Those who Give Happy, Live Happy: National Volunteer Week
Volunteers are United Way Australia‘s ’extended family’, helping drive our work to halve the percentage of children starting school unprepared and halve youth unemployment.
Fortunately they tell us that volunteering makes them happy too. And this is just the beginning. Businesses providing staff to volunteer with us tell us it increases their staff engagement and retention rates. Community organisations tell us our volunteering program supports them to focus on their core work, meaning they create greater impact too. Volunteering seems to be a win for individuals, employers and communities. So why aren’t more Australians doing it?
Last year 1,361 volunteers contributed almost 6,000 hours to support our work with local communities – the equivalent of employing 3 full-time staff members for the year. Given we have a full-time equivalent staff count of 16, volunteering input equates almost a 20% increase in our organisational capacity. It enables our organisation to improve more lives in Australia.
Many of the companies we work with are now utilising staff volunteering as a tool for professional development; feeding volunteering KPIs into their employee development plans. And this is yielding business results, increasing employee retention and engagement. Staff at all levels are feeling more connected to issues that matter to them as a result of their volunteering experiences:
“My team and I got as much out of the experience as the students did.” Matthew Smith, General Manager, Fuji Xerox
“I believe all staff in leadership positions should be involved in volunteering. It teaches you a lot about yourself and how to be a leader.” Daniel Doohan, Bps Application Support Team Leader, Fuji Xerox Australia
“It was both a refreshing and learning experience for me.” Mike Davis, CEO, Nikko AM
“It was a humbling and eye opening experience which has made me a richer person.” Genworth Volunteering Ambassador
The impacts in our program communities are positive too. We’ve seen high school students’ aspirations and confidence soar as a result of volunteer-led high school mentoring with students from often difficult family backgrounds, living in disadvantaged communities. The students often express astonishment that strangers would willingly give up their time to mentor them, and with such sincerity.
“Work experience has inspired me and I’m excited about getting a paid job”.
“I really wanted to be a hair dresser but after meeting all the mentors, I now want to travel the world and see what else is out there.”
“My life is easier – (I) know what Ineed to do to be successful and this gives me peace of mind and confidence.”
Volunteering is a good news story for United Way, but what about the rest of Australia? The economic, social and cultural case was highlighted recently in a report commissioned by Volunteering Tasmania: volunteering contributes nearly 5 billion dollars to the state’s economy. Volunteering is Tasmania’s largest industry. We know that volunteering is good for the economy. We know it’s good for communities. Companies benefit. Employees benefit. So this National Volunteering Week I ask you, are you volunteering?
We all have skills that can help others. You can volunteer your time through skilled or general tasks; volunteer directly with communities, from behind your desk at work, or remotely from home in your spare time. It can be long term or just a few hours; and the variety of causes to support are plentiful. This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is: Give Happy, Live Happy and every day we see volunteering leave a trail of perpetual positivity. Volunteering changes lives in ways that may surprise you, and in ways you may never know.
This National Volunteering Week find a cause you’re passionate about, ask yourself how you can lend your time and talent, and make contact with an organisation to find out how you can make a difference. (If you are interested in volunteering with United Way, do get in touch.)
About the author: Gail Yap is United Way Australia’s National Volunteering Manager, responsible for mobilising resources in the private sector to create lasting positive community impact. Gail has an extensive background in Corporate Volunteering and played a pivotal role in developing UWA’s national volunteering strategy.