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 (Sat 5th Dec) 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 donsultant 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,

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