The benefits of student volunteering

Before joining NCVO I worked at Student Volunteering Cardiff (SVC), a charity run by students who would volunteer in and around the city of Cardiff to support vulnerable members of the community.

Student volunteering has been an integral part of Cardiff’s student community activities since the 1960’s, and this historical student engagement exists throughout many UK cities. SVC was actually formed in 2001 by the merging of two student led charities set up in the 1960’s and has now been running for over 15 years providing substantial support to the Cardiff Community.

Working at SVC was a fantastic experience and truly highlighted how important student volunteering is, not only for the individual volunteering but actually for the positive impact that students were having on the community that they were volunteering in.

A number of research projects have found that during their time at university, students contribute significantly to the wider community through the hours they give to groups and organisations through formal and informal volunteering. IVR research showed that 63% of students have taken part in formal and informal volunteering since starting university.

Giving back and helping others

Most people want to volunteer to improve situations or help people. This is also the same for student volunteers. A large majority of students who volunteer (95%) are motivated by a desire to improve things or help people.

Volunteering provides a unique opportunity for students during their time at university to make a difference to their local community, as well as developing their skills which leads me on to…

Developing skills and gaining work experience

For some, volunteering during university can be a route to employment, or a chance to try something new and develop skills. Volunteering can help students decipher which careers they are more or less well suited to due to the huge variety of volunteering opportunities now available in a range of different settings.

IVR research showed that developing skills (88%) and gaining work experience (83%) are important motivating factors for students engaging in volunteering. 51% of recent graduates under 30 who are in paid work stated that volunteering helped them to secure employment.

IVR found that nearly 39% of non-volunteers think linking volunteering to their academic subject or career would encourage them to become involved in volunteering. There is demand for more one-off volunteering opportunities and taster sessions from non-volunteers and Student Volunteering Week is a perfect time for universities and organisations to provide these opportunities to volunteers.

For information on recruiting and retaining volunteers, we have some top tips and guidance on developing one off opportunities for volunteers.

Building community awareness

Student volunteers make a significant contribution to organisations and the wider community, especially through the skills and enthusiasm that they bring and the hours that they volunteer with groups and organisations. Over half of students volunteering do so both during term time and vacations and a third volunteer at least once a week.

IVR research showed that student volunteering can develop students’ community awareness and help them integrate into the local communities outside of university, breaking out of what they called the ‘student bubble’. 77% of student volunteers indicate that their understanding of other people had increased as a result of volunteering.

Meeting new people

Finally, volunteering provides a great opportunity to meet people with similar interests and feel part of a community. IVR research showed that 74% of students experienced a wider range of friendships through volunteering.

IVR and NUS research show that universities need to invest in student volunteering. 48% of volunteers give their time to formal volunteering activities that benefit the wider community already, but without receiving any support from their university.

Ensuring that students have access to high quality volunteering opportunities and support will create the necessary conditions for student volunteering to grow in the future. Over 40 universities and students’ unions have achieved the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) quality standard, providing them with the opportunity to invest and benchmark the quality of their volunteer management programme, enhancing the overall volunteer’s experience.


Want to get involved?

There are a number of ways to find volunteering opportunities that suit you. Visit NCVO’s I want to volunteer page to find out more about what’s available in your area.


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Kathryn Harrington was NCVO’s volunteering development team assistant. She supported our work on volunteer management and good practice and supported the Investing in Volunteers Quality Standard.

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