The Business Case for Volunteering 

Check out its economic power

by Don Henninger

Arizona enters the new year on a roll. The state’s economy posted one of the most robust recoveries in the nation in 2021, with record job growth and business investment and healthy funding conditions for startups.

All of that has received ample news coverage and is a worthy feather in the state’s cap as it looks to build on that success in 2022.

But there’s another key element in the economic mix that doesn’t get as much notice, and that’s the work our nonprofit partners contribute to the well-being of our communities and their reliance on volunteers to keep them running.

Yes, financial assistance is vital. But I have always had a soft spot for business leaders who roll up their sleeves and donate their time and talent to work for groups that need their help — by serving on boards or spending time sweating it out at weekend work-a-thons.

Arizona is not a leader in the pack when it comes to volunteering, ranked at No. 34 in a polling of states, with about 30% of residents volunteering in some capacity. As a metro region, the Valley is ranked No. 21 in the country, with a 34% rate.

There are more than 20,000 nonprofits in Arizona. It’s fair to say that many of them wouldn’t exist without volunteers. And our community, economy included, would suffer without them.

It’s easy to make the business case. We’ve all heard it preached over and over that the health of a community depends on the challenging work that our nonprofit partners handle.

But enough about them; let’s talk about you. Volunteering is good for you, plain and simple, and here are a few reasons why:

  • Volunteering improves your leadership skills. That’s the assessment of more than 90% of human resources executives. Volunteers have a 27% better chance of gaining employment as 60% of managers see it as a valuable asset when making hiring decisions, according to a Career Builder study. When you consider that 35- to 44-year-olds are the largest segment that volunteer, that’s exactly the group that will fill corporate and community leadership pipelines.
  • It’s good for morale. People who do good things together stick together. Show up back at the office and watch that spirit carry over into the regular workplace. More than 70% of corporate volunteers say it’s more effective than holding things like company mixers. Less expensive, too.
  • It builds networking skills. Since it’s a social activity, it can expand your list of important contacts, too. You work with a different set of people and interact with others as you handle new challenges. Relationships happen.
  • It helps you sleep better. It improves your health. It reduces stress, giving you a break from the usual tension surrounding work routines. Good moods also help strengthen your immune system. There’s scientific evidence that volunteering boosts the mesolimbic system — the portion of the brain responsible for feeling rewarded.
  • It inspires those around you. Nothing is more motivating that actually doing the work you ask others to do. Lead by example.
  • It provides new experiences. You may learn more than you think. It may lead to a new career path, or perhaps a second career.
  • It’s a good diversity tool. No boundaries: age, gender, ethnicity — it’s unifying when people come together to work for a good cause.
  • It puts your passions to work. You get to pick and choose where you spend your time and efforts without relying on it to earning a living. Let your passions take you wherever you want. Studies say volunteer works leads to higher self-esteem, too.
  • You’ll be a better community leader by getting a different view of important issues and be better prepared to help solve them. And in case you haven’t noticed, we are facing more than enough community challenges these days.

So here’s hoping more of us will pay it forward this year — both for ourselves and for our communities.  

Volunteerism at a Glance

  • The value of a volunteer hour is estimated at $28.54.
  • Volunteers efforts worldwide are equal to 109 million full-time workers.
  • Arizonans reported that 1,648,684 volunteers contributed 160.9 million hours of service worth an estimated $3.8 billion to our communities.
  • Generation X (born between 1965 to 1980) leads volunteer rates among generations in the U.S. at 28.9%.
  • Single people volunteer more than married people for organizations benefiting the arts and culture, sports, health, environmental, animal-care, public safety, educational and youth services.
  • On average, people in U.S. spend 52 hours per year volunteering their time.

Don Henninger, executive director of Scottsdale Coalition of Today & Tomorrow (SCOTT), spent more than 30 years in the newspaper business in the Valley with The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette, where he served in numerous roles, including managing editor, and at the Phoenix Business Journal, where he was publisher for 14 years. SCOTT is a nonprofit group of business and civic leaders who work to educate and advocate for issues important to the city’s economic health and quality of life.

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