If volunteering is so good for you, why do more people not do it?

5 November 2019

We have long known that people who choose to volunteer benefit in ways that go far beyond having a sense of doing something good. 

Marion blog (hwbvol)This week’s publication of ‘The Contribution of Volunteering to Scotland’s Health and Wellbeing’ highlights a range of benefits that volunteers experience including better mental and physical health, improved life expectancy and reduced social isolation. 

This begs the question - if volunteering is so good for you, why do more people not do it?  There are lots of opportunities - organisations are crying out for new volunteers.  If something needs done and someone has time to fill, put them together - job done! 

If only it was that easy.  Most things in life that look straight forward on the surface can be complex when you peel back the layers - and so it is with volunteer engagement.  Involving people who see volunteering as a new, alien or impossible activity is rarely straightforward.  However, research shows us that people who have the most to gain through volunteering, can be the most difficult to engage or the easiest to ignore.  

New guidance for volunteer engagers, also published this week, gives simple hints and tips on how to create, develop & sustain opportunities which will appeal to people who have never volunteered before (or do not see themselves as volunteers).  'Optimising Health and Wellbeing Benefits from Volunteering: Good Practice for Engaging and Supporting Volunteers' gives guidance on how to engage people from different backgrounds, some of whom may experience complex barriers, and a range of tips to help ensure they have an excellent volunteering experience.  As importantly, the guidance gives tips on how staff can take care of themselves and ensure that their support of volunteers does not become a drain on their own health and wellbeing!

Volunteering is increasingly recognised as a contributor to a healthier and happy Scotland, so this guidance is a timely reminder that successful volunteering programmes are dependent on organisations doing their best to support the health and wellbeing of all staff, whether paid or voluntary.