10 things I learnt during Volunteers’ Week

As another hugely successful Volunteers’ Week draws to a close I thought I would look back and reflect on 10 new things about volunteering I learnt over the past seven days.

Over a third of us would be interested in volunteering for the NHS

A new survey by ICM for RVS has found that 40% of adults would be interested in volunteering for the health service, with the most popular activities being helping out in a shop or café, taking patients out on social visits, hospital visiting, or assisting on the ward.

Volunteers play an important role in strengthening democracy

A new report from CDF, Trust in Democracy: how community groups bridge the gap between people and politics, reveals that volunteers are almost 50% more likely to feel they have an influence over local political structures. And many people involved in community activity use it as a grounding to go into more formal political roles.

Volunteering will impress future employers

According to a study from the employment consultants Universum employers are less impressed by your qualifications and which university you went to and more taken with the skills and experience you have learnt through volunteering and work experience.

Volunteering is one of five lifestyle choices guaranteed to make us happier

According to Professor Paul Dolan who was speaking at this Year’s Hay festival. The others are listening to a favourite piece of music, spending five minutes with someone you like, going outdoors, and having a new experience. It got me thinking that someone volunteering at Glastonbury for the first time with a friend might be able to clock up all five at the same time? Prof Dolan leaves us with the following natty sound-bite: ‘helping other people is a very selfish thing to do. It’s a good source of happiness for you. Just randomly help someone and see the difference’.

Young people who take part in volunteer projects are more willing to participate in volunteering again….

…. but less likely to donate to charity, according to a new study published by the Cabinet Office.

We are getting better at recognising the contribution of volunteers

There were 187 recipients of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service this year, up 60% on last year, recognising the contribution volunteers make in all walks of life, from helping us remember Britain’s worst mining disaster to a volunteer rescue boat service on Loch Lomond.

Employer-supported volunteering is on the rise

According to latest figures from the Community Life Survey featured in this year’s Civil Society Almanac published by NCVO today. However, although volunteering remains strong, with 27% of adults in 2013/14 (the latest year for which figures are available) having taken part at least once a month through an organisation and 41% at least once a year, participation has dipped slightly from the previous year’s figures of 29% and 44% respectively.

The new influx of MPs seem to have got the volunteering bug

61 Members signed up to an Early Day Motion welcoming Volunteers’ Week and celebrating the value of volunteering and ‘the promotion of civic democracy based on the principles of freedom of expression and association’ which ‘supports and enhances life in the communities of the UK’. As of Sunday 7 June this was the best supported EDM this Session. Oh and worth noting that 41 of the 61 signatories came from the Scottish National Party, so further work to do with our parliamentarians in the rest of the UK.

More than a billion people volunteer globally

So says the latest State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, published by the United Nations. The report praises some governments such as Peru, Mozambique and Norway for developing a ‘supportive environment’ for volunteering, but criticises others for failing to acknowledge ‘the immense potential of volunteers to help them chart a more successful development path’.

And finally

Volunteering is more popular than ‘Britain’s Got Talent’

Well on Monday Volunteers’ Week was trending number two on Twitter, ahead of Britain’s Got Talent Final 2015, making the point perhaps that volunteering is the greatest demonstration of the UK’s talent. At one stage during the Week we were trending at number one in London and Birmingham, number two in the UK and an incredible number eight in the world!

Thanks to everyone for your contribution to the Week and the biggest thanks of course to the brilliant volunteers.

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Justin was executive director of volunteering and development at NCVO and chief executive of Volunteering England. He is now a senior research fellow at City University Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness.

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