Volunteering is an increasingly popular and widespread activity in the UK. In 2014/15 an estimated 14.2 million people volunteered formally at least once a month, with 64% of the population volunteering informally at least once a year. In Leicester and Leicestershire alone we contributed 24 million hours over the year from 189,000 volunteers!
More and more people are experiencing the unique benefits of volunteering, but what exactly are these benefits and why is volunteering worth pursuing?
Benefits for the community
There are hundreds of voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations locally who depend on volunteers for their survival. For many of these volunteer-involving organisations (VIOs), they simply wouldn’t be able to offer their services to the wider community. A steady stream of volunteers means that the wider community can continue to benefit from the work of charities who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay a team of full-time staff.// Volunteers also make a significant contribution to the economy. In 2014/15, volunteers in Leicester and Leicestershire contributed £157 million to the local economy, with the Office of National Statistics estimating that formal volunteers across the UK contributed over £23.9 billion in 2012/13!.
Benefits for VIOs
Volunteer-involving organisations also benefit from the contribution of volunteers due to the fact that volunteers bring with them unique skill sets, experiences and ideas. Volunteers offer a different perspective that is not always obtained from paid staff, as well as the ability to deliver more varied and substantial work. In the ever-changing voluntary sector landscape it is often only through the commitment and skills of volunteers that organisations are able to continue to deliver services to areas of the community that need it most.
Benefits for individuals
Volunteering offers individuals a chance to gain and develop new and existing skills through learning, training and hands-on involvement in a variety of roles and organisations. With volunteering opportunities available in a variety of areas ranging from administration to sport there is an opportunity out there for everyone, no matter what skills they are looking to develop. The skills gained through volunteering can often be utilised en route to further volunteering, education and employment and the passion and commitment demonstrated by volunteering is something that will be a positive addition to any CV or application.
However, the benefits of volunteering go far beyond skill development; it also offers individuals the chance to meet new people, gain new friends and play an active part in their local community. Many VIOs recruit teams of volunteers, giving each individual a chance to meet with and learn from like-minded people. Volunteering also offers the unique opportunity to give back to causes important to the volunteers, their families, friends and communities. There is also plenty of anecdotal research that suggests volunteering can have a positive effect on wellbeing, happiness and self-esteem by allowing individuals an opportunity to act as part of a team and utilise their strengths and qualities in a significant and measurable way.
How can you get involved?
If you’re interested in seeing (or contributing to) some of these benefits for yourself, why not start searching for a volunteer opportunity online?
Alternatively, you can drop in and see us, or contact us to find out more.
 Based on Charity Commission data