SHELTER Scotland is offering to time-pressed people the chance to volunteer in ways that cost less than an hour of their time. Home-Start Stirling says its highlights Louise, a young mother who says it is easy to fit volunteering into her life, and Andrew, who uses his practical skills as a joiner in his work with families.

There is a reason you will see a number of similar stories over the next few days during Volunteers’ Week. Many of Scotland’s charities are rethinking how they handle volunteers, and how they attract new ones.

Participation in volunteering is declining in Scoltalnd, as are traditional models of supporting a charity – can-rattling in the street has been largely supplanted by professional street fund-raising. People are less inclined to volunteer for a cause week in, week out in than they once were.

There are many reasons – more couples where both work, more grandparents taking on significant childcare duties, for example But the upshot is charities find that increasingly supporters are looking for “episodic” volunteering activities. Or they are looking to make a specific contribution, using their professional skills.

Youth volunteering is relatively high in Scotland, and the over 60s have always played the biggest role. But there is a largely untapped resource in the group in the middle, the working age Scots who are ready and willing but who charities often struggle to find roles for.

This is one of the reasons there has been pressure on the Scottish Government to develop a new volunteering strategy. The last was published in 2004 and is now hopelessly outdated. Equalities secretary Angela Constance says the government aims to “reinvigorate” volunteering. “We want to do more to support people overcome the barriers that may prevent them from volunteering”, she told the Herald.

What may come alongside more government support for volunteering is increased pressure for charities to take a hard look at the outcomes of what they do. Are the charities beneficiaries benefitting from the efforts of volunteers? And what are the volunteers themselves gaining?

There is nothing wrong with asking about the ways people gain personally from volunteering. I sit on the Children’s Panel in Glasgow and I can honestly say I haven’t learned so many skills since I was at school (with apologies to Glasgow University). Experience as a volunteer can get you qualifications, help you make friends, apply to college, get a job.

People often ask about home-based roles, flexible roles that fit alongside a job or a family life. Charities could encourage people with health and wellbeing skills to support a charity’s HR team, someone with IT skills to work on a supporters’ database or website. Charities which have explored this have had success with asking volunteers to pick the projects they are interested in, and reckon many more would offer to deploy their own specific skills for short projects if they only knew it was an option.