This Volunteers’ Week is time to celebrate how businesses across the UK are already supporting staff to volunteer. In 2014/15, nearly four million people volunteered at least once with the support of their employer.
For charities and community groups in need of volunteers, this can make a real difference. With 80,000 girls on waiting lists, the CEO of Girlguiding UK, Julie Bentley has asked businesses for more flexibility in the workplace, for example allowing staff to leave one hour early to volunteer. Research shows that work commitments is the biggest barrier to volunteering, but businesses can help overcome this by supporting their staff to give time.
By supporting staff to volunteer, whether giving time off for individual volunteering, through volunteering programmes or community partnerships, forward-thinking businesses are also tapping into benefits to their own bottom line. Employer supported volunteering can help you support the local community and strengthen society; improve your reputation and brand management; and increase staff satisfaction and engagement.
With benefits like these, can businesses afford not to? Yet the majority of employers are not supporting their staff to volunteer, with less than one in ten people working in an organisation that offers a scheme to help community projects, groups and charities.
NCVO’s Civil Society Almanac 2016 shows that employer-supported volunteering rates have stabilised. Before now, rates were rising steadily. This Volunteers’ Week, how can we inspire more businesses recognise the benefits?
At the heart of Volunteers’ Week are the volunteers. Millions of people give their time every month and the most common motivation for volunteering is to improve things or help people. But we know that’s not the only thing volunteers can get from their experience. Volunteering can help develop key skills and competencies, from communication and networking to confidence and resilience. At the same time, skills-based volunteering is much needed in the voluntary sector.
We believe that volunteering can help develop senior managers and aspiring leaders, in ways that traditional or class-room training cannot. Our board-volunteering programme, Step on Board, does just this, by training and placing business professionals on charity boards as trustees.
There is huge potential for employers who link employee volunteering with their People Strategies and Learning and Development programmes. However, the professional body for HR, CIPD, found that a majority of employers were failing to recognise the skills that employees developed through volunteering. If you are interested in skills-based volunteering, then join in with the Skills Exchange Campaign on Twitter or LinkedIn.
As the coordinating body for Volunteers’ Week in England, we invite all businesses to join in with the big celebrations this Volunteers’ Week:
- Sign up to the Volunteers’ Week website to receive a free resource pack
- Join in on social media using #VolunteersWeek
- Ask employees to tell us why they volunteer using #ivolunteer
- Hold or support a local event
Most of all, we would like to hear from businesses. If firms have a success story to tell or want to share good practice case studies (or lessons learnt), then I’d encourage them to get in touch with us in the comment section below or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org