Are We Becoming a Nation of Volunteers?
For centuries, people have been giving up their spare time to help others in need and support causes that are close to their hearts. In fact, many societies worldwide actively promote the idea of volunteering, socialising people in a way that allows them to come together to make a difference. That’s volunteering at its core – an organised means of actively giving back.
But, over the past year, we’ve noticed a significant rise in people searching for ways to volunteer in their communities, with volunteering opportunities increasing by 124%. That begs the question, are we as a nation becoming more inclined to work for free?
A growing trend
NCVO’s January 2019 survey revealed that almost four in ten Britons currently volunteer, and seven in ten say that they’ve volunteered at some point in their life. Compared to our European counterparts, it seems like we’re performing rather well. In Italy, for example, only 9% of the total population say that they’ve volunteered in their lifetime. That means Brits are taking more time to volunteer, whether it’s on a regular basis or on infrequent occasions.
According to the NfpSynergy 2017 report, the proportion of 16 to 24-year olds who volunteer has risen significantly over the past thirteen years, up from 15% to 29%. A comparable percentage change was seen in 25 to 34-year olds over the same period.
Which areas of the UK are showing the most interest?
Google search data tells a similar story. When looking at search volume in the UK around the term “volunteering near me” from December 2017 to December 2018, the following data was captured:
|Country||Difference in search volume|
While England, Scotland and Wales have seen similar increases in search volume, Northern Ireland has experienced more than a three-fold rise in searches for the term. This could be down to the substantial push from male suicide campaigns to raise awareness and encourage fundraising, following the announcement that the country has the highest suicide rate in the UK. There is also a high level of competition for skilled positions in the country and volunteering is one way for people to differentiate themselves from the rest.
So, what are the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering has now been acknowledged as part of the wider health policy, with the NHS five-year plan highlighting the need for community volunteering. This is down to the mental and physical health benefits that can be reaped from volunteering.
The NCVO discovered that the majority of people believed volunteering benefited their mental health and even acted as an antidote to loneliness. 77% of those surveyed revealed that volunteering had improved their mental health and 53% claimed their physical health had benefitted from the activity.
When you go out of your way to help others, you’re fuelling a reward pathway in your brain known as the mesolimbic system. This releases a buzz commonly referred to as ‘helper’s high’. In other words, the more you give back, the better you feel.
How can you get involved in volunteering?
If you want to start volunteering, there are a range of ways you can go about this.
- Research local charities by looking on social media and online to discover organisations near you. Remember that volunteering can be mutually beneficial too, you may find a volunteering opportunity that could improve your CV!
- Check out charity vacancy sites. CharityJob has thousands of charity specialist jobs and volunteering opportunities that you might be interested in.
- Be a self-starter! You might’ve recognised an issue close to home and you want to try and help. If there are no charities that are currently dealing with this problem, start your own. Read more about setting up your own charity.
While many people are deciding to volunteer themselves, there is also a push from schools, universities and employers. NfpSynergy’s findings also revealed that volunteering rates peaked at 33% among 16 to 24-year olds in 2013/14 but in 2017 this peak was also discovered in 24 to 34-year olds. This suggests that people who began volunteering at school and university are continuing to do so as they get older. It could be that people do need an extra push to start giving back but when they do, they realise the benefits. If you’re studying at the moment, take the time to speak to your school about any connections they have with local charities, this could be a great way to get involved with the local communities.
10% of volunteers give their time via employer-supported volunteering. As company’s push to better their workforce and company, volunteering has been realised as a great way to improve mental health and get the brand involved in local causes. For example, suits retailer CT Shirts allows their employees one day volunteering per year to encourage them to get involved with the local community. Similarly, Accenture, a large consulting firm, provide their staff with three corporate volunteering days to help a charity. This is certainly a suggestion you could raise in the workplace. Many employers are happy to implement programmes into their business that will improve employee happiness and satisfaction — volunteering certainly does that!
Laura-Jane Todd is a copywriter at digital marketing agency, Mediaworks. After graduating with a degree in Marketing from Newcastle University in July 2017, Laura-Jane took on the role as copywriter in August of the same year. She uses her creative skills to write unique content for a range of clients from various industries.