Volunteers Week article: Why do people volunteer?

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Volunteers Week runs from Thurs 1st to Weds 7th June.  To support and celebrate organisations who work with volunteers we will be sharing an article for each day of the event.

Why do people volunteer?

Volunteers are the backbone of many of our charities, community groups, village halls and other not-for-profit organisations. ACRE’s National Village Halls Survey showed that 90% of rural community buildings are run by volunteer trustees and heavily reliant on fundraising, a lot of which is also done by volunteers, and this is true of many other organisations. Recruiting volunteers to roles that are best matched to their expectations and skills, and with the time that they are able to commit, is a challenge. It’s important to understand why people volunteer.

Types of volunteers

Long term volunteers

  • Are dedicated to their cause and its advancement, and often emotionally engaged.
  • Gain a sense of personal worth and purpose, and identity from their participation.
  • Are vital to our communities – most group activities rely on small numbers of long-term volunteers but problems can arise if they get overloaded or are unavailable.
  • Don’t suddenly appear from nowhere, which is why general call to ‘be on the committee’ doesn’t work. People don’t start with that deep connection to what you are doing, and generalist roles can feel like a step into the unknown.

Short term

  • Have a general interest in their cause or organisation, but might view it as central to their life.
  • May connect for or a specific event or need, or because they enjoy volunteering, rather than commitment to the particular cause
  • Might limit their participation balanced against competing demands on their time such as work, family, leisure activity.

So it’s really important to think about breaking volunteer activities down into small manageable tasks.

Skills and experience / personal development volunteers

  • Looking to develop skills to help them get into or on in work.
  • Young people building their CV or those in between employment opportunities.
  • Employer-supported volunteers might be very short term for a specific project.

Think about the many and varied skills you develop as part of your organisation. If you want to recruit personal development volunteers, make sure you focus on what they will gain. Volunteers enjoy learning new skills and utilising existing ones, being part of community life and extending their social network, making friends and making a contribution to their community. It’s important to match what they get out of volunteering with their motivations.


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