What are the benefits of volunteering?
PUBLISHED ON September 7, 2023
Volunteering can have a great impact on our lives. It's all about our basic need to connect with others, be part of a community, and find meaning in what we do. It's something that's been studied a lot, and in this article we dig into why it matters so much.
We'll shine a light on the benefits of volunteering and we split those into 2 layers that are actually connected to each other: how it affects people on an individual level and how it affects corporations.
So if you manage programmes where employees volunteer, take care of social impact, or handle corporate social responsibility and need some resources on this topic, then give the following a read.
- Volunteering taps into our fundamental need for connection and meaning.
- It offers individual benefits like increased sense of purpose, skill development, and improved mental and physical health.
- On a corporate level, volunteering helps attract and retain talent, increases productivity, and support organisations in meeting social and environmental goals.
- High demand for volunteering among employees and consumers highlights its importance.
- Embracing volunteering can create a win-win situation for individuals, organisations, and communities.
- Goodsted is a valuable and free resource for finding volunteering opportunities and connecting with causes.
The benefits of volunteering on the individual level
The reason why volunteering matters so much for us comes down to something deep within us — our natural desire to connect with others and be part of a community.
Increases sense of purpose
When we help others in our communities, it's not just good for them; it's amazing for us too.
Volunteering can boost our life satisfaction, our confidence and the natural sense of accomplishment that we get from it simply gives a healthy boost to our lives. It's like a cycle of good vibes.
The reason behind this is quite logical. As we’re helping others, we also start to feel better about ourselves as well, which helps us develop a positive view on other areas of our lives (like our work or future goals). Research actually shows:
Develops work skills
You know the saying: “Experience is the best teacher”.
So it’s not a surprise that volunteering programmes are providing excellent opportunities to develop and practise new skill sets.
Mentoring or supporting others with your knowledge (e.g.: providing marketing consulting to nonprofits) will not only have a positive impact on the nonprofits but also help you to deepen your expertise.
In fact, there's an Accenture study that found 76% of volunteers said their volunteering experience helped them develop essential work skills.
That's a big deal, especially for young people who are just starting their careers or for those who are looking to change their job path. Volunteering lets you put what you've learned into action, and that's gold for a resume.
Improves mental and physical health
Does volunteering make us happy, or do happy people just tend to volunteer more?
Researchers were also interested in finding the answers and learned that people just become happier over time after they start participating in volunteering opportunities.
When you help others, you get this warm and fuzzy feeling inside. It's a bit like a reward for being kind, and it makes you feel good. Researchers have even named it the "warm glow."
Imagine it's like a little happiness button in your brain.
But that's not all. Volunteering also helps you connect with other people. It brings communities together and makes everyone feel healthier and happier.
Another research that examined the determinants of volunteering within a UK Housing Association community revealed that it helps build stronger communities while improving individuals’ health and well-being.
The benefits of volunteering on a corporate level
As mentioned before, giving back in the form of volunteering however isn't only beneficial on the individual level.
More precisely, the positive impact it has on people also affects organisations — providing serious use cases why corporates should care more about CSR and creating social value.
Attracts & retains talent
Keeping great employees is one of the biggest challenges companies face today.
Especially in certain industries like in the UK social housing sector where according to a recent 2022 survey, about 56% of staff expect to move on from the sector for better salaries, benefits and career opportunities.
So, here's where volunteering comes into play.
One study found that in the employee group that was highly engaged in volunteering efforts, the turnover dropped by an average of 57%. That is huge!
Well, it turns out that these employees find purpose not only in their personal lives but also in their jobs. When a company supports their values and encourages them to make a positive impact, it makes them feel more connected and comfortable in their workplace.
Younger generations are becoming more aware of the global issues we’re facing and they seek to drive change while balancing the challenges of their everyday lives. For example, the protection of our planet becomes a top priority for Gen Zs and millennials and it also affects the way they’re looking for job opportunities.
According to a recent Deloitte survey, young people want corporations to do more than just make money; they want them to make a difference in the world. While social and environmental impact might not be their top priority when choosing a job, it's a deal-breaker when it comes to retention.
So employees who feel good about their employer's social and environmental efforts are more likely to stay for over five years. That means attracting and keeping talent becomes a whole lot easier when volunteering is part of the company's culture.
This is another big reason why companies should care — volunteering can supercharge employee productivity.
How does that happen? It all connects back to skill development.
Volunteers can face unique and different challenges during pro-bono projects than in the case of their full-time job.
This allows them to expand their skill-set by letting them practise in a ‘real-life environment’. They can learn how to lead projects effectively and then bring these skills back to their day-to-day work.
Skilled volunteering can also remind us why we chose our profession in the first place. It brings back that spark of passion and job satisfaction, which leads to higher productivity.
When people love what they do, they tend to do it better.
Keeps up with regulations
One more reason why businesses should embrace volunteering is because it helps them meet social and environmental goals. Regulations and reporting requirements in these areas are getting stricter.
For instance, in the UK, 'The Social Value Act' has required public services to consider broader social, economic, and environmental benefits since 2012. In 2021, it became mandatory for major central government procurements to explicitly evaluate social value.
The rules around environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting are also changing.
The European Union (EU) has introduced the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) which came into force on 5th January 2023, to enhance reporting rules for social and environmental information.
The aim of this directive is to encourage corporations to be more open about how their actions affect society and the environment, while also simplifying the rules to save money in the long run.
Under the CSRD, companies must use the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which are created by an independent group called the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG). These standards will match the policies of the European Union and contribute to efforts to create global standards.
Additionally, the CSRD requires companies to have their sustainability information independently audited and supports the transition to digital sustainability reporting.
The CSRD represents a significant stride forward in sustainability reporting within the EU. It requires companies to have their sustainability information independently audited and supports the transition to digital sustainability reporting.
By broadening reporting requirements, introducing fresh standards, and emphasizing transparency and accountability, the EU intends to assist investors and stakeholders in making more informed decisions.
Walk the talk
Despite more companies starting to recognise the benefits of employee volunteering programmes, there is still a long way to go.
Most companies set volunteering policies, and give their employees time off to volunteer, but they don’t provide any guidance or structure for making it easy for them to make the most of this benefit. As a result, they are wasting this huge potential to enhance their overall positive influence and contribute to their bottom line.
The demand for volunteering is clear
- 93% of employees who volunteer through their company say they’re happier with their employer (Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM))
- 64% of millennials say they’d pass on a job offer if they felt a company didn’t have strong CSR practices (Forbes)
- 76% of consumers say they are loyal to businesses that help them make a difference in the lives of others (Peter Fisk)
The current state of employer-supported volunteering
- 78% of CEOs are failing to keep their social purpose pledges (The Drum)
- 38% of UK workers need guidance on how to volunteer their skills (Pilot Light)
- 14% is the average participation in volunteering programmes in the UK (LSE)
From boosting individual well-being and skills to enhancing organisational success and social impact, it’s clear that volunteering is a catalyst for positive change.
You can see how it provides a sense of purpose, fosters skill development, and enhances mental and physical health. On the organisational front, we deep-dived into how volunteering can help companies attract and retain top talent, increase productivity, and navigate the evolving landscape of social and environmental responsibilities.
Corporations that embrace volunteering are not only making a difference in their communities but also strengthening their own foundations.
So you might say ‘this all sounds good, but how do I find opportunities that fit my interests and skills?’
While there might be a few platforms out there, take a look at the public ecosystem of Goodsted which is completely free for all individuals to join and volunteer their skills for up to 20+ causes.
In case you’re interested in using Goodsted on the organisation level, then reach out to us here.
Let's meet in the community.
Interested in learning more about employee volunteering programmes? Grab our 40+ pages ebook.