Employer Supported Volunteering
By Richard Pitts,
Chief Executive, Volunteer Centre Dacorum
24th November 2016
Businesses are integral to the local communities within which they operate. The value of businesses contributing to local community life cannot be underestimated. It is not just sponsorship and financial support, although that is very welcome, but the direct involvement of people and their skills, knowledge and experience.
Organisations in the private and public sectors that encourage and enable their own staff to volunteer, either in their own time or as part of their employment representing the company, provide the opportunity for businesses, charitable community organisations and local residents to work closely together to improve services or the environment under the umbrella of Employer Supported Volunteering. Of course a large number of employees are also local residents in the areas that they support.
A successfully managed Employer Supported Volunteering programme can be a fulfilling experience for everyone. The charitable organisation has the opportunity to attract volunteers with the skills, experience and motivation to make a real impact. The volunteers bring time and resources that the charity might not otherwise have access to so there is a real opportunity to make positive things happen. The employees also benefit as they have the opportunity to gain new skills and experiences which can often be relevant to their role in the business they work for.
Businesses also benefit from participating in Employer Supported Volunteering. They have the opportunity to demonstrate that they have a commitment to their local area and are net contributors to the local community socially as well as economically. They also benefit from being able to offer their staff an opportunity to be involved in activities that make them feel valued and appreciated. By allowing staff to volunteer for a community initiative during work time shows that the company is prepared to invest in their employees and are thinking about their welfare, enjoyment and personal development. In short, Employer Supported Volunteering enables businesses to develop their staff through allowing them to identify and demonstrate skills such as leadership, management, organisation and resilience, building strong teams through working together in a new environment, increasing staff morale by participating in attractive community projects and having fun by doing something different.
Employer Supported Volunteering also enables businesses to improve their reputation and brand management through making an effective investment in the community and, as a result, increase staff retention and make their business more attractive to potential staff. However as attractive as Employer Supported Volunteering sounds, it is important to effectively plan and resource your activities or there is a danger that it will become a very unfulfilling experience.
There are some important things to remember when you are planning your activities:
1. Think about the reasons you would like to get involved. They won’t be the same for everybody.
- Do you want to give back something to the community?
- Develop the skills of your staff?
- Demonstrate the value of your company?
- Build your team by working together?
2. Evaluate the skills your staff has to offer.
- Do you have ‘Muscle’ for a one-off team project?
- Could you provide ongoing help, for example being a Trustee or School Governor?
- Could your staff act as mentors or befrienders?
- Could you give free professional advice and support?
- Do you have the capacity to provide IT assistance to a local charity?
3. Ask your staff who already volunteers.
- This will give you a good insight into what is already going on.
- It gives you the chance to support or develop existing volunteering.
- You might also find a willing company volunteering co-ordinator!
4. Decide on budgets and time off.
- Some volunteering might need a budget to support the activity.
- Will the activity take place during work hours?
- Think about the implications for your business before you make any promises.
5. Write a volunteering policy
- Have a simple written policy to ensure that the company volunteering scheme is taken seriously, and also that no-one abuses it.
- You will also need to think about insurance and the health and safety of your staff.
6. Find out what the local community needs.
- Contact your local Volunteer Centre to find out about local volunteering opportunities.
- It is better to do a task that really needs doing rather than creating a project just for the sake of it.
7. Choose your charity partners
- Decide whether you will have a set number of charity partners or whether you will let staff volunteer for any good cause.
- Some companies have a particular focus or even adopt an organisation to volunteer with for a fixed period.
8. Promote your programme.
- Proactively engage with your staff and hopefully the volunteer co-ordinator you have recruited will be your biggest asset.
- Think about company newsletters and connect with local media.
- The activity will be valued much more by everyone if it is measured and everyone knows what they contributed to a collective effort. For example, before you start, you could establish basic measurement criteria such as number of hours volunteered, money raised, skills learned.
10. Enjoy it!
- Volunteering is well known for giving volunteers a huge ‘feel-good’ factor.
Volunteer Centres have a proven track record of working with businesses, community and voluntary sector organisations and local residents who want to volunteer so are in a great position to help broker Employer Supported Volunteering opportunities. Just remember that Volunteer Centres are charities so think about how your business can support and resource the Centres themselves when asking for help with your activities.
Here at Volunteer Centre Dacorum we would be delighted to hear from businesses who would like to get involved so please get in touch if you would like to discuss Employer Supported Volunteering further.