42% of Finns say that they have volunteered during the last four weeks and half during last year. Volunteering is good for both the volunteer and the target of the activity.

Most of the volunteer work is done among children and youth, the elderly, as peer support and with sport clubs. After that, most of the hours of volunteer work are still spent in activities organized by the municipal or public sector – more than, for example, in social and health matters or in culture and art. 

Volunteer activities organized by the public sector and especially by municipalities is one of the key forms of volunteering. For example, in Vantaa, you can become a friend to an elderly person. You can act as a volunteer in a hospital, nursing home, service houses, daytime care or home care. However, in that case, it´s important to ensure that the production of basic social services isn´t passed to the organizations or the civil society involved. This is important both for the equal treatment of citizens and for the autonomy of civil action.

New forms of volunteering increase opportunities of participation

An interesting volunteering trend is volunteer activities done by companies’ employees. Still, more companies want to execute their responsibilities to society by letting their employees volunteer during working hours for example one or two days a year. In addition to responsibility, employees learn new things and can do things that are important and meaningful to them. The possibility to do volunteer activities during working hours is a good staff policy and it promotes well-being at work.

This is what we do in Kansalaisareena and this is what they have done in recent years, for example, in the OP Group, which built the volunteering platform Hiiop100.fi to support their enterprise volunteering and donated it after a couple of years to Kansalaisareena. For example, in 2017 about 274 person-years in volunteer activities were done through Hiiop. More and more companies have recently been interested in offering their employees the opportunity to volunteer.

In addition to the activities channeled through the public sector and business world, people have found more diverse ways to volunteer directly. For example, in the late summer of 2018, a Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg started an every Friday school strike and demanded climate policy in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement from the Swedish government. Because of her actions, Greta became a superstar of universal climate activism. Her example has inspired thousands and thousands of people around the world. Both youngsters and old, even whole school classes around the world have joined Greta´s weekly climate strike and found a channel for volunteering in the midst of climate concern.

Though most volunteering in Finland is long-lasting and so-called “third sector volunteering” through organizations, more public and private actors as well as actors of the fourth sector have risen to the promised field of organizations. This challenges traditional NGOs in a new and interesting way. For volunteering, people´s well-being and development, this is good news.          

Leo Stranius
The author is the executive director of Citizen Forum. Citizen Forum is the only advocate for all volunteer activities in Finland.

The text has been first published on the website of Aatto ry in a blog called Järjestötietäjät.

Translation: Kati Merikoski