Many people have welcomed the onset of the automatic enrolment legislation, but we are increasingly hearing of organisations failing to comply with their automatic enrolment duties, and consequently being fined by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) through its ‘Automatic enrolment compliance and enforcement policy’. On the 1st March 2016, TPR had issued 1,021 fixed penalty notices.

In the last few months TPR has written to 95,000 small and micro employers with less than six months to go until their staging date, to tell them it’s time to choose a pension scheme. And with half a million employers expected to reach their staging date this year, I envisage that the number of enforcement notices and fines will increase massively.

Leaders of small charities have so many different things to manage on a daily basis; automatic enrolment is yet another burden to add to their already heavy workload. Equally, pensions are complex – there is a lot that needs to be understood and managed when embarking on the automatic enrolment journey, that I am not surprised by the relative inactivity demonstrated by many.

However, what needs to be noted is that whilst TPR’s fines seem low ticket initially, they soon escalate and grow much larger.

The number of organisations due to stage in 2016 alone is more than the number that have staged since the onset of automatic enrolment in 2008. Charities with a staging date of 2016 and beyond need to act now – to avoid being part of the headlines around compliance and fines.

The planning should start now, to include:

  • Definition of earnings – the first thing an employer needs to understand is the definition of earnings; which earnings will be included in the pensionable salary and – more importantly – which are not.
  • Choose the right pension provider – the sooner they can make this decision the more likely they will put the best scheme in place for their staff. Delaying could mean they have little or no choice when it comes to selecting the pension provider (particularly when the tidal wave arrives).
  • Engage your staff – employers need to make a decision on how they will engage their staff. If they opt for a quality scheme this can then act as a catalyst for communicating this to their workforce?
  • Select the right levels of support – it is important to seek the right levels of support for setting up the workplace pension scheme. It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and laborious task.
  • Be prepared to work with your chosen provider to make the process as straightforward and manageable as possible.
  • Think about automatic enrolment NOW – don’t put it off and delay further

If you need to set up a workplace pension for your charity, then please contact Enrolsme on 020 7469 2865 or via email at You can also visit Enrolsme website for more information:

ACEVO members are entitled to £500 discount when setting up their workplace pension with Enrolsme.

Enrolsme is a complete online automatic enrolment solution. Through the system, charities and businesses can be set up with a qualifying and compliant scheme in a matter of hours.

Foster Denovo Enrolsme Ltd is an appointed representative of Foster Denovo Ltd.

Enrolsme is a non-advised process and other options are available which may be better suited to a small business. They may be more complex and they are not offered under this solution. Small businesses who want to explore these options may wish to contact a financial adviser.


How do you read your organisations financial performances? Look at them again from a different perspective!


Guest blog by Mike Jones, CEO of RemoteFD

When looking at your financials what do you see? You see income, expenditure, results and maybe you look at variances against your budget? Do you ever look at the numbers and think about how you purchase, select suppliers, and; what value your suppliers have brought to those particular set of results?  Do you have a way to measure this?

One area repeatedly overlooked by NFP’s, Associations & voluntary organisations is the strategic management of purchasing and supply.

When you begin to align your purchasing and supply chain strategy with the aims and objectives of your members and your organisation, you will start to reap the benefits, it can help you identify opportunities to add value for your customers or members, and, at the same time spot duplication, wastage and achieve savings without impacting the front line of your organisation.

Organisations can apply strategic financial management techniques to purchasing and supply.  One way to help is to follow a simple set of principles and set out a framework.  An example is one that can be reflected by the term, Buy smarter, buy together & be rational. This can be the start of organising your spend and matching this with financial management information to create smart data.  Smart data pairs together future planning with historical data to enable rational decision making with measurable outcomes.

This means;

  • Analysing your spending behaviours by using smart data.
  • Creating a culture of unity amongst buyers and budget holders in your organisation and listening to your customer or member community to point your organisation to those activities they derive the most value from, and finally;
  • Set measureable objectives before major spending decisions and ensure that spend is always in line with the objectives, risk profile and growth ambitions of your organisation.

The objective is to focus spend on those activities that generate the most value for your key member or customer body, in other words, minimise or eliminate spend on low-value, low-risk activities and maximise the available budget on high-value derived activities.  My suggestion is to use a value & risk matrix.

diagram1The customer or member body derives value from the organisation’s activities, for example, through events, publications, use of its knowledge base, links & networking with other members.  You are able to assess, by listening to and recording data from the community about the value of activities on offer. Some activities are essential, some are strategic, and some are non-essential but they are adding value to the stakeholder body.  There will be some activities that derive little or no value to the membership body and carry a minimum risk to your organisation if the activities cease.


These purchases and services appeal highly to the member or customer body but may not be deemed absolutely necessary by the organisation.

These services derive high satisfaction from the member body.


These purchases are the most important ones in your organisation. They represent high value for the membership or customer body and a high degree of risk to the organisation.


Items appearing here are necessary purchases that underlie and support the structure of the organisation.  It is the types of services that are not noticed until they are missing and seen as bureaucratic and administrative but critical.


Anything that appears in this quadrant needs to have a “light shined” on it. An assessment of why the organisation is spending anything in this quadrant is required.

By way of a final point, additions to the matrix are recommended to pinpoint strategies, but be noted that using such a tool is more than a technical exercise, it requires an impact at cultural level and how your organisation is governed. Remember, it’s not about spending less, it’s about spending better and in advancement of your organisation’s objectives and purchasing procedures & policies need to be structured to support the focused strategy.

diagram2Measuring the true value of your activities and what you procure is key to aligning your organisational growth objectives with those who value your organisation.  Listening and delivering high value derived activities will attract more interest and ultimately income, it will also allow you to identify to spot declining trends and where spend is wasted and no longer needed.

Mike Jones, CEO RemoteFD –


The Social Investment Confusion


Social Investment has been around for quite a few years in the UK and yet we still don’t have a shared concept of what it is, or who or what it is for. We constantly hear that investors can’t find enough quality social investment propositions and yet we also know that VCSE organisations are in need of capital to invest in the sustainability of their organisations. It’s not because there is a lack of entrepreneurialism. So where is the disconnect happening?

In this guest blog, Phil Caroe, Allia’s Director of Social Finance, offers his views on where the misunderstanding might be.


Evidence suggests that charities and social enterprises are generally pretty confused by social investment. The one thing that is clear is that it’s not the same as getting a loan from the bank, because bank loans have been available forever and the ‘social investment market’ is apparently some new thing that Big Society Capital and a bunch of ‘SIFIs’ are busy trying to build.

And therein, I believe, lies the problem. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something potentially controversial: the fact that we talk about this concept of ‘social investment’ as a type of finance raised by charities and social enterprises is, I suggest, one of the main barriers to them getting involved.

First, debt is often a scary enough word as it is. The idea of getting into debt in order to pay for stuff you couldn’t otherwise afford and putting your organisation and your beneficiaries at greater risk doesn’t always, unsurprisingly, sit that comfortably with trustees. Now introduce a new and unfamiliar concept called ‘social investment’ as an alternative to conventional finance, and you can appreciate how the comfort zone is getting left even further behind. Add to the mix the political rhetoric of social investment offering salvation for the sector at the same time as deep funding cuts and the proliferation of ex-City people trying to offer you finance, and you can see why social investment hasn’t always been whole-heartedly embraced.

The second issue is that it’s not always clear what to expect from investment with a ‘social’ label. Sometimes what investors mean is that it’s finance exclusively for social organisations. But investees may interpret the label to mean that there’s something different about ‘social’ investment compared with ordinary commercial investment – perhaps a willingness to accept lower returns and longer timeframes, and to not mind so much if it all doesn’t work out and the money can’t be repaid. So you can also understand the frustration from investees when some sources of ‘social’ investment turn out to be much more commercial than they expected.

My proposition therefore, radical as it might sound, is that we stop talking to charities and social enterprises about raising social investment as a type of finance. We stop giving the impression that social investment is a thing with definable characteristics, and instead simply talk about how repayable finance could support their mission. We explain how there is a spectrum of different investors and lenders – from banks to venture philanthropists – each with their own mix of social and financial goals. And some of these might describe themselves as social investors.



Wellbeing in the workplace – reducing stress of charity employees

Guest blog by Ian Bird, Founder of the employee communication portal Mybenefitsatwork

In general, charity employees tend to feel more job satisfaction than other professionals, as they usually work for a cause they are passionate about. In fact, a recent study¹ highlighted that 35% of charity professionals are more likely to have experienced a sense of achievement in their job, in comparison to the average UK worker.

This is a positive statistic for the charity industry. However, it’s equally important to mention that the charity workforce is also 25% more likely to have experienced stress. So, I wasn’t surprised when I learned that 80% of charity employees said they have experienced stress in their current job – a very high number.

Stress in the workplace could be associated with a number of reasons. As a charity employer, I’d argue that it’s essential to adopt a holistic approach to employee wellness and wellbeing in order to tackle this issue (if you don’t already); the focus should be physical, mental and financial.

Putting a wellbeing programme in place is a great start, but it’s not just a case of selecting an attractive sounding list of benefits. You need to choose benefits to help build a healthy and happy workforce, such as flexible working or gym memberships. Employee assistance programmes, for example, are designed to help staff deal with any issues before they become more serious. It’s also important to consider protection measures for employees, so they are supported financially during long periods of absence.

Once this is done, the next step is to communicate your wellbeing programme effectively to your workforce. And a regular multi-channel approach to communication is best. After all, if your people don’t know about it, and feel that they benefit from it personally, they can’t and won’t appreciate it.

According to our research², 89% of charity employees would be more loyal to their employer if they understood their benefits. It is therefore vital to develop and maintain a communication strategy to keep a workforce fully engaged.

On Wednesday 5th October at 11am, Mybenefitsatwork will be hosting an exclusive webinar for ACEVO members: Combining employee wellbeing with effective communication.

The webinar is designed to provide HR and those responsible for implementing benefits at work with some learning objectives, these are centred around:

  • Wellbeing in the workplace, and boosting a wellbeing strategy.
  • The latest research on mental health.
  • Communicating a wellbeing programme effectively.

You can register for the webinar by following this link:

Lean more by visiting our website or call 0345 838 8380.

Mybenefitsatwork is a trading name of Foster Denovo Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

¹Wellbeing in the workplace research 2016 – Charity comparison:
²Mybenefitsatwork whitepaper: