Do you remember when you became a volunteer? Were you still at school, mid-career, newly retired? Or like 4.6 million of the nation, were you one of the volunteers who stepped forward for the first time in a historic effort during COVID-19?

As we look collectively towards the road to recovery after the last fifteen months of a global pandemic, Royal Voluntary Service’s report ‘Social Mobility: Unleashing the power of volunteering’ should give us all cause for optimism. It shows that the act of volunteering is of dual benefit, the relationship is truly reciprocal. Whilst 58% of volunteers came forward because they wanted to improve things and help people, the same percentage credit volunteering with improving their job chances. At a time when 11.2 million people are returning from furlough, and recent ONS statistics show that young people accounted for nearly two-thirds of job losses since the pandemic, the significance of Royal Voluntary Service’s findings cannot be underestimated. By investing in this area, we can grow skills, confidence and a whole range of other attributes which make volunteers themselves feel more employable.

At People’s Postcode Lottery, we believe in a strong civil society with the power to realise change from within. Like Royal Voluntary Service, we strongly believe that volunteering is a superpower – it has immense potential to change the path of both the giver and the receiver. Our players provide long term support for many charities who put volunteers at the heart of the positive change we want to see, from offering a room to a homeless young person through Depaul UK’s Nightstop service to providing a listening ear through NSPCC’s Childline or Missing People’s Helpline.

As not only a funder but an employer, we also want to live our values and as part of this commitment, we offer two days of volunteering a year to each team member. We do this as we recognise that volunteering rewards its participants as well as its recipients. From beach cleans and planting trees, to shared reading, to grants panels and tea parties with older guests, we work with fantastic charities supported by our players to find opportunities that suit all interests. Colleagues often tell me how motivated they feel after volunteering, how it brings them closer to the good causes we support and how much they learned through the experience.

I am lucky enough to have experienced the social mobility volunteering can enable first-hand. In 2012, I volunteered with a group of colleagues and young people to organise a Christmas Day celebration for people with care experience. It started informally, with a chat over dinner about how the festive period wasn’t a joyous time for everyone. We decided as a group to take action, and some 12 weeks later we were knee deep in formal referral processes, food hygiene training, transport logistics and gift donations.

On 25 December, over 70 of us celebrated one of the best Christmases ever. I learnt a huge amount in a short time, formed amazing relationships. Volunteering was one of the best experiences of my life. Little did I realise at the time but this volunteering experience would also change my career path for good, consolidating my passion for social justice and eventually leading me here, to my role in the charities team at People’s Postcode Lottery.

Royal Voluntary Service’s research shows that I am far from the exception. 77% of those for whom volunteering had made them want to undertake additional training had gone on to do it in some form, for example by embarking on a new career path, distance learning or undertaking a degree. People of all ages felt volunteering had improved their employability prospects, with young people in particular feeling that volunteering has improved their confidence and their communication skills. Through a pandemic which has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities, we welcome Royal Voluntary Service’s call to action that everyone, regardless of where they’re from or their background, should have the chance to benefit from the social mobility offered by volunteering.

The increased diversity of volunteers coming forward through the pandemic is a welcome start, and the partnerships we have seen emerging within the sector through supported charities such as Royal Voluntary Service and Volunteering Matters provide foundations for progress going forward. As we all move towards recovery, we believe now is the time for even stronger collaborative efforts. We believe that together we can achieve change and create a better world, and that the power of volunteering can and should play a central role in the recovery of individuals and communities.

Lisa Belletty
Health and Wellbeing Advisor | People's Postcode Lottery

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