As the New Year looms, many people may reflect on the world around them and decide that trying do some good in society and looking to the needs of others may be an appropriate resolution to make for the year ahead. A quick online search will turn up multiple searchable databases offering the opportunity to match your skills with community needs both near and far. Whilst some aspects of digital engagement with volunteers are somewhat in their infancy, the provision of online hubs to reach out to potential volunteers and link them with appropriate opportunities is becoming increasingly commonplace and offers a seductively easy route to gratify that New Year’s resolution. Hubs such as Do-It look set to be increasingly popular in the year ahead. Behind any hub, however, and beyond the initial rush of New Year enthusiasm to volunteer, a lot of hard work is needed to keep the opportunities in such hubs up-to-date, to respond to enquiries in a timely and appropriate fashion, and to turn those initial good intentions into enduring, sustainable forms of volunteering. Our research into the volunteer experience in the digital age embraces the potential of online hubs to engage new volunteers in new ways but also takes seriously the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make that digitally-expressed impulse to volunteer into a resolution that sticks.
Tonight at 8pm on Radio 4 and subsequently on iPlayer, the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane will be exploring the significance of volunteering to the UK’s economy. Haldane has a strong interest in the topic, having previously spoken of the social value of volunteering in a speech that stressed the value to both donors and recipients of volunteer efforts. In tonight’s programme Haldane promises to explore what could be done to harness existing volunteer efforts even more effectively: we wonder whether digital technologies will feature as a potential tool for strengthening and extending volunteer engagement.