Social Science Series #8: The importance of volunteers in non-governmental organizations

What is volunteering?

The most valuable source of human and social capital that organizations have is volunteerism. Volunteering is viewed as a tangible example of social engagement made up of a range of cooperative activities created by a community. This involvement is unrelated to jobs, relationships, or legal obligations. Volunteering focuses on providing an organized response to social needs, based on dedication, collaboration, and a commitment to the common good. It is the foundation of developing critical citizenship with increased expression of a social conscience.

Source: ILO Department of Statistics, 2020

Difference between volunteers and paid workers

The primary distinction between volunteers and employees is that volunteers give their time and effort without expecting payment, whereas employees get paid for the work they do. Volunteers willingly contribute their personal time and talents to support a cause rather than being obliged.  They are not required to work a certain number of hours or tasks, nor do they have a set timetable. Typically, their participation and contributions tie back to their passions, motives, and dedication to a certain cause they deeply care about. Contrarily, employees are contracted by a business or organization to carry out a specified set of tasks and satisfy a specific set of requirements on a predetermined timetable. Workers are paid for the job they do, which may take the form of a set wage or performance-based pay.

Source: Nonprofit Risk Management Center, 2018

Types of volunteer participation

There are many different kinds of volunteers; a few are listed below:

  • Occasional volunteers: Those who occasionally provide their time and talents to support certain events or initiatives, such as charity fairs.
  • Short-term volunteering: commit to working on specific initiatives for a limited time.
  • Long-term volunteers: make a commitment to work for a cause for a long length of time, which can be many months or years.
  • Virtual volunteers: use technology to do remote tasks, such as providing online tutoring.
  • Skilled volunteers: utilize their specialized skills and expertise to contribute to a cause.
  • International volunteers: those who go to other nations to work on certain projects or causes.
  • Community volunteers: work on initiatives to enhance the local area’s environment and standard of living.

Source: Meaningful Work, 2022

Volunteers’ motives

The motivation behind engaging in volunteerism can vary, however, one of the most common motives includes the sense of community contribution, meaning that volunteers are motivated to make an impact on society. Another motive is personal and professional growth, as individuals can gain knowledge and experience through their volunteering activities, as well as create a network of contacts. Moreover, individuals can be motivated to socialize and meet people with similar interests and values as them. Volunteering can also be attractive to people as an opportunity to experiment with something new, get out of their comfort zones, and leave behind their usual routine.

Source: Volunteering Australia, 2022

How do NGOs recruit volunteers?

NGOs can have different ways of recruiting volunteers, including promotions and publicizing their needs through social media, television, and magazines, or by directly contacting individuals who have shown interest in the organization’s work. In addition, NGOs can organize community events such as fairs in which they provide information for prospective volunteers or by establishing partnerships with companies and organizations in order to promote volunteer work among their employees.

Source: Young African Leaders Initiative, 2022

Importance of volunteers globally and in NGOs

  • Fostering a stronger sense of unity, involving marginalized people in community projects, and improving overall physical and mental health are also reported.
  • Carrying out NGO operations and projects, helping NGOs reach more people and have a greater influence on the community.
  • Aiding NGOs in increasing public awareness of the issues and difficulties they confront as well as fostering the spread of pertinent information to solve such issues.
  • Involving volunteering in addressing and resolving issues that affect their locality, promoting a better understanding of their own community needs and strengthening the social ties within it.

Source: Team Stage, 2023 and Global Journal of Management and Social Science, 2014

Difference in the impact of volunteers in developed and developing nations

Both developed and developing nations view volunteering as a valuable asset to address the needs and challenges faced by local communities. Since each country has different needs and resources, the effects of volunteers in developed and developing nations might differ significantly. Compared to developed nations, developing nations frequently encounter greater challenges in the poverty alleviation, as well as the provision of quality healthcare and education. As a result, volunteers in developing nations work in fields that aim to provide immediate assistance and improve the welfare of the communities where they work. On the contrary, developed nations frequently have greater resources, including funding for training, equipment, and technology, which are commonly utilized to support non-profit groups and volunteers. As these resources are frequently lacking in developing nations, volunteers may need to adjust to challenging circumstances. It is also important to note that the perception and value of volunteering may differ significantly between cultures in developed and developing nations. For instance, in various countries, the sense of philanthropy, community participation and social responsibility to give back one’s own community is seen as a cultural norm and value, and therefore increases the engagement in volunteerism. Recurring giving programs are one of the main ways local citizens continuously engage in donations, with the highest global percentage of local donors being in Africa (62%), the US (57%), Australia (54%), New Zealand (44%), and in Latin America (42%). Volunteerism and its impact the community are particularly influenced by each nations’ unique demands and circumstances.

Source: Team Stage, 2023

Importance of NGOs’ measurement of volunteers’ impact

Upon examining the numerous benefits that volunteers offer, it is prudent for organizations to assess their impact. This is necessary to determine and monitor the benefits brought by volunteers while improving the standard, scope, and results of their activities. A formalized process for collecting volunteer data can aid in a precise report of activities and increase each volunteer’s personal engagement and skill development by providing personalized evaluations and feedback. Furthermore, knowledge of this data can provide the organization with a solid understanding of the needs, values, and motivation of volunteers today, enabling them to enhance their volunteer management procedure. The data can also be used to identify the areas where many people rely on others’ help.

Source: ILO Department of Statistics, 2020

Volunteerism in JCWO

Since 2021, JCWO has been actively seeking and recruiting volunteers to assist in a variety of areas including content edition, information technology, marketing, design, and language. Furthermore, the organization has the assistance of volunteer research professionals who are experts in fields like immuno-oncology, breast cancer, statistics, among others. Currently, JCWO has on board, and is continually welcoming and recruiting volunteers who share the same values and commitment to helping those in need. If you want to volunteer with JCWO, upload your CV and interests to the opportunities section on the website. The contribution of volunteers is essential and necessary to impact the lives of the most vulnerable.

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