19.3% of Europeans are involved in some form of voluntary work. Data are highly heterogeneous and diverse when comparing countries and regions. According to Eurostat data published in the report by the Volunteer Platform in 2018, countries with the highest rates of population participating in volunteering are Norway (48%) and the Netherlands (40.3%). At the bottom of the list, we find the countries within the Mediterranean arc such as Italy (12%), Greece (11.7%), Spain (10.7%), along with other Eastern European countries closing the ranking.
What is volunteering about?
Volunteering is a social practice that consists of offering (giving away) personal time and skills, freely and without remuneration, based on planned activities carried out through social entities.
The most important reasons why it is worthwhile to volunteer, according to the study by the Volunteer Platform, are: the chance to provide help, the relationship with other people, the feeling of contributing with something positive to society, and the ability to generate social change.
In general, the Spanish population shows a lot of interest in volunteering, with 65.3% confirming that they have a lot or quite a lot of trust in volunteer activities, and 32.4% showing interest in participating in some programme, although as shown at the beginning, only 10.7% of Spaniards participate in volunteering, with some small differences between men (9.8%) and women (11.7%).
Corporate volunteering: the key to proper business practice
Perhaps the most interesting thing is to understand the reasons why people do not volunteer as they have in mind. Work is the main reason, according to the study. They literally state that “work leaves them no time to spare“. The second cause is not having free time because they are taking care of other people. A possible solution could be to promote volunteering activities in the workplace, which is known as corporate volunteering. In fact, article 21 of Act 45/2015 encourages and invites companies to promote and participate in volunteer programmes in Spain.
There’s already a corporate volunteering network, VOLUNTARE, which was created in 2011 with the aim of sharing and encouraging pioneering experiences in CSR related to corporate volunteering actions. Among other tasks, the network is a reference point, promoting alliances between companies and the third sector around Corporate Volunteering.
Yes, it is necessary to provide help as professionals
Continuing with the strategic decision making in favour of Corporate Volunteering, however, there’s still a certain reluctance regarding its promotion and use by organisations, either large or small. According to Prof. Rodell’s study, published in the Academy of Management Journal, one of the world’s most prestigious academic management periodicals, there are two major unanswered questions:
- Does volunteering emerge when there is “meaningful” work, or does it tend to emerge among employees who have “meaningless” work for which they compensate by volunteering?
- Is volunteering good for the job? Or is it a source of distraction?
Based on two empirical studies published in the same article, Prof. Rodell, an expert in corporate volunteering, answers precisely the two questions above. Firstly, her results indicate that it is precisely a healthy and “meaningful” environment that makes it possible for options to emerge and develop corporate volunteering, and not in the opposite way as might be thought.
Secondly, the study seeks to understand whether volunteering is a distraction for the employee that reduces productivity, or, conversely, a motivating factor. To answer the question, the study required the participation of the supervisors and managers of the employees participating in the study, to find out from a third party their level of productivity. The results were again surprising: carrying out a voluntary activity is related to greater productivity at work. Therefore, to encourage corporate volunteering is to encourage a triple win-win-win: for the cause in question, for the volunteer himself, and now we know that also for the company where the volunteer works.
Covid-19 and corporate volunteering
Nevertheless, we could think that in times of COVID-19, volunteering loses its momentum. Yet, the latest report from Voluntare, far from showing a scenario where volunteering is frozen, reveals that in the current situation contact and presence has decreased as we can imagine, but has led to an increase in commitment and involvement. The report also presents different initiatives from well-known companies that allow us to put a face to these new realities and programmes, and that at the same time serve as a stimulus and a guide to continue strengthening the relationship between companies and social entities. Go ahead and volunteer!