We often hear how volunteering organisations create a huge impact on volunteers’ lives. From building skills to personal growth, they gain so much from these experiences.
But what about the many ways volunteers can have a positive impact on organisations? As we explore the power of volunteering, let’s turn our attention to how it transforms organisations.
Point Europa, based in South East Cornwall, organises volunteers on a range of activities working with young people in the rural community, tackling issues of geographical isolation through education and community shops.
Michelle Maunder, European Voluntary Service (EVS) co-ordinator, shares her five top ways volunteers have benefitted Point Europa over the last 12 years.
Closer connections to community
Our organisation is based in a small rural area of Cornwall. When we first started the volunteering programme, it was to make our community more aware of Europe. We are quite an isolated area, so many volunteers are from different European countries.
In our community, we engage a lot with schools, and volunteers have helped out in the area. They hold singing lessons in their language or games from their country. They’ve also done cooking exchanges with people in our area where they’ve swapped recipes.
As a result, they’ve brought more local volunteers into our organisation who are volunteering with us now. In addition, young people are helping us more with our activities because of this engagement.
Giving back to the organisation
"The volunteers have massively helped us in technology and social media, extending to advertising and promotion. They’re teaching us all the time about current trends in technology."
For example, we’re setting up a community crafters’ shop. A space where local crafters can come in and sell their goods to see if it could be a successful and viable business. Our volunteers gave suggestions of making an online shop and creating a barcode system; ideas we never even thought of or imagined could happen.
We have that confidence in them and their ideas – allowing them the opportunity to give back to Point Europa.
Most of the impact volunteers have with Point Europa, it’s actually on a personal level. Over the years, we’ve had many volunteers that met, married and had children. It’s amazing and they’re still part of the organisation so we see them grow as individuals and follow their journey.
Some years ago, we had a group of volunteers for one year. Two of them were from Austria and they didn’t have any idea of what they wanted to do in their future careers. We suggested for them to do activities with children and they enjoyed it.
They did some more work with young people and decided to become social workers afterwards. They returned to Austria, studied at university and now both of them are successful social workers.
Another volunteer also stayed with Point Europa for three months after his experience. He helped us with our work in integrating and settling in the new flow of volunteers.
Making a difference with skills
We’ve had a few volunteers that have helped us through their skills and knowledge. A recent volunteer named David came over while we were opening up a new community shop.
He took the lead in promoting and advertising the shop by creating a strategy and designed posters. It’s been really successful, all because of him, and he’s shown us new ways of promotion.
We’ve also had volunteers who considered teaching, so we organised activities for them. They taught language lessons to members of the community in an eight-week period. At first, they felt a bit nervous but it gave them confidence to pursue teaching.
We often see that the volunteers put in extra support for the community and Point Europa.
We voluntarily coach activities for young people such as netball and football. The volunteers are always interested to help. This is in their free time and they come along to matches and plan activities.
In addition, we always think of ways to raise money for the community fund, which goes to the charity shop. Two years ago, the volunteers suggested the idea of a casino night and spent a lot of their free time planning the whole event because they cared that much about the community.
"They explained that the community is so fantastic in giving them so much, they wanted to do more."
Point Europa’s experiences show organisations can truly benefit from their volunteers – revealing the power of volunteering. With the European Solidarity Corps coming up soon, more organisations can discover these benefits themselves.
The new initiative will create opportunities for young people aged between 18-30 to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe.