Ever thought about volunteering?


 Liam Butler interviews Scott Miller Chief Executive Volunteering NZ


Question One: How can businesses support volunteering in a way that is sustainable for their staff?

Scott Miller: Assisting staff to volunteer through employee volunteering programmes enables businesses to actively support the well-being of local communities (e.g. corporate social responsibility). Such programmes often operate best when the motivations of both the employer and employee are both well represented:

Employee motivation: The motivation to volunteer as an employee is often driven by a variety of individual motivations and perceived benefits. Employees may perceive volunteerism as an effective means to develop or enhance job-related skills including teamwork, leadership, communication and project management skills that thereby enhance employee well-being and satisfaction.

Employer motivation: VNZ believe it is important for managers to involve employees in the design and implementation of volunteering programmes that encourage employee participation and engagement. Without this co-design, activities determined purely on the basis of availability or business convenience risk not resonating or being as engaging for employees. Employers should also regularly communicate with, and provide feedback to employees about how their participation in the volunteer activity has affected beneficiaries and made tangible differences.

Question Two: For people who work with older people and want to develop their careers, how can volunteering help them boost their C.V.?

Scott Miller: People already working with older people generally demonstrate various transferrable skills, valued by employers. However, volunteering can provide additional benefits to boost a C.V. For example, by volunteering in a community setting and/or supporting a professional organisation, volunteers may extend their network of contacts; increase their interpersonal skills and knowledge; and develop and/or enhance technical skills. Such new skills gained may support their career aspirations further than performing their existing job alone.

I personally realised early on in my career that volunteering is not a one-way street. Through volunteering, I have developed new job skills (e.g. learnt best-practice skills and techniques from senior professionals), explored new career paths (e.g. worked with the Police through Search and Rescue), and acquainted myself more widely with the community (e.g. volunteering at the local hospice). All of which has had a direct result on the depth and diversity of my C.V. As the old saying goes, “If opportunity isn’t knocking, build a door”.

Question Three: Not every retired man is a handy man, what other options for volunteering are there for older men?

Scott Miller: For both individuals and society it is important that people remain socially engaged in later life. Social engagement improves individual wellbeing, and society benefits from older people spending their time on volunteering and other types of socially engaged activities.

The most important predictor of volunteering in the third age is whether one already volunteered in midlife. The longer and more intensive one volunteered, the more likely this behaviour is continued in later life. Having a large and diverse social network increases the likelihood that one encounters volunteers or that one is asked to engage in volunteer activities. With a decreasing network size in later life, the likelihood to volunteer also decreases.

Therefore, for older men that are not handy, or are already actively volunteering, we recommend making an appointment with your local volunteer centre. Often, it is their primary service to receive and refer volunteers to appropriate volunteer positions they have on file. The procedure is usually done in person, using informal interview techniques to ascertain the motivation for volunteering and then suggesting appropriate positions, relevant to that person. I think most people would be surprised by the variety and volume of volunteer opportunities that are available for older men that want to remain useful for and attached to society.



About Liam Butler