Many people in the UK and beyond give their time volunteering every year and this is of great benefit to not just them but to the charities that they help with. There are many different kinds of charities and they deal with everything from homelessness to animal welfare and humanitarian life-saving services.
Many of the charities that benefit from this volunteering have shops on UK high streets and these are a common place to see volunteers in action. Many of the volunteers are older people who have retired and are looking for something to do in order to remain active and it is a good way for them to retain social connections at a time of life when they are perhaps falling away in other areas of their lives.
Benefits of Volunteering to Different Groups
Benefits to Young People
Not all volunteers are elderly and volunteering is a great thing for any young person to have on their CV. It shows that they have a willingness to help others and that they can put the needs of others above themselves. It can also be a way to gain experience in retail before they have been able to secure a paid position in the sector. Volunteering definitely enhances the transferable skills that people take with them throughout their careers and working with others who are more experienced will help with the upskilling of the young people who take part.
Volunteering may not be top of the list for what Gen Z wants from work but it is a good way to avoid first job anxiety because they will already have experienced what it is like to be in a working environment. Volunteering may also help to open the door to their first charity sector job.
Young people will learn how to deal with people who are older than them for the first time, who don’t share a familial relationship with them, and this is an excellent thing to learn. Being able to relate to all age groups can be a real plus in any job and being able to build fulfilling friendships and working relationships with people whose lives have looked very different to theirs is a way of broadening horizons, empathy and imagination and will stand them in very good stead going forward. It allows younger people to see older generations in a better light and to appreciate their skills and their usefulness in a work setting..
Benefits to Older People
When people get a little older and they pass retirement age, it can feel like all of the skills they have developed and accrued over their lifetimes are just discarded and are no longer worth anything. This can obviously hurt their self-esteem and inject a large dose of self-doubt into their lives. Volunteering is a way that they can find their self-confidence again and banish impostor syndrome back to the shadows where it belongs.
They can begin to make work friends and find a new sense of belonging and a shared sense of purpose by working together with their colleagues in a common cause. It can also help to improve their relationship at home. Sometimes when people have both retired, they begin to find it more difficult to live with each other because they are both always at home.
Their routines in their working lives may have seen one of them being out at work all day, and then to suddenly have them in the same place all of the time can put a real pressure on the relationship as both people’s normal routines have been upended. Giving each party their own time apart from each other is healthy and this is one thing that volunteering can do.
Being able to volunteer and feel useful can help to keep older people active both mentally and physically and this can help to delay some of the effects of ageing. An active mind is known to be a way to help to combat the onset of dementia and physical exercise such as walking to their volunteering location can keep their muscles active and their bodies in good working order.
It can also give people outside their immediate family the chance to spend time with them for extended periods and to notice if something doesn’t seem right with them, or follow up if they miss a shift where they should have turned up, and call for medical help for them if needed. It is another layer of caring people who will do what they can to make sure that they are doing ok.
Benefits to the Charity Sector
The benefits that volunteers bring to the charity sector are enormous and are almost unquantifiable in terms of monetary cost. Involving volunteers can help charities to access a much wider range of skills than they would ever have had access to before. Think of your average coffee morning, they normally include an element of home baking, there will be poster design and promotion, someone will have told the local papers as well as publicised it on social media.
Having access to people who can do all of these things in order to bring in fundraising money for them is invaluable for charities these days, particularly when the sector is harder pressed than ever due to the problems being caused by the UK recession.
Health of the Charity Sector
According to the annual Community Life Survey which is run by the UK Government, the number of people volunteering has shrunk rapidly in recent years, from 21 Million people in 2013/14 to 14 Million people in 2020/21. It is the lowest number since records began and represents a real loss to the charity sector in terms of raw manpower, energy and ability.
This blow comes at a time when many people are relying more on help from charity than ever before as the cost of living crisis hits hard and people are having to choose between heating their homes and eating.