Many of us, especially readers of this journal, have long defied the skeptics and believed that volunteering has multiple benefits. Now there is growing research to prove that volunteering is good for society as a whole and that it needs to be nurtured and fostered.
In this Along the Web, we round up some of the emerging research that explores the impact of volunteering as a producer of social capital and well-being that goes beyond any individual volunteer, agency or organization. Benefits for individual volunteers – such as skill development or building personal confidence – are of course very well-known and documented. But as this article shows, there is a fascinating evidence base developing that also strengthens the case for encouraging more volunteers and better, more widespread volunteer programs. The timing is perfect. Just as policy makers and funders of volunteer programs increasingly want to know that their actions or investments will be effective over the longer term, the research linking volunteering to social capital and well-being is emerging.