Indy Hothi CA: The benefits of volunteering for individuals and businesses
ICAS Vice President Indy Hothi CA discusses the ways in which volunteering can positively affect business and individuals
Volunteers’ Week has arrived, an annual celebration of the millions of volunteers who make an extraordinary difference by serving others to make the world a better place.
The voluntary sector benefits society in many ways, from the estimated economic value in the UK of £23.9bn to the far wider-reaching social benefits to communities, organisations and individuals.
If you are interested in a more in-depth analysis of the economic benefits of volunteering, the Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane, provides a detailed breakdown of the social value of volunteering.
The COVID-9 pandemic has highlighted how important volunteers are as they help in the fight against this pandemic.
Many people across the country have taken part in initiatives such as the NHS volunteer responder scheme supporting front line workers and the network of local community organisations delivering food and supplies to the elderly and vulnerable.
The backbone of all this fantastic work is the army of volunteers who give up their most precious commodity, time, to support the communities around them.
Volunteering should ultimately be an altruistic endeavour, but I appreciate and recognise that there are many benefits to volunteer roles.
If you are thinking about volunteering but are unsure if it right for you, take a look at some of the benefits I’ve highlighted below, from both a personal and organisational level, which you may help you in your decision.
The benefits of volunteering for individuals:
1. Improve your mental health
The age-old saying of “it is better to give than receive” is supported by research.
A growing body of research is identifying that volunteering contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing.
Also, the social aspect of volunteering alone can have a significant impact on your overall wellbeing and mood.
2. A sense of perspective
Volunteering can provide you with a deeper sense of perspective, helping you to become much more empathetic and understanding of the challenges faced in society. Personally, it has pushed me to become a better leader in my professional career as I strive to ask difficult questions to try and find innovative solutions to these problems.
There is a lot to be said for the benefits of empathic leadership in society today - there's nothing ‘soft’ about it.
3. Connect with others
If you have been feeling isolated and lonely recently, or simply want to meet new people and widen your social circle, volunteering in your local community can be a great way to connect with others and make new friends.
Volunteering together with a partner, relative, or friend can strengthen your existing relationships.
4. Build self-confidence and resilience
Knowing that you are using your time to serve others and support people in your community can provide a natural sense of accomplishment and broader purpose.
Volunteering can provide a self-validating experience and foster a belief in being able to make a difference, this in turn brings about improvements in confidence and self-esteem.
5. Improve your physical health
There’s no doubt that volunteering can have some great benefits for your mental health, but it can also improve your physical health.
Many volunteer positions can be highly active or get you outdoors.
I can recount the days where I’ve been involved with local community projects where I’ve easily reached 25,000 steps in a day, whereas my usual average is 9,000 steps! The benefits of volunteering for organisations
Volunteering in the workplace has risen exponentially over the last decade, led by millennials and now increasingly by generation Z.
This younger demographic is increasingly seeking to integrate their professional careers, personal life and broader interests - throwing away the old notions of ‘work-life balance’.
Increasingly, businesses are seeking to enact their broader purpose and commitment towards the integration of economic, environmental, and social aims into strategic objectives, activities, and planning. This has led to the perfect environment for volunteering opportunities to thrive in the workplace.
The benefits of volunteering for organisations
1. Better teamwork
Even if it’s just for the day, teams who participate in a worthwhile activity for a great cause tend to foster a stronger sense of teamwork.
Being able to work together for a common goal, particularly when it’s for a community project or another worthwhile cause, encourages employees to support one another and strengthen their bond.
This renewed sense of commitment and teamwork often continues in the workplace and daily life.
2. New skills
Spending time working on voluntary projects can provide employees with the opportunity to develop and learn a new set of skills.
Projects with charities and community organisations can open the opportunity for employees to try things that they have never experienced before, or even learn a new skill.
As a result, employees will come to work with an improved sense of worth and increased motivation, which can positively affect their wellbeing and lead to better engagement and productivity at work.
3. Improved employee productivity and retention
Research carried out by Great Place to Work found that companies which offer voluntary programmes are more likely to stay with their employer - I’ve personally experienced and can attest to this.
I’ve found that companies which truly embed a culture of volunteering often find employees develop a deeper sense of connection, commitment and satisfaction to their roles, improving both retention and productivity.
4. Increased awareness
Employees at firms who run volunteer programs tend to be proud to tell others where they work compared to employees who do not have the chance to volunteer.
By providing volunteer opportunities to employees, you can expect them to share information about their paid time off to volunteer with their families and friends, creating increased brand awareness for your company.
For anyone wanting to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the gov.uk website to find organisations in your local area.