News and events

News from Cass Business School

‘To practise what we preach’

Survey of values within charities show volunteers need greater voice

With many charities relying increasingly on volunteers to maintain their level and quality of service to their beneficiaries, more work is needed to make volunteers feel involved in shaping the values of the organisations they work for. Organisational values are used effectively in day-to-day work, yet over a third of charities do not involve volunteers in any stage of value development.

These are some of the findings of an exploratory survey into the use of organisational values within UK based charities, carried out by the Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School, part of City University London (Cass CCE). The report, entitled "To practise what we preach- a survey of values within charities", looks at whether values are used effectively by charities and whether organisations involve staff, beneficiaries and volunteers in drafting them.

Overall the results show alignment between organisational values and use. Over 80% of organisations said that their employees had discussions about how they use values in day-to-day work. Over 70% said they were discussed regularly by the senior team. The survey identified a wide range of values in use, the most common being 'collaborate'; 'respect'; 'compassionate'; 'excellence'; 'professional' and 'creative'. 

The results illustrate a range of models for developing, publishing and enacting values. Common themes identified by the survey include: how to consult broadly across staff and volunteers whilst drafting values; and the use of values to improve the recruitment process, handling redundancies and challenging local authorities.

Andrew Forrest, co-author and Visiting Fellow at Cass, said:

"One of my favourite sayings is values should be 'lived not laminated'. Before the survey we had anecdotal evidence that charities believe having clarity about their values is important but we were concerned that there was a mismatch between what was published and how values were used. I am delighted that the survey has shown overall such a positive result, and the responses provide practical advice and pointers to best practice. However, there is untapped potential in getting volunteers more involved in the creation of values - only one-third of charities involve them at the drafting stage and only one-third discuss with volunteers how to use them day-to-day." 

The report analysed the results of an online survey with responses from 133 organisations, representing over a quarter of a million employees and volunteers. Nineteen of the respondents were selected for more qualitative investigation and the resulting case studies are also published in the report.

The report is supported by an online video training course on organisational values delivered by one of the authors, Ian Lawson, and produced by KnowHow NonProfit. The course encourages nonprofits to increase their impact by learning how to create and embed values in their daily working practices.

Download the report

Share this article