Why is volunteering important?

Why is volunteering important?

Volunteering is a powerful, practical and sustainable way to tackle poverty and inequality. VSO is committed to supporting volunteering in all its forms as a way of encouraging people to take part in the development of their local, national and global community.

VSO is the world's leading organisation that works through volunteers to tackle poverty and inequality. More than 50 years' experience has instilled in us a strong belief in well-managed volunteerism as a democratic, sustainable approach to achieving real results in helping communities in poverty. 

Why is volunteering so valuable?

Volunteering is the ultimate expression of human relationships – people acting on behalf of their communities, because of a desire to contribute and help. As a result, volunteers tend to be highly engaged and committed to the outcomes of their work. Volunteering is democratic – each volunteering day can be seen as an active vote towards what the volunteer believes their world should look like.

VSO believes that it is only when people step forward – either as local, national or global citizens – that sustainable change happens.

What impact can volunteers have on poverty?

For more than half a century, VSO has recruited specialist volunteers who possess specific skills which are lacking or in need in developing countries. Our partner organisations let us know what skills they need and we match up volunteers with the placements in which they are most likely to have a significant and long-lasting impact.

This is only part of the story. The value of volunteering goes beyond the technical skills and knowledge that a volunteer may bring. It is not only about what volunteers do, but how they work with organisations and communities to support change through the building of relationships.

A person engaged in volunteering benefits from increased self-confidence in their power as an individual to influence change and inspire others. They act as a bridge between organisations and the communities they aim to serve and can inspire change in behaviour and attitude in a wider group. They encourage the collective responsibility that enables solid outcomes, such as shared skills or changed practices, to be sustained. The volunteer-community relationship is about collaboration and working together to develop solutions, meaning that change comes from the grassroots and is locally owned.

By thinking globally we can change the world

Volunteering has many faces – specialist international volunteers, youth volunteers, national volunteers who give time for their own countries. Volunteers are everywhere. Informal community volunteers already do so much in developing countries as trainers, carers and healthcare workers amongst neighbours.

VSO champions volunteering in all these forms as a powerful, practical and cost-effective way of making a real impact in the fight against poverty and inequality. As well as supporting our own wonderful VSO volunteers, we support more than 100 national volunteering partners in over 20 countries. We also worked hard to ensure that the global plan that for how the world should look by 2030 recognises the work of volunteers.

What evidence is there?

The Valuing Volunteering research, published in 2015, uncovered in unprecendented detail how, where and when volunteering affects poverty and contributes to development outcomes. Completed over two years, and undertaken by the Institue of Development Studies, the research is based on case studies of volunteer programmes in Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal and the Phillipines.

For more on VSO's approach to doing development work through people, see our theory of change.

Could you step forward?

If you are inspired to give your time to help people who have less, you are in the right place. Find out more about how you could volunteer with VSO and make a real difference in the life of a community, as well as your own.