Can I introduce you to something that’s likely to improve your physical and mental health, raise your life satisfaction and self-esteem, and even reduce milder depressive symptoms and psychological distress? And would you like it to improve your community too? If your answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’, then let me introduce you to volunteering.
You’ve probably met before. Many of us are volunteers. Most of us according to research. But we wouldn’t necessarily recognise ourselves as such, because we’re just helping others as and when.
Now that we’ve established that you know each other, and are comfortable together, could we take things a bit further?
With information and support, could you and volunteering develop a stronger relationship? Could you help out a bit more? Could you see yourself helping out at a school, sharing skills with a small community group, mentoring a young person who’s struggling to find their way? Because if you can, the evidence suggests that those health and wellbeing benefits are likely to become even stronger, and the difference you can make to your community will become even more profound.
The most common reason that most of us give for not volunteering is that we don’t have the time. Life can feel uncomfortably crowded. It’s a shame, then, that one of the best ways in which we could find more time for volunteering is underused – employee volunteering.
Benefits for your business
More and more companies are recognising the potential of volunteering to improve team skills, loyalty and productivity. Volunteering can help boost the reputation of your business and can also provide excellent networking opportunities. Because of these benefits, many organisations now offer their employees 2 to 3 volunteering days.
The good news is that 10% of us who've recently taken part in organised volunteering have done so through our employers. The less good news is that a third of us working for businesses that make time available for volunteering say they haven’t actually been encouraged to take up the opportunity.
There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution for companies that want to support volunteering. At Volunteering Matters, we connect companies with opportunities to support local charities, schools or health services. For other organisations, this might not be the best way of organising their volunteering offer.
The point is that employee volunteering needs some form of organisation, and it needs to be supported and led from the top with passion. Don’t under-value the skills of your organisation, the expertise of your colleagues could change lives for the better.
If you speak to someone who has participated in really deep and ambitious volunteering - the potential is clear. An employee volunteer who took part in one of Volunteering Matters’ e-mentoring programmes summed up their experience saying:
It’s made me take a step back from my own busy life and realise that I can help people and how I can do that – it’s been a very rewarding experience.
Volunteers' Week is a good time not only to say thank you to our volunteer employees but to ask - what more can we do? As employees, leaders and citizens, we all stand to benefit from raising our ambitions for volunteering.