Bernie Callaghan: Volunteers have a massive impact on British business

The sad news about Northern Rock Foundation’s closure will leave a large hole to be filled in many regional projects. One way forward for some of these may be to rely more on volunteers to help continue their valuable work

Bernie Callaghan
Bernie Callaghan

The sad news about Northern Rock Foundation’s closure will leave a large hole to be filled in many regional projects. One way forward for some of these may be to rely more on volunteers to help continue their valuable work.

Volunteers have a massive impact on British business.

There are more than 22 million volunteers across the UK, and their combined might has had a huge influence on the way in which our communities work.

In education, voluntary work is seen as a way for individuals to gain skills, take new opportunities and be active citizens.

In universities it is an important route to boosting employability, engaging with social enterprise and achieving valuable experience.

In schools, pupils are encouraged to volunteer in their communities.

Volunteers make a real difference to people’s lives, and that in turn helps society – and business - move forward.

Many of us have been grateful for their dedication, care and time, freely given.

Many businesses are becoming increasingly canny in their attitudes towards volunteering.

Giving time can improve team working and communication.

Staff who volunteer often also develop organisation, planning and negotiation skills.

A growing number of businesses are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Employer supported volunteering allows staff time to organise volunteering and often carry it out during work hours. A volunteering project can strengthen staff or student motivation and morale.

Huge sums of money are involved in volunteering.

The economic value of formal volunteering has been calculated to be around £40bn per year.

The total public sector support is at least £400m a year.

Volunteering centres on what really matters to local people.

It tackles a wide range of issues from caring for the elderly to keeping the environment, charity shops, regional and national campaigns alive and thriving.

Above all, it nurtures the notion that we live in a caring society.

It is reassuringly grounded in day-to-day life.

As Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

In a hard-nosed business environment, examples of commercial common sense combined with genuine care for colleagues, customers and clients hallmark successful, motivated organisations.

Volunteering is good news all round for its impact on individuals, their employers and, most of all, society at large.

Professor Bernie Callaghan, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Sunderland

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