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Community and young people are tops in causes closest to volunteers’ hearts

By RVM Communications

When it comes to the causes that are closest to South African volunteers’ hearts, it seems as though community development is what we consider to be the most important of all.


According to Momentum Metropolitan’s Volunteerism Report, which surveyed a sample of staff members, employees from other corporates, and several non-profit organisations (NPO) respondents, community development was at the top of the list of causes that volunteers wanted to support, with 42% of those surveyed selecting it as their priority. This was followed by babies, children, and youth (40%); schools (36%); women empowerment (28%); teaching/education (27%); and working with the elderly (24%).


According to Patronella Sono, Staff Volunteerism Portfolio Specialist at Momentum Metropolitan, this is not too surprising. “Most communities, especially in townships and rural areas, are still characterised by abject poverty and hopelessness.


“The causes that tend to speak to us, as a society, are representative of the ‘houses on fire’ in our country that need attention – of which there are, admittedly, many.”


Babies, children and youth are another area that many feel strongly about; especially female respondents, according to the report. And there is real cause for concern: almost 4000 children remain missing in South Africa according to the South African Police Service (SAPS), while Missing Children South Africa (MCSA) has flagged that child abduction is on the rise. “We’ve recently seen a spate of abandoned or neglected babies and children, abductions and horrible crimes committed that involve children, and so this is another area that desperately needs our attention,” says Sono.


Youth remain vulnerable in the economy, with unemployment within the 15-34 age category pegged at 44,3%. As a youthful country with a median population age of 26,9 years, this should worry us greatly, and according to the report  – it does.


It is also an issue that corporate South Africa is paying attention to, knowing that the future of the country’s economy rests in the hands of our young people. Momentum Metropolitan’s Corporate Social Investment (CSI) mandate, for example, is centred around youth upliftment and employment, through job training and placement, and entrepreneurship development.


“Volunteering at charities that support babies, children or young people resonates with volunteers on a personal level; it’s all about that emotional connection and wanting to support the next generation,” says Sono.


This survey draws parallels with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)’s 2019 report, South Africa Giving, which also found children-orientated causes to be of high priority to volunteers, ranking as one of the top three causes supported by respondents (34%).


Another commonality between the two reports is the demographical profile of the volunteer. Of those surveyed in the Momentum Metropolitan Volunteerism Report, the 25-34 age bracket presented as those most active when it came to volunteering, citing that they ‘wanted to set a good example’ as their key motivator, while South Africa Giving reported that young people aged 18-24 were significantly more likely than other age groups to have volunteered (54%).


“Research shows that millennials and Gen Zers are extremely socially and environmentally conscious. They’re concerned with contributing to society and want to make a positive difference in the lives of others. They are also concerned with how corporates respond to societal challenges - and they hold them accountable."


The reports also reveal that women seemed to be more compassionate than men when it comes to giving back. The majority of volunteers among the Momentum Metropolitan Volunteerism Report respondents were female (83%), volunteering at least once a month, while South Africa Giving also revealed that women were more likely than men to have volunteered (71%).


While the respondent samples of both reports are limited, Sono believes that the findings represent the majority of South Africans, as they reflect the social ills that affect society. “Similar trends in the charitable causes best supported by volunteers could be observed in other countries, but the priorities will differ depending on the country’s challenges.”


In Sweden, for example, which is known for its robust economy and infrastructure, the charitable cause that received the highest number of donations in 2022 was UNHCR – the United Nations Refugee Agency, which was followed by Swedish Save the Children.


While the volunteerism landscape is a reflection of the state of the country’s socio-economic fabric, people are also drawn to causes for personal reasons. “Anecdotally, volunteers in our Staff Volunteerism programme have shared different reasons for why they volunteer and the causes they choose to support.


“Ultimately, we as an organisation need to allow them this freedom, by providing resources and opportunities for them to give back to those that speak to their hearts. What matters to them, matters to us, and we need to support them as best we can,” says Sono.


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