The Learning Lunch podcast explores ideas, approaches and social innovations – creating opportunity for non-profit organisations’ teams to discover what others are learning and space to reflect on what these insights might mean for their own strategy and programme implementation.

Doing voluntary work carries several benefits for the volunteers themselves, for the organisation hosting them, and for prospective employers. Volunteer work can help young people to gain work experience and explore their passions and strengths. If they volunteer in civil society, they learn about some of the country’s most pressing social issues. There is also a business case to be made for companies to support youth volunteerism.

With more than 250 thousand non-profit organisations registered with the Department of Social Development (DSD), these organisations have the national footprint to upskill young people by making them central to the delivery of programmes. Volunteers working in civil society participate in programme delivery, marketing and even fundraising. So, to meet the social service needs of beneficiaries, it’s important for civil society organisations to understand the needs and motivations of their volunteers to allow for effective knowledge sharing, transfer of skills, and of course, retention of their volunteer complement.

However, keeping volunteers committed and engaged can be a challenge for capacity-strapped NPOs. If they are not paid, what makes volunteers sustain their work? What keeps them motivated?

Researchers have attempted to understand the factors that influence motivation, with most organisational theories beginning with the idea that the key to continued volunteer involvement lies in matching individuals with organisations that can make it possible for them to meet their goals.

In this podcast, we speak to Tiffany Schouw, Programmes Assistant at Action Volunteers Africa (AVA). We also hear from Romy Heldsinger CEO at – an online platform that connects people to causes. Lastly, we hear from Bulelani Futshane, Programmes National Coordinator at Nal’ibali. We also speak to volunteers about their personal experiences. Each contributor brings a valuable angle to the discussion.

Romy Heldsinger has over 20 years of experience in management, particularly in the media and marketing industry, followed by digital business skills in senior positions such as CEO.  For the past seven years, Romy has matched her passion for social impact with her business skills and is currently the CEO of forgood, South Africa’s largest volunteering hub, that connects people who want to make a difference in society, to the causes that need their help.

Tiffany Schouw is the Programmes Assistant at Action Volunteers Africa (AVA). After she matriculated, she spent six months doing an HR learnership before joining AVA as a volunteer in one of its youth programmes. After her year of volunteering, she was hired as one of AVA’s site coordinators and stayed in that role for five years until moving into her current role.

Bulelani Futshane is the Programmes National Coordinator at Nal’ibali, a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign. Nal’ibali operates in nationwide, hosing and supporting reading clubs. These clubs are run by Nal’ibali representatives, volunteers, parents, librarians and FUNda Leaders.

This is what the volunteers we spoke to had to say:

Babalwa Bobo is 32 years old and lives in Khayelitsha, a long way from her hometown of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. She is a programme mentor at AVA for ‘Year Beyond’ but her journey began in 2015 when she first joined the programme.

What keeps me motivated as a volunteer is seeing results. I volunteer in a primary school and seeing learners progress motivates me.

Portia Nyokana-Maliwa is a librarian in Cape Town. She volunteered withNal’ibali and Equal Education while studying at the University of the Western Cape.

I work for the City of Cape Town. Most of the things I am doing now are the things I learnt while volunteering. I encourage youngsters to do volunteering.

Ashwin Naidoo is 25 years old and from Mitchell’s Plain in the Western Cape He is a teaching assistant at West End Primary School who recently finished a ‘Year Beyond’ volunteering programme trained by AVA where they helped him gain meaningful work experience in the education sector. He is also a freelance photographer and recently landed the opportunity to be a Brand Ambassador for ‘Year Beyond’.

What really keeps me motivated is the fact that I can have an impact in the community that I live.

Here are some complementary bites to make your meal even tastier

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has developed a toolkit to assist civil society organisations to develop their capacity to design effective volunteer programmes and identify, receive, host and manage young volunteers. The toolkit is generic, adaptable to different situations and levels, and focuses specifically on the full volunteer management cycle: planning, recruitment, screening, orientation, task descriptions, roles and responsibilities, support, supervision, and evaluation. Learn more here.

We explored volunteering in our Create Change resource page. Voluntary work is often seen as a ‘soft’ option – something that NGOs and charities do, with little recognition of its economic value. The sheer number of volunteers and volunteer hours in South Africa, however, speaks to an important opportunity that can be used to several ends. We think that a particularly valuable one is upskilling young people. Learn more here.