Every Little Helps! The Economics Of Volunteering


Volunteering may be good for the soul, but could it be good for our economy too? The UK benefits hugely from the volunteering industry. And it’s not just our country; individuals and companies, too, could feel the financial goodwill.

Let’s look at the facts.

It has great economic power in UK economy

Turns out volunteering is a popular occupation. In fact, nearly one billion people engage as volunteers worldwide yearly. Topping the charts are Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka and the U.S.

Britain itself isn’t doing too badly. Our great isle can boast double the non-profit task force of Sweden. In fact, back in 2014, the equivalent of 1.25 million full-time volunteers engaged in work for free across the country.

And it shows in numbers. In 2012, the Office for National Statistics placed the value of formal regular voluntary activity to the UK economy at £23.9 billion. That’s 1.4% of GDP – double the value of the country’s agricultural industry at the time.

Clearly, volunteering has an important place not only in our hearts but in the British economy at large.

Private economic power

It’s not just the common pocket that gains when you slave away in that soup kitchen! By giving up your time for unpaid work, you’re benefitting financially too.

How? It’s simple: research shows that volunteer work makes us happier. In fact, the margin by which it elevates our overall happiness could only be achieved financially with a yearly raise of £2500. So, effectively, you’re saving that amount of money.

We hear you groan. “But I can’t pay my Netflix subscription with happiness,” moans Sam Selfish, as he stays up to watch yet another episode of Stranger Things. It may well interest Sam to know that TV has exactly the opposite effect of non-profit work, in that it reduces your overall life satisfaction. Young Sam might do well to re-examine his priorities.

Economic power in companies

Companies aren’t immune to modern trends. Increasingly, large businesses like Deloitte are offering volunteering incentives to their staff, including paid hours to spend on non-profit activities. Why? They recognise how important giving back is not only to their company profile but workforces themselves.

“My hunch is that, over time, more companies will need to recognise the benefits of volunteering, not just among Board members but among employees,” says Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England. “Why? The two Rs – recruitment and retention. Generation Y, born from the 1980s onwards, place a much greater weight on a diverse career experience, with a strong social dimension, than their predecessors. And Generation Z, the Millennials, are unlikely to buck that trend. Where they lead, companies will surely need to follow.”

So next time a hiring manager asks you about your volunteering efforts, know your pastime’s worth. Volunteering is a fantastic thing to do, whether for yourself or your country; make sure you make the most of it.

About Susanna Quirke

Susanna writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency.

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