The UN day to mark the work of volunteers was celebrated over the whole country, and together with other member organizations, BCC participated in Volunteers Day 2019 in Norway. Confidence in these organizations was one of the interesting topics on the agenda.
By Johanne Reiersrud – Photos by the Association of NGOs in Norway
Around 300 people took part in the event, and chairman Heikki Holmaas welcomed those present. He drew attention to how important it is to have a strong and independent volunteer sector, something which was also underlined in the 2018 report to the Parliament on volunteerism. At this year’s event, the main theme was “Voluntary work for all”. The day focussed on inclusion, broad participation and confidence in the concept of voluntary work.
“In doing voluntary work, people find each other because of their values and interests, and create something new together. In this way the participants and beneficiaries find connection and purpose”, said the president of the Norwegian Parliament Tone Troen in her opening speech.
We cannot measure these aspects of voluntary work, but in addition, we know that in Norway, the sector contributes at least 75 billion Norwegian NOK a year.
Seminar: confidence at stake
45% of the income in the voluntary sector comes from private households, therefore the organizations rely on the givers having confidence in how we administer the organization’s funds.
In Norway, we generally have a high degree of trust in each other, and voluntary organizations have built up great amount of trust from the population. Research shows that 83% have confidence in the voluntary organizations generally, but to ensure both broad participation and economic sustainability in the future, we depend upon this trust being maintained.
The General Secretary of the Association of NGOs in Norway, Stian Slotterøy Johnsen, drew attention to the fact that in 2019 there were more people who did not have confidence that their monetary giving would be used for the expressed intention, than those who did. This may indicate that the confidence in the voluntary organizations are under pressure.
Track record and outcome build confidence
Dagfinn Hoybraaten, the general secretary of Norwegian Church Aid, stated that it is the experiences of the public that are important. Activities that create confidence and trust over a period of time give people the experience that they can rely on these organizations. “We who are involved in this work have to deserve this trust every day”, said Hoybraaten.
The organizations spendings on administration was also a topic for discussion.
Hoybraaten clarified that bureaucracy is not a bad thing in general. It is rather completely necessary in order to control one’s accounts and to ensure that money is sent to where it should be.
“The costs of administration are important, but we must also be economically efficient”, Hoybraten said.
Hadia Tajik from The Labour Party pointed out that in her view, the organizations can be burdened with unnecessary costs from the requirement of the authorities to report everything. On the other hand, openness and transparency are important so that the economic circumstances can be investigated, she said.
Ethical and moral awareness are crucial
“A good system is built on a good blend of record keeping, trust, scepticism and sound common sense”, said Kristin Clemet from Civita. She pointed out that the media are always out to find mistakes. At times they uncover real wrongs, and at other times they create scandals.
“As leader, the ethical and moral awareness is paramount. One must build a culture where it’s good to speak your mind, also to the leaders. In this way one can ensure preparedness for things that might crop up”.
Hoybraten emphasised transparency and openness, also when things are difficult and have gone wrong. “The truth is not the problem in the long run”, he said.
Voluntary work costs money too
The economic framework for voluntary work in Norway was also a matter for debate.
“Even though many achieve a lot with little, it still doesn’t mean that voluntary work costs nothing”, said Rode Hegstad, the chairman of LNU (The Norwegian Children and Youth Council). Research shows that less than half of income comes from public funding, but there are big variations between the organizations.
BCC is an association which to a large extent is kept going by gifts and voluntary engagement among our members. We are therefore dependent on our contributors having trust in our organization, and work actively to be transparent and open, and give good information about our projects.
Read more about this in our annual report.