Volunteering as a lived conviction

Weinheim, September 20, 2016. Across Germany, 31 million people are actively engaged as volunteers on behalf of others. At the invitation of the Freudenberg Group, committed individuals, institutions and associations have been meeting annually for the past five years with the goal of expanding the large network of volunteers in the region around Weinheim. At the fifth annual network meeting, around 120 participants from 36 regional volunteer initiatives and associations gathered to discuss what motivates people to volunteer. “Rarely have I experienced such a variety of projects and so many motivated volunteers in a single town; it’s very impressive,” said guest speaker Professor Heinz Reinders from the University of Würzburg. Participants were welcomed by Weinheim’s Mayor, Heiner Bernhard, who underlined the importance of volunteering and thanked the volunteers for their work, commenting: “Without you and your commitment, many projects would simply not be possible.”

"Asked why he engages in voluntary work, Dr. Ditmar Flothmann explained: “Being part of a large network of people who want to do good and to change things is what motivates me.” Whether supporting disadvantaged young people on their way into work, assisting refugees or discussing math with gifted children, Flothmann’s list of volunteer roles is as long as his working day. In the keynote speech that opened the evening, Professor Heinz Reinders talked about what motivates people like Ditmar Flothmann: “We are not talking about something special; we are talking about ourselves – volunteering as a lived conviction.”

Reinders explained that, according to a 2014 survey on volunteering, almost every second German has engaged in short- or long-term voluntary work within the last 12 months. Teens are just as actively involved in volunteering as 30-49 or 50-64 year olds. Top of the list of volunteer work is sport. Most volunteers regard their work as a matter of course. “Among the most common motives for getting involved are having fun, working to help other people and playing a role in actually shaping things,” said Professor Reinders.

With a wink, he also observed that volunteers tend to stay healthier and live longer. By gathering new skills and experiences they get a lot back, which significantly reduces any stress arising from their voluntary work. Among other things, the ensuing discussion explored how young people might be more effectively motivated to get involved, as well as how people who have experienced the trauma of fleeing their homelands could be brought into volunteering.

Professor Reinders is Professor for Empirical Educational Research at the Julius-Maximilians University in Würzburg. His research focuses on socialization in childhood and youth, migration and evaluation research using quantitative and qualitative research methods.
The network meeting took place in the middle of Germany’s twelfth nationwide Week of Civil Commitment, which ran from 16 to 25 September. Under the patronage of German President Joachim Gauck, this initiative takes as its motto “Commitment is strength” and honors the work of the country’s more than 31 million volunteers.

About the Freudenberg Group

Freudenberg is a global technology group that strengthens its customers and society long-term through forward-looking innovations. Together with its partners, customers and the world of science, the Freudenberg Group develops leading-edge technologies, and excellent products, solutions and services for more than 30 market segments and for thousands of applications: seals, vibration control components, nonwovens, filters, specialty chemicals, medical products, IT services and the most modern cleaning products.

Innovation strength, strong customer orientation, diversity and team spirit are the cornerstones of our Group. Commitment to excellence, reliability and pro-active, responsible action belong to the company's core values lived for more than 165 years.

In 2015, the Freudenberg Group employed over 40,000 people in some 60 countries worldwide and generated sales of more than 7.5 billion Euros (including pro-rata consolidation of 50:50 joint ventures). For more information, please visit www.freudenberg.com.