Businesses Embrace Volunteering – Rebecca Jones

by Sarah Harris|Mar 22 2016|Blog

Volunteering is often seen as an individual, personal activity, undertaken by altruistic people who might occasionally help out at their local homeless shelter, care home or school. However like much in the voluntary and not for profit sector, this perception is beginning to shift as volunteering is increasingly being recognized as a tool to mobilise entire communities, cities and even countries.

In the UK, the London 2012 Summer Olympics was arguably the first event to underline the attraction and power of volunteering on a mass scale. As early as 2004, organisers set a target of around 70,000 volunteer ‘Games Makers’ for London 2012, which ran between July and August 2012.

However, when recruitment for London 2012 took place in 2010, over 240,000 applications were received. Former Olympian Sebastian Coe, who headed the bid for the games, said in February 2012: ‘Our Games Makers will contribute a total of around eight million volunteer hours during the games, which simply wouldn’t happen without them.’

The legacy of London 2012 was the leading driver behind the city being crowned European Volunteering Capital 2016 in December, following a successful bid led by Team London which was delivered to the European Volunteer Centre.

Team London was established following the London 2012 games to continue its volunteering legacy and to date has proved a big success, mobilising over 120,000 active volunteers, including over 60,000 young people. It has also supported nearly 1,600 charities, offering grants of over £3 million.

In addition, Team London has signed up over 100 London based firms to the Mayor of London’s ‘Corporate Commitment’, which encourages companies to recognise the value of volunteering on a business level, as well as a personal one.

The Commitment asks businesses of all sizes to: recognise the role employee volunteering plays in improving employability; recognise the value of volunteering experience in the recruitment of young people; and give staff a minimum of one day per year to volunteer.

This reflects a big shift in attitudes toward volunteering. According to team London, 65 per cent of Londoners now state they would be more likely to work for an employer that encourages volunteering, and employers are beginning to listen.

This is not least as a number of studies, such as one conducted in Germany in 2011, show that volunteers make better employees. During the above study of over 100 German employees, researchers found those who volunteered at least once a week felt they had more control over their lives and work, were better able to cope with stress and could tackle challenges far better than those who didn’t. Moreover, they found that the effect wasn’t short term; on the contrary, volunteering employees were happier and more productive than their peers long after they stopped volunteering.

Businesses are waking up to the potential advantages of volunteering for everyone involved. Increasingly, companies are encouraging employees to give back to their communities – and not just through the odd away day to the local school, but through longer-term initiatives such as regular mentoring.

In the future companies will hopefully provide more time and space for their employees to volunteer in meaningful, long-term projects in both their own communities and further afield; where often some of the most life changing work can be done.

END

Rebecca Jones is former deputy editor of Money Observer magazine and a regular commentator on issues surrounding sustainable, responsible investing. She has been writing about finance and investment since 2011 and is a big fan of cats. You can find her tweeting at @rebeccaejones.

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