By Helen Froggett, Business Development Director at The Accountancy Practice who continues her inspirational series of insights and lifestyle tips and this month focuses on the positive impact which volunteering can have on personal and business success.
Volunteering is big business. And it’s not just benefitting the obvious recipients of our time. Seems it’s just as valuable for the individual giving their time (no surprise there for anyone who has ever volunteered) and also for organisations who encourage their staff to support their local community within work hours.
I think it’s fair to say that volunteering is a concept which has been around since time immemorial, but because it was deemed to be ‘altruistic’ some of the benefits have been overlooked, advocates would say it’s what makes the world go round, and could even be the ‘cure for all ills’. Especially those related to stress, anxiety and mental health.
I think there’s two main reasons for its popularity and ‘rebranding’ within corporations. Funding issues and ethical ‘millennials.
Perhaps it’s partly the reliance that many charities now have on gaining their own funding streams – so many charities are now having to fend for themselves – which has brought businesses into the equation, and the need to ‘quantify’ benefits in a less woolly ‘feel good’ fashion?
Many of you will be familiar with the new kid on the three-letter acronym block, especially those who work for larger businesses, some of which have adopted Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes for their staff. Which quite honestly, can only be a good thing.
A recent survey carried out by the volunteering charity CSV estimated that approximately 70% of FTSE 100 companies now run some form of an employee volunteering programme.
Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, gave a speech last year claiming that “frequent, formal volunteering” produces £24 billion worth of economic output in the UK each year. Haldane says this figure is “equivalent to 1.5% of GDP” . Making volunteering one of the country’s foremost industrial sectors. Indeed, Haldane comes to the conclusion that “the benefits to volunteering might be as large for volunteers themselves as they are for the recipients. In other words, in giving we really do receive – possibly as much as we give.”
Businesses benefit from providing their staff with something which helps them gain skills which they might otherwise struggle to gain within work. Studies indicate it makes recruitment easier and reduces stress, anxiety and sick leave as well as corporate tax bills!
The second big factor I believe, is a direct result of the enhanced moral compasses of the younger members of the workforce. And by young I mean those under 40. Who far from towing the line like I and my older compatriots were minded to by our ‘elders’, are recreating the workplace in their own image. Whether you like it or not, flexible working and social conscience are near the top of many people’s work agendas and volunteering as part of CSR is very much ‘de rigeur’.
A report commissioned by the consultancy services firm Deloitte in 2011 found that millennial employees who took part in employee volunteering programmes were twice as likely to regard their company culture as being ‘very positive’. These volunteers were also twice as likely to feel satisfied with their chosen company and career. Furthermore, 52 percent of these millennial volunteers said they felt ‘very loyal’ to their company.
There’s no doubt that volunteers feel a sense of community, connection and increased compassion.
From our perspective, it sits well with our businesses family values of ‘Commitment, Compassion and a Shared Vision’ and we at The Accountancy Practice have volunteered for two very different organisations – Home-start Herts (for whom we are now proud Ambassadors) and The Samaritans, and we do the accounts for another local charity, Support4Sight.
The benefits which our founder John Froggett gained from the training The Samaritans provided helped him along a path which has revolutionised his life. Volunteering for two hours a week before work gave him a helpful perspective on his own stresses, and the realisation of the need to step back and ‘listen’ to callers encouraged him to ‘be in the moment more’ and start running his own meditation sessions. A critical element of our ‘healthy work/life balance’ ethos.
I volunteered with Home-start, the national charity which supports struggling parents with children under ten, in their homes. The only qualification is that you’ve been a parent. Full training is given, it’s rewarding, comprehensive and covers a multitude of personal skills which are also essential for a harmonious workplace. Demand always strips supply.
Award winning charity Support4Sight were recently recognised by their local CVS (council for voluntary services) for making a ‘significant contribution to the lives’ of those they help and are celebrating 25 years helping people with visual impairments to maintain their independence and quality of life. They offer befriending, practical advice and run help-desks in eye departments of hospitals including Addenbrookes. They also support families and carers. Whether it’s helping out at coffee mornings, home visiting, manning a help desk, there’s a role to be filled and full training is given to all volunteers (Support4Sight cover the Cambridge/Herts/Essex region). The experience gained from volunteering whether it’s inside or outside work hours has been shown to help relieve stress, provide a sense of purpose and increase skills. Research conducted by John Hopkins University and the University of Tennessee found that charitable givers experience reduced rates of stress and lower blood pressure compared to those who do not give. Not forgetting the benefits for people wanting to get into work, or return for that matter, who find it gives them experience that makes them more employable and increases confidence.
If you have two hours a week to spare and think any of the following would benefit you then perhaps log onto your local CVS website and see who the perfect fit for you would be.
The possibilities are far ranging, you could …
- Uncover your true passions
- Meet new people and make new friends
- Discover new directions to take your career in
- Discover your true strengths
- Find hidden talents
- Feel the buzz of making a difference and feel good about yourself
- Enjoy seeing the real value of using your unique experiences to improve the lives of others
It seems that volunteering is one of those rare activities that is ‘good for you’ and genuinely benefits all concerned! What’s not to love!?