Many social enterprises and CICs enjoy the contribution made to their work by volunteers. Where a social enterprise relies on volunteers to sustain its commercial activities is this OK or should they strive to convert volunteers to paid employees?
I'd be interested to hear what people think ...
With People CIC
Id also include Charity volunteers in this discussion, and I think we should always strive to convert them to paid roles if possible
However, truth is that so much of the 'social' output from all Civil Society organisations wouldnt exist if it wasnt for volunteers, the Association itself wouldnt exist without it.
No, a CIC should not have a policy of converting volunteers to paid employees. This does assume the volunteers are doing it as a form of charitable donation, if this is the case I see no reason (ethical or otherwise) to ‘convert’ them. The fact that it is to sustain the commercial activities makes no difference – even if I am more useful supporting the commerce than the charitable bits, both still support the charitable bits at the end of the day.
This does not mean you should take the mickey out of your volunteers and ask too much of them; but this is a different issue than whether or not you are paying them. (Payment would not necessarily make an over-stretched volunteer suddenly happy. By definition, volunteers are not motivated by money.)
Also, this relies on there being a difference between ‘a volunteer’ and ‘an unpaid beneficiary’. Clearly a Social Firm should be aiming to pay its disabled/disadvantaged people.
Also, this does not mean that the CIC does not need a back-up plan in case all the volunteers leave. Wouldn’t hurt to have accruals for paying volunteers on your management accounting books just to have a more realistic view of how the commercial activities are doing. The volunteers are a resource, its usage should be measured.