The Power of Volunteering ⚡
30 May 2024 by Joel Hard

The Power of Volunteering ⚡

A new report by Works4U has revealed a fivefold increase in employers organising employee volunteering since the year before the pandemic.

It’s timely, because Monday marks the beginning of Volunteers’ Week 2024: an opportunity to recognise the impact of volunteering in the community. It’s the 40th anniversary of this special week, which was established by Volunteering England when Wham! and Cyndi Lauper were in the charts. The week also raises awareness about the benefits becoming a volunteer, and the diverse volunteering roles that are available.

Why Volunteer?

According to The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (now the custodian of this annual celebration) over 14 million people in the UK volunteered through a group, club or organisation in 2021/22. Moreover, the NCVO estimates that over 50% of the UK population was involved in less visible “informal volunteering”, such as supporting friends or neighbours with shopping, childcare and so on. Imagine if social and broadcast media focused more on data like this—and the stories behind the data. Quite a tonic to the doom-scrolling that’s become a habit for many.

Volunteering is good for us. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “there is some evidence that when you help others, it can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness...helping others can also improve our support networks and encourage us to be more active. This, in turn, can improve our self-esteem.”

Altruism makes us feel good, and volunteering also provides plenty of opportunity for people to gain new skills, new experiences, increase confidence and widen their social circle.

Volunteering is also a big draw for employers. The charity Timebank reports that 73% of employers would employ a candidate with volunteering skills over one without, while 58% of employers say that voluntary work experience can actually be more valuable than experience gained in paid employment.

Volunteering as a benefit

At a time when Environmental, Social and Governance metrics are increasingly significant for employers and jobseekers alike, providing opportunities for employees to volunteer on work time (corporate volunteering) is an in-demand benefit. 

Not only does it allow individuals to develop and enhance skills that benefit everyone, but it also boosts morale and provides a relief from the stress of the daily grind. Past research suggests that 80% of employees who participated in volunteering said it made them feel happier as a result, with 100% saying it made them feel proud to work for their employer.

The skills people develop whilst volunteering needn’t only be the expected ones like project management and teamwork—which are, in any case, enormously valuable. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities where participants can deploy, develop or improve niche skills including IT support, marketing and professional communications, fundraising, governance, leadership and mentoring. That’s chiefly because many charities, social impact and community support organisations welcome (and indeed rely on) voluntary support and trusteeships from professionals with the skillsets they can't always afford to have in house.

Volunteering as a professional

Many employability charities with regional presence, such as The Prince’s Trust, benefit greatly when local employers offer young or disadvantaged people mentoring or exposure to new careers and skills. Helping to inspire and boost the confidence of people who haven’t enjoyed the advantages that many of us take for granted is a fantastic way to add value to our community.

And although we can’t all afford to volunteer during periods of redundancy, those who can find that adding value to communities on their own time can be transformative, as for one of our candidates whose volunteer work helped him reframe his experience of redundancy.

After repeated blows to his confidence, he spent time volunteering for the RNLI, where the value of his work was energising and confidence-boosting. “I had a notable shift in mentality that came from doing things for other people,” he said when we interviewed him in 2020, drawing attention to the critically-important power of volunteering to pull you out of a negative headspace.

“When you don’t have a job,” he said, “you can con yourself into thinking that unless you dedicate every minute of every day to finding one, you have no chance of succeeding. But that’s just a trick your stressed mind plays on you that doesn’t help at all. You can’t productively job hunt all day every day – there’s only so much you can do. Volunteering took me out of my own head and stopped me feeling guilty because I wasn’t on my laptop 24/7.” 

It seems volunteering is a win-win, and there are precious few of those. 

How to find volunteering opportunities

There are several organisations that can help you to find volunteering opportunities that are right for you. Here are some:

  • Do-It: A database of UK volunteering opportunities that allows you to find local opportunities.
  • Reach Volunteering: A site that connects professionals and charities through skill-based volunteer and trustee opportunities.
  • NCVO: A gateway for people interested in volunteering, which includes further resources and links to opportunities via third party websites.
  • Volunteering Matters: Brings people together to overcome adversity, tackle isolation, improve physical and mental health, develop skills and ensure young people can lead change.

What caught our attention this month

A “landmark” autonomous vehicle legislation - the Automated Vehicles Act - means self-driving vehicles can be rolled out on British roads as soon as 2026.

M&S has become a founding member of Polytag's Ecotrace Programme, which means it will be able to track the recycling of its plastic packaging using UV tags. The technology will provide data on the journey of single-use plastics from bin to recycling centre. 


Subscribe to our LinkedIn Newsletter, TechTalent, for news and opinions from the frontline of tech recruitment.