Volunteering for the SDGs - and how your organisation can contribute!

Volunteers are crucial in achieving the SDGs. Find out how you can harness your volunteers to work towards a sustainable future.

Volunteering for the SDGs - and how your organisation can contribute!

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 interconnected goals that drive a sustainable future. The goals capture the world's most pressing challenges, from poverty and inequality to climate change and healthcare disparities and represents an ambitious blueprint to ensure a better future for all by 2030. Achieving these goals demands collective efforts on a global scale.

In this article, we’ll explore the instrumental role of volunteers in advancing the SDGs and how your voluntary organisation can contribute. But before we do so, let's take a closer look at the global goals. The SDGs, adopted and created by 193 United Nations Member States in 2015, are an urgent response to the world's most critical challenges. They encompass a wide range of issues, including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring access to quality education, and addressing environmental sustainability. Each goal is a vital piece of a comprehensive puzzle, and together, they represent a roadmap for a more equitable and sustainable future. 

The 17 SDGs can be broadly categorised into five key areas:

  • People: Goals related to ending poverty, ensuring good health and well-being, and achieving quality education.
  • Planet: Goals focused on environmental sustainability, such as climate action and life below water.
  • Prosperity: Goals related to economic growth, decent work, and reducing inequalities.
  • Peace: Goals aimed at fostering peaceful and inclusive societies and promoting justice.
  • Partnerships: The final goal emphasises the importance of global collaboration to achieve these objectives.

The SDGs represent a commitment from nations worldwide to tackle urgent global issues together. Achieving them requires the dedication and involvement of individuals, communities, organisations, and governments alike. In short: the SDGs are a universal language and blueprint to create a sustainable future together.

A circular puzzle with different colored circlesDescription automatically generated
People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership. Source: UN

Volunteering and the SDGs

Volunteering is essential for the SDGs, according to the United Nations through a wide range of meaningful contributions. Volunteering brings people and communities together to grow, build resilience and develop community responsibility. They strengthen social engagement and trust through individual and collective volunteer actions. These lead to sustainable and powerful development, for people, by people.

Volunteers can raise awareness about the SDGs in creative ways, often reaching even the most remote or marginalised communities. Volunteers also bring technical expertise to the table, helping to address complex challenges effectively. When this expertise is shared, they help bridge knowledge gaps. They step in to complement basic services in areas where they are lacking or insufficient, making a significant difference in these communities. Their actions also model behaviours that inspire others to get involved and contribute to the SDGs at a local level.

Volunteering also increases civic engagement, inspires others, and drives the changes needed to grow the SDGs in communities. Through this civic engagement, volunteering ensures that no one is left behind. The power to reach everyone is essential to localise the SDGs to make sustainability a big deal in local communities as well.

Finally, many SDGs require behavioural and attitudinal changes in ways of living together or consumption, for example. Volunteers, because they are so at the centre of society, inspire communities and facilitate this behavioural change by leading by example. Thus, together, volunteers (organisations) can become pioneers for a sustainable world!

So… how can you get started?

Although the benefits of volunteering for the SDGs are clear, unfortunately, many voluntary organisations don’t necessarily know how to get started. Well, you know about the SDGs now, and you know how volunteering can contribute to the SDGs. So, let’s get you started in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Make sure your team know about the SDGs

The first step is for your team members and yourself to know about the SDGs and to find out to which SDG your organisation contributes to. So…

  • Research and Learn: Start by broadly researching the 17 SDGs, targets, and indicators. When researching, try to understand how these goals can relate to your organisation’s mission and what they mean. Be very open-minded because the goals are often interconnected. 
  • Identify Relevance: Identify which SDGs align most closely with your organisation’s goals and activities. It’s time to go a bit deeper now. Determine the goals that are most relevant to your work and can have the most significant impact. Think further than just the primary impact, but also consider the secondary impact. The goals are interconnected, right? For example, if your organisation is focused on SDG 1 (No Poverty), you indirectly contribute to SDG 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduce Inequalities).
  • Educate Your Team: Now it’s time to involve your team. Organise a training session to educate your team about the SDGs. Make sure everyone understands at least the broader context and significance of the goals. Our team member Gerbrand would love to help you with this, as a Youth Ambassador for the SDGs!

Step 2: Set Goals and Objectives

Alright, your team knows about the SDGs and possibilities to contribute. Now, it’s time to set specific goals and objectives for your organisation together.

  • Align Your Goals: In step 1, you learned which goals might be relevant for your organisation. Now, it’s time to clearly define how your organisation’s mission aligns with specific SDGs. If you’re starting, select a limited number of goals. This makes it more manageable and impactful to work towards.
  • Make Your Objectives SMART: Develop SMART objectives that are related to the SDGs you’ve just chosen. This can sometimes be hard, but don’t worry. The SDGs consists of goals, targets, and indicators and especially the targets and indicators can help you make the objectives SMART. For example, if you’re focused on education, a SMART objective could be to increase the number of students reached with educational programs by a certain percentage within a year (SDG 4).
  • Create an Action Plan: Goals, done! Objectives, done! Now, let’s get to action. Create an action plan in which you outline the steps your organisation will take to work towards these objectives. You can be as elaborate as you like but ensure that this action plan can be executed within the scope of your organisation. You don’t have to change your current strategy completely but try to see how you can integrate the SDGs in your strategy. This is most time-effective and makes sure you keep the focus on your organisation’s mission.

Step 3: Implement and Monitor Progress

You are now well equipped to get started with the SDGs. Let’s put the plan into action.

  • Develop Programs with SDGs In Mind: Adapt your current programs and projects to align with your chose SDGs. The same holds for when you’re developing new programmes. Make sure that your activities directly contribute to the targeted goals.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Track and evaluate the progress you and your volunteers are making. Regularly collect data that relate to your objectives and see what progress is made. If you compare it to your baseline, you can assess the impact of your (volunteers’) efforts and adjust when needed. Pro tip: Deedmob measures the impact of volunteering based on the SDGs. When you create an organisation on a Deedmob platform, you’ll be able to see how many hours are contributed to the SDGs, and which activities contribute to what SDGs. Find out more about our measurement model, which we created in collaboration with the Dutch Statistics Agency here.
  • Communicate: Share your progress with your stakeholders, volunteers, and the community. This will only spread awareness of the SDGs, and your organisation. Isn’t it cool to report on how you contribute to a better world? If you need an example, look at how Deedmob communicates its contributions!
  • Collaborate: Now it’s time to collaborate with other organisations, both within and outside your sector. This can amplify your impact and help address complex issues. If you’re in The Netherlands, we recommend visiting the website of SDG Nederland to find communities. Otherwise, visit the United Nation’s website to find events, communities, and actions per SDG. 
  • Other tools we love: When you live in The Netherlands, MAEX provides an amazing baseline tool for your current SDG Social Handprint. For municipalities, we strongly recommend the Belgian VVSG’s SDG Impact Analysis to establish your baseline. With both tools, you can establish a baseline. Combined with Deedmob’s SDG impact measurement, you’re well equipped to track progress and report on the impact your organisation and volunteers are making!


We believe that you know about the SDGs, how volunteering contributes and that you’re now well-equipped to get started with incorporating the SDGs in your organisation. We believe that the SDGs are the best vehicle to reach a sustainable and equal future for all. With volunteering playing such a crucial role, it’s start too fully harness your volunteer force to work towards a sustainable future.


Some highlights of 5 years at Deedmob

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Gerbrand Holland

Growth Manager

Gerbrand Holland is Growth Manager at Deedmob