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volunteer 1 2469 key findings on impact of volunteering on volunteers 

From research by NCVO

NCVO looked at latest reseach to summarise the current understanding of the impact of volunteering across four main areas: mental health and wellbeing, physical health, social connections, and employability and skills and so provide insights to inform volunteering policy and practice.

They found the following:

  • There is strong evidence on the link between volunteering and improved mental health and wellbeing. Studies that control for factors such as prior self-esteem, as well as research that looks at the same people over a long period of time, suggest a causal relationship between the two.
  • Volunteering can improve people’s social connections and is positively associated with improved mental health and wellbeing. However, the way volunteers are recruited sometimes means having high social capital is needed to get involved in the first place.
  • Volunteering is associated with increased physical health, but evidence for a causal relationship is weaker than for mental health. The extent to which other factors, such as existing levels of health, account for these effects deserves greater attention in research.
  • Volunteering has a weak impact on people’s chances of finding work. Volunteering can improve people’s skills (including soft skills such as teamwork) but this doesn’t guarantee finding a job. 

Where possible they have also identified features of volunteering that increase the effects on volunteers, including those that cut across the different areas outlined above. They found that:

  • Motivation for volunteering affects the impact on volunteers. Research in this area suggests that volunteering for altruistic reasons is more likely to benefit volunteers than doing so for ‘self-orientated’ reasons, although the distinction between them may not be clear-cut. 
  • A positive impact on mental health is more likely when people take part voluntarily, rather than when mandated to do so. Moreover, some research suggests that those taking part voluntarily contribute more time than those required to volunteer. 
  • The time spent volunteering influences the benefits people get from volunteering. But the exact levels at which positive impacts begin and end are not yet clear. Volunteering over a sustained period, however, does appear to be more likely to produce benefits for volunteers.
  • Evidence suggests that whether volunteers feel appreciated in their role is an important factor in making volunteering impactful. Older volunteers who feel appreciated, for example, report more improvement in quality of life and are less socially isolated those who do not feel appreciated.
  • The quality of relationships formed while volunteering should also be considered when evaluating volunteering programmes. Research points to the importance of developing a connection with beneficiaries as important in improving mental wellbeing.

Read the full paper here

See also a blog on this site - Working well with volunteers.

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From a blog by NCVO, 15/05/2018

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