European Year of Volunteering (2011) is a celebration of the commitment of millions of people throughout Europe who selflessly give their time and effort to make a real difference in their local communities. In Ireland the spirit of volunteerism is well and truly alive and prevalent in the credit union sector. The National Census for the Republic of Ireland, conducted in 2006, found that 1 in 6 (500,000) Irish adults volunteer on a full-time or part-time basis. The majority of these people are middle aged and 25% of volunteers come from professional or managerial occupations.
The Irish credit union movement is built upon the efforts of thousands of volunteers who give freely of their time and skills to their credit unions in the spirit of co-operation. Each credit union has a team of volunteers with the relevant skills and knowledge to lead and manage credit unions across the country. At last count, there are over 9,500 volunteers throughout our 500 affiliated credit unions, both north and south.
Research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions in 2010 highlighted the critical importance of volunteerism in the credit union movement. The key reasons for becoming involved with their local credit union, identified by those surveyed, were to give something back to the local community and to provide a service to those in need.
- 87% believed that volunteering in a credit union was something worthwhile to be involved in
- 64% felt that they became involved in order to give something back to the community
- 36% felt it would be beneficial from a personal development point of view
- 27% believed that it would improve their skills
The majority of respondents were recruited to the credit union by an internal recruitment process (asked by an existing board or committee member), which reflects a strong endorsement for working at the credit union.
The vast majority of volunteers (more than 90%) were impacted positively by their time working with the credit union, highlighting that the experience has had a positive impact on their lives.
Increase in Volunteerism
One of the most positive aspects to the current economic crisis is the numbers of people turning to volunteering. Research recently published by Volunteer Centres in Ireland highlighted that since 2009, they have experienced an increase of 70% in people registering with them to volunteer. Anecdotal evidence from credit unions would also suggest that more and more people are interested in giving their free time to put something back into the community.
What is the monetary value of volunteerism to the movement?
While we are all cognisant of the tremendous dedication and effort of credit union volunteers, a quick analysis helps to underline the contribution which our volunteers make. On average, a credit union volunteer contributes 17.5 hours each month to the credit union, via attending Board meetings, Committee meetings, Chapter meetings, roadshows, preparing accounts etc. In working hours, this equates to 28 days per annum. Indeed, if volunteers were paid the average industrial wage for their time and efforts, this would equate to a contribution of over €42 million annually throughout the movement.
|Hours per year||Av. industrial hourly pay rate (€)||Total Number of Volunteers||Total Annual Contribution (€)|
With many banks still paying exorbitant bonuses to their top level management, it is heartening that the selfless contributions of credit union volunteers continue to shine as the banking system in Ireland struggles to stay afloat. In a time of economic uncertainty, when thousands of people are struggling to make ends meet, the credit union movement stands proud and strong, backboned by an able and willing army of local volunteers serving local communities. These credit union volunteers should be commended for the work they do in their communities and the impact they have on the lives of others by providing much needed not for profit financial services to all.