Over half of British workers would sacrifice time and money to volunteer overseas, says new VSO poll ahead of International Volunteer Day

Over half of British workers would sacrifice time and money to volunteer overseas, says new VSO poll ahead of International Volunteer Day

Results from a national online poll out today (Weds 2 Dec) show that 56% of British full time workers would freely volunteer their skills to fight poverty in a developing country, if they had the support of their employer.

Leading international development charity, VSO, commissioned Gorkana ahead of International Volunteer Day (Saturday 5 December) to survey 3,000 professionals from sectors such as finance, IT, business and engineering.

VSO’s ‘Perception of Corporate Volunteering Poll’ was conducted across the UK in November 2015. Results show how much time people are prepared to put aside for a good cause, which countries would best benefit from their skills, the type of volunteering they would be willing to engage in and their motivation and worst fears.

Key findings:

  • Overall, 56% of respondents would volunteer overseas if they had a job to come back to.
  • 68% of respondents believe volunteering “improves the lives of others and helps reduce poverty”.
  • 61% of respondents who earn between £20,000 and £40,000, said they would volunteer overseas.
  • 80% of respondents would volunteer for two months or less.
  • 39% would volunteer in Africa and 39% in Asia.
  • 19% of respondents who would volunteer in Africa are aged 35 to 44.
  • 22% of respondents who would volunteer in Asia are aged 35 to 44.
  • 70% of respondents would consider group volunteering, but only 6% would consider ‘relay volunteering’ (when one volunteer from the same company consecutively takes over from another)
  • 50% of respondents were most concerned about “missing family and friends”.

VSO Knowledge Exchange – established in July this year – is a UK government-backed initiative which gives skilled employees from the private sector, an opportunity to volunteer and change lives in some of the world’s poorest places.

Chris Walker, Director of VSO Knowledge Exchange says:

“With over half (56%) of the respondents saying they would consider volunteering in a developing country, it’s great to know that there are over 1,500 potential volunteers out there and we would love them to get in touch with us, but these results also show that there’s still work to do. We are clearly still just scratching the surface regarding the potential of corporate employee volunteering.

It’s reassuring that the overwhelming motivation (68% of respondents) is to help reduce poverty. This is an important endorsement of VSO’s approach where we always focus on the impact on the poorest people. Whilst there are benefits in terms of career development and innovation, it’s clear that we need to continue to be led by where need on the ground is greatest and that we also continue to demonstrate that we are benefiting the lives of the poorest.

The other challenge is matching the desire for shorter term and group placements with what is needed, given that 80% of respondents want to volunteer for under 2 months and 70% want to volunteer as part of a group. If we want to bring about lasting change that addresses the complex causes of poverty, then these types of placements need to be linked to longer term programmes.”

Corporate volunteering is gradually on the increase.

Since October, IT professionals from Samsung have been volunteering with VSO at the Riruta Health Clinic in Dagoretti, Kenya. They’ve been working with local health professionals to improve their maternal health tracking systems.

This year has seen VSO place more volunteers from global corporates in developing countries. Recent examples include oil and gas multinational Shell, leading agricultural organisation Syngenta, and global management consulting services company Accenture. ‘VSO Knowledge Exchange – India’ also launched this year attracting support from IBM Global Business Services and recruitment consultancy giant, Randstad.

Thirty-year-old Natasha Bridge from London is a management consultant for Accenture UK. Recently married, Natasha and her new husband - 31-year-old IT Consultant, Chris - spent much of their two-month honeymoon, volunteering with India's ‘Ministry of Rural Development' through VSO’s Knowledge Exchange. Natasha helped adapt a program policy which would improve work opportunities for people living with disability and Chris produced a report which explored why candidates drop out of job placements and training.

Natasha Bridge, Accenture UK employee and VSO Knowledge Exchange corporate volunteer, reflects on her placement:

“Our experience in India has been excellent! One of the reasons we chose India is because the scale of the help they need is actually mind blowing. I wanted to use my skills on a project that makes a difference to people's lives. Although challenging at times, my experience was extremely rewarding, knowing that the work I did will directly lead to more people with disabilities getting skilled and placed into employment.

I've learnt how to work with people with disabilities and understand the types of challenges that they face. I now understand more about how government processes and policies work. As a result, I’m very interested in working more with people with disabilities as their challenges are not limited to a developing country but are the same worldwide.

We've really enjoyed our experience and feel honoured to have had the opportunity to work on such a worthwhile project for the Central Government of India. It’s great to know that the work we've done will make a difference. We hope that our work will be the start of a long and prosperous partnership between the Ministry and VSO Knowledge Exchange with many other volunteers following in our footsteps.”

Mary Woodgate, global programmes senior manager at Accenture Development Partnerships says:

Accenture is proud to support VSO Knowledge Exchange. We hope that many other corporates will benefit from this solution - offering volunteer placements to their staff, which positively impact society and their businesses in turn. The results of the poll show that people at all career levels have much to gain and much to give. Also encouraging was that “enhance career prospects” was in the top 3 reasons why people want to volunteer – along with helping others and the great experience. This reinforces the Convergence trend that we see of businesses needing cross sector, BoP (base of the pyramid) and emerging market experience in their staff to drive the corporates of the future.

Accenture Development Partnerships provides our best people with leadership development opportunities, using consulting skills to support international development. We’re convinced of the concrete value of such experiences to the individual, the corporate and the NGO partners. The value to the corporates can be quantified in terms of employee engagement, skills development, cross-sector collaborative leadership and base of the pyramid innovation. It’s exciting that VSO Knowledge Exchange offers a solution which could significantly increase the numbers of business people, leaders and future leaders, who have had a volunteering experience. Imagine the ripples of positive impact that these future ‘intrapreneurs’, sustainability leaders and purpose-driven CEOs will create!”

To sign your company up to the VSO Knowledge Exchange visit: www.vsoknowledgeexchange.org

For further information or to book an interview, please contact VSO Media Officer: claire.gilderson@vsoint.org / 0208 780 7668 / 07795 473 511.                                 

Editor's notes

About VSO Knowledge Exchange
www.vsoknowledgeexchange.org was launched in July 2015 and is seed funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and run by VSO. VSO Knowledge Exchange offers skilled employees in the private sector a way to volunteer to help change the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest places. 

About VSO
VSO International is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all. See www.vsointernational.org for more information.

About Accenture Development Partnerships
Accenture Development Partnerships is a global practice employing an innovative business model to provide international development organizations with access to world class business and technology consulting services to deliver social impact and innovation.

Gorkana Online Survey Results

Age breakdown of 3000 respondents from across the UK:

420 x 18 – 24 year olds (14%)
540 x 25 – 34 year olds (18%)
600 x 35 – 44 year olds (20%)
570 x 45 – 54 year olds (19%)
510 x 55 – 64 year olds (17%)
360 x 65 + year olds (12%) *please note these people are in full time employment*

Would you consider volunteering your skills in a developing country if your employer supported you and you had a job to go back to?

Overall, 56% said yes.
Of the respondents who earn between £20,000 and £40,000, 61% said they would consider volunteering overseas.
Of the respondents who earn over £40,000, 59% said they would consider volunteering overseas.

How long would you volunteer for?

36% of respondents said “Less than a month”
21% of respondents said “6 x weeks”
23% of respondents said “2 x months”
14% of respondents said “1 year”
5% if respondents said “2 years”

Where would you consider volunteering?

39% of respondents said they would volunteer in Africa
39% of respondents said they would volunteer in Asia
Other answers: South America, Central America, Middle East, South Pacific, “anywhere I was needed”, “anywhere, except a warzone”, “anywhere with political stability”.

Age break down of the 1,163 respondents who want to volunteer in Africa:

196 x 18 – 24 year olds (16.8%)
216 x 25 – 34 year olds (18.57%)
227 x 35 – 44 year olds (19.51 %)
218 x 45 – 54 year olds (18.74 %)
168 x 55 – 64 year olds (14.44 %)
139 x 65 - Over 65 year olds (11.95%)

Age breakdown of the 1,164 respondents who want to volunteer in Asia:

165 x 18 – 24 year olds (14.17%)
229 x 25 – 34 year olds (19.67%)
256 x 35 – 44 year olds (21.99 %)
229 x 45 – 54 year olds (19.67%)
195 x 55 – 64 year olds (16.75%)
89 x Over 65 year olds (7.64%)

Why would you consider volunteering overseas?

68% of respondents said “It would improve the lives of others / help reduce poverty”
20% of respondents said “It would enhance their career prospects”
12% of respondents said “it would bring value and innovation back to my company”
61% of respondents said “It would be a great experience”

What type of volunteering would appeal to you the most?

70% of respondents would consider ‘group volunteering’ (volunteering with others)
16% of respondents would consider ‘e volunteering’ (sharing their skills remotely via an online portal)
6% of respondents would consider ‘relay volunteering’ (one volunteer from the same company consecutively takes over from another)
Other comments: “would consider volunteering with my partner”

If you volunteered overseas, what would be your biggest challenge?

18% of respondents were concerned about “Persuading their manager it’s a good idea”
24% of respondents were concerned about “Job implications when they returned home”
42% of respondents were concerned about “Financial stability”
50% of respondents were concerned about “Missing their family and friends”
27% of respondents were concerned about “Coping with a new language or culture”
10% of respondents were concerned about “not making a difference”
Other comments about concerns: health issues, child care issues, family commitments, personal safety, coping with a different climate, living conditions.