What is Employee Volunteering? It’s painting walls, silly.

Volunteering.  The word means different things to different people.  In a previous post I talked about what first springs to mind when people hear the phrase “corporate volunteering”.  Overwhelmingly the result was “painting a fence/wall” (note: ‘tidying gardens’, ‘team building’, ‘bake sales’ and ‘fundraising’ also featured heavily!).  

But there is so much more to it than that.  And, indeed, so much more value that can be gained for both companies and charities.


With the impending (maybe!) implementation of the Conservative policy for large companies to offer all employees 3 days of volunteering (during work time) we think that clarity around what constitutes volunteering is vital to help organisations progress discussions.

When working with businesses and third sector clients, we categorise employee volunteering into two broad areas, and find it easiest to give examples to help define what we mean:

  • Community Volunteering – employees using their ‘time’, including:
    • Individual Fundraising (e.g. running a marathon, hosting a bake sale)*
    • Team Fundraising (e.g. organised fundraising events such as a fashion show)*
    • Team Challenge (e.g. painting, gardening, beach cleaning, apprentice shop challenge)
    • Other (e.g. reading to children, administration tasks, data entry)
  • Skilled Volunteering – employees using their ‘skills’, including:
    • Skill Sharing– Employees using the professional skills they have gained in the workplace (e.g. mentoring, coaching, interview skills, presentation skills) as well as direct job skills/competencies (e.g. an HR manager advising a charity on their HR policies, or an in-house lawyer giving legal advice).
    • Pro bono– Employees using their skills to perform a task that a client would normally pay their company for them to complete – this is most applicable for professional services e.g. a lawyer giving legal advice to an organisation, an accountant helping prepare the accounts of a charity.

Note: By its nature, pro-bono is skill sharing, but skill sharing may not necessarily be pro bono.

Now, some reading this blog will no doubt argue that data entry or reading to children is ‘skilled’ volunteering.  But the way we view it at thirdbridge is – if the majority of the population (with minimal training/experience) can perform the task, then classify it as community volunteering.

Having said that, the classification of the volunteering might change depending on who is delivering the volunteering.  For example, a company of ‘painter decorators’ may volunteer their time to paint a hospice – this is actually ‘pro bono’ volunteering (they are using the skills they would normally charge customers for) whereas a team of accountants painting the hospice would be classified as ‘community volunteering’.

Hospices do actually need painting from time to time(!) – so the decision to be made is whether they want a professional job done – if they do, then they can either pay decorators to do it, or try and recruit a friendly team of local decorators on a pro bono basis!

So, classifying volunteering is not black and white, but we hope the above provides a useful way for companies and charities to categorise volunteering opportunities and move conversations forward.


* Time spent on fundraising is classified by many companies as volunteering, but not all.


Blog written by Rick Benfield, CEO of thirdbridge



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