The heart of volunteering

Volunteers at the London Marathon cheering on runners Linda Fenn, Head of Volunteering, talks about the difference volunteering is making on people’s health and wellbeing. Quite simply, without their support we would not have been able to fund the research that has led to the scientific breakthroughs that we have made over the last 56 years.

18 May 2017 

Our volunteers have literally been at the heart of the BHF for over 50 years. They have supported us tirelessly to raise funds for the vital research that we fund. The support given by these people has leveraged funds and enabled donations given to us go further. But there are several other changes that our volunteers are bringing about. 

Bringing people and communities together 

Our volunteers and the people they engage with feel a sense of inclusion and feel part of a bigger purpose when they come together. This culture of inclusion instils a sense of purpose in people where they can take matters into their own hands to benefit the society that they are a part of. In the current climate with cash-strapped public and local services, volunteers are a much needed workforce who is leading a social change without perhaps realising the extent of their own impact.

Improved sense of well-being 

As a result of the social cohesion that volunteering brings, there is an improved sense of wellbeing in volunteers themselves as well as those they interact with and support. We have heard several accounts of where locals will just come in to the BHF shops to say hello and have a chat with volunteers and staff and many have made lifelong friends. Research tells us that loneliness can be a trigger for not only heart disease but other illnesses, and by volunteering we are able to support people from all walks of life in communities across the UK. Through volunteering in shops to organising fundraisers and events, volunteers bring communities together and contribute towards decreasing isolation and improving people’s mobility and productivity. This also contributes towards decreasing the burden on health and social services to some extent and is well aligned to ‘social prescribing’, a term health professionals refer to when promoting non-medicinal solutions where appropriate.

Opportunities for development

About 4500 volunteers come through the BHF every year and around 60% go into part-time or full-time paid roles and positions. By developing the skills and behaviours of our volunteers we are helping thousands of people get back into paid employment, potentially lessening the welfare burden to an extent. Upskilled volunteers leave the organisation after an average of 8 weeks and new volunteers require the same level of training and attention. This cycle continues year-round and results in thousands of volunteers with improved prospects for employment.

Our volunteers

Meet Louise Butler, who joined us on work experience, in 1998, stayed on to volunteer then moved to a paid customer assistant role and is now an Area manager.
Lou says: “I would like to add that I am forever grateful to the people of BHF for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to work for them. I have met some truly great people along the way and without them I wouldn't be where I am today. I have always said to people that the BHF are investors in people regardless of back ground and education .I would like to finish off by saying thank you for all the years at BHF.”Volunteer

We now have nearly 3,000 community fundraising volunteers, who raise funds in so many ways and have groups across all 4 nations of the UK. They might be doing things from hosting a coffee morning to planning a lavish ball, and every penny that they raise makes a difference. We have about 17,500 volunteers in our shops, which is more than a whopping 100,000 hours a week! These volunteers join us for a huge variety of reasons such as work experience and CV building, meeting new people and a connection to the cause. 

Every year we host 1000’s of hours of voluntary work experience for people wanting to build their CV’s. In 2016, 30% of our retail vacancies were filled from people who had previously volunteered with us – that’s over 300 people who now have paid employment with us. 
We have just been accredited as offering a quality work experience programme, all part of us trying to give something back to the communities that support us every day of the week. We are also approved as an activity provider by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Our volunteers in England also have a chance to gain a nationally recognised qualification in retail or customer service – over 700 were awarded last year. 

Join us now and help beat heart disease. 





Read our blog- Charity partnership: achieving more than the sum of its parts