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Alex Effinger, Development Officer, Volunteering pillar

Alex leads our Volunteering pillar alongside teammate Lauren. Her role includes helping people across Perth and Kinross to understand more about how they can volunteer and signposting them to places to sign up. She also supports organisations that work with volunteers to create a positive and productive experience for everyone involved.

Read on to find out more about Alex’s role, love for learning and super green thumb!

Hi Alex, can you tell us a little more about your role?

In my role as the Development Officer, I’m partly responsible for all the volunteer enquiries that come in. I work with Lauren to support people who want to volunteer but don’t know much about it and need a little help finding and applying for the right roles for them.
We also work with organisations that use volunteers and need guidance on volunteer management, recruitment, or general best-practice activities. We help them understand how to increase their volunteer recruitment or improve volunteer management to create a great experience for the volunteers and their service users.

What’s your background and how did you come to work with PKAVS?

My background is actually in nature conservation. I’m a studied biologist and landscape ecologist and I worked in that field until the Covid-19 pandemic hit and my career was cut short.
I was lucky because I decided to become self-employed and I worked as a freelance gardener and countryside ranger. I then got a job which combined nature conservation with community engagement. I was the volunteer development officer for a Social Housing Association in a very deprived area of Glasgow and we also looked after a small urban woodland.
This is where I got into volunteer management and I found it really rewarding so when my contract ended I decided to pursue this route and applied for the role with PKAVS.

What is something that you really love about your job?

In terms of working for the organisation as a whole, I love that PKAVS are so flexible and concerned with the wellbeing of their employees. It’s nice to work for an organisation that actually cares about you as a person and will take time to consider ‘How can we make sure that your work experience here is the best that you can have?’.
And in terms of my role, having been a volunteer myself for years and also having been a volunteer manager, I love that I’m helping volunteers be more aware of their rights.
I think that ethical volunteering is incredibly important because I’ve seen many organisations in the past relying too heavily on volunteers when they should have employed people. I am proud to be championing volunteer best practice.

What are the main challenges facing the third sector in Perth and Kinross at the moment?

I would say that one of the major challenges is that there is a general need for volunteers. During the pandemic, lots of organisations emerged to help the local community, which is amazing. It was great to see people who were furloughed or let go from their jobs getting stuck into volunteering without any kind of background agenda, just for the joy of helping out.
But as people have returned to work many of these organisations have been left struggling to meet the needs of their users. There is a real need to get the transition right between either applying for funding making partnerships and connections within the sector and a sustainable future.

What’s your favourite way to have downtime away from work?

I love being in my garden as well as camping and just generally getting outdoors. I do some wool crafts and I enjoy spinning and weaving at the moment.
I also really love learning, I’m currently training to become a community herbalist and I recently took part in a storytelling course.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

I would say: ‘Do it anyway’.
If something feels right to you then trust in yourself, even if people are advising against it and even if it doesn’t work out as you planned, go for it because you’ll learn something and you’ll figure it out.

What’s your favourite day of the week? Why?

My favourite day of the week at the moment is Tuesday.
I work Tuesday to Friday and I enjoy coming in to work on a Tuesday morning, checking my emails and getting organised for the week ahead. There’s always a lot to do after having been off for the last three days so they always go very quickly! 
I never have anything organised for a Tuesday evening either so it’s nice to finish a productive day and have the space to relax and unwind afterwards.

What’s your favourite song or artist? Why?

My favourite song is ‘See the Light’ by Simple Minds because I think it fits almost any life situation well.
I also love the album Storyteller’s Night by Magnum because I think it’s just incredible.

What project or goal would you love to work towards with PKAVS in the next year – five years?

I would love to see a strong, overarching volunteer community which makes volunteering more accessible for people to find roles that suit their skills and passions without having to go through their organisation or an organisation like ours that acts as the middleman in the process.

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