Working Well: How volunteering to help young people also boosts volunteers’ wellbeing

By Chris Percy and Martin Rogers.

The Education and Employers Charity has been supporting people from the world of work to volunteer in schools and colleges since 2009. We know that such volunteering has considerable benefits for young people as well as benefits for employers, such as staff skills gain and saved training costs, among many other benefits. There’s also evidence that volunteers hugely value their own participation.

We want to understand better how volunteers feel volunteering contributes to their wellbeing and how that contribution can be enhanced. To explore these topics, we draw on a survey of 1,026 volunteers, collected between November 2018 and March 2019 from our own Inspiring the Future volunteers and via partner networks. To analyse wellbeing at work, we focus on four questions about volunteers’ sense of mission at work, levels of motivation and work satisfaction.

Between them, this sample of volunteers describe an average of 3 days volunteering in education activities per year and a further 3 days volunteering in other activities – adding up to almost 50,000 hours between them. They report that 1 education volunteering supports their wellbeing; 2 more volunteering typically results in more benefits; and 3 supportive employers make a difference:

  1. Education volunteering supports wellbeing: 62% reported improvements to their “sense of mission” at work as a result of their volunteering in education. 88% reported benefits for their motivation in day-to-day life outside work; 77% reported the same for motivation at work. 49% reported that their volunteering has ultimately improved their satisfaction with their employer or line of work.
  2. More is better: The more hours volunteered, the more likely employee volunteers were to report an impact. For instance, 55% of those volunteering the equivalent of 10+ days a year reported strong or very strong impact on their in-work motivation, compared to 32% of those doing fewer than 4 hours a year. This pattern is often small but statistically significant, remaining present when controlling statistically for key background factors: the volunteer’s age, gender, location, seniority at work and number of dependents. More varied types of volunteering also have a small, positive association with greater reported benefits.
  3. Supportive employers matter: The more personally supported volunteers felt, the greater the benefits they reported in all areas. The same applies when volunteers did more volunteering during paid working hours. When employers actively seek out volunteering opportunities for staff, 62% said that volunteering enhanced their work satisfaction, compared to 40% when their employer was aware of their volunteering activities but only supported them passively. Many volunteers spoke highly of their employers: less than 1% felt actively discouraged and 46% felt very supported.

Read the full report.

View the survey