How Volunteers Impact Communities

By Kevin Howell

Volunteering has a significant impact on people and communities. And it’s not just developing nations that benefit greatly from volunteers, as even developed countries need assistance.

But what are the measurable impacts of volunteering? Well, it goes beyond what some volunteers realize. Community service has significant economic and social effects.

Let’s explore how volunteers impact communities.

ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION

As the saying goes, time is money. And as people donate their time to volunteer causes, it has a tremendous economic impact.

According to a Johns Hopkins study, approximately 140 million people in 37 nations studied engage in volunteer work. That equates to about 20.8 million full-time jobs.

In the U.S., 62.6 million volunteers contributed 8 billion hours of work, which equates to $184 billion. According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, the annual value of volunteering is 23.8 billion pounds.

ENHANCES COLLABORATION

Community service projects often involve many resources and different specializations for success. So by nature, these projects require strategic partnerships between community organizations, governments, universities, and private businesses.

About 92 percent of volunteer organizations had some form of collaboration with the government, private sector, or other organizations, according to the UN Volunteers. EPICS in IEEE projects often partner with a local non-profit as well as schools and universities on its projects.

For example, students from Vassar College in the U.S. and the University of Managua in Nicaragua joined STEM students from a local high school and U.S.-based non-profit Artists for Soup to create a water monitoring system in La Paz Centro, an agricultural community in central Nicaragua.

DELIVERS PUBLIC SERVICES

In many poor and rural communities, some public services are not available to residents. Whether its access to healthcare, transportation, technology, or electricity, volunteers can provide the necessary services where the government or economic conditions fall short.

EPICS has funded various projects that have met those types of needs, including:

  • IEEE student branch of Xi’an Jiaotong University in China building a low-power photovoltaic power system for a children’s home
  • Supplying a computer lab for a primary school in an underserved area in Uganda
  • IEEE student branch of the University of Cape Town designed and built portable refrigerators for areas susceptible to power outages

Volunteering can have a long-lasting impact on communities well after workers leave the field. Whether it’s the money communities save by the hours volunteers dedicate, the partnerships that bring organizations together, or the much-needed services volunteers provide, community service projects have a measurable impact.

Do you have a community service project in mind that needs funding? EPICS in IEEE has supported more than 75 engineer-related projects and can support yours too. Submit a proposal to get started.