Putting together your first employee volunteering policy

If you’re serious about stepping up your commitment to doing good, you’ve got to get your ducks in a row. Things can get complicated quickly when you’re dealing with so many stakeholders all at once. You need to be clear about how you want to work with external partners, such as charities, social enterprises, community groups, schools, brokers, and CSR consultants. You also need to make sure you’re satisfying senior managers and investors in your company who will be very focused on return on investment. In all the confusion, it’s easy to forget arguably the most important group of stakeholders – your employees. Without their involvement and engagement, external stakeholders will get much less impact from your support, and your company will miss out on all the benefits of involving your employees in your responsible activities – increased productivity, better retention, cost effective L&D, etc. However, before you can get them involved and excited, you need to make sure everyone is clear about the details by putting together an official policy. This will make your job easier but also cover your back in case of any issues.

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Here are our top tips on what to include:

1. Why employee volunteering?

Make it clear why you’re encouraging employee volunteering, and explain the decisions you’ve made while putting the programme together. This will make employees feel involved and hopefully allow them to buy in to your vision.

2. What is employee volunteering?

Provide a clear definition of what you mean by employee volunteering to make sure everyone’s on the same page!

3. Who can employees volunteer with?

Will you allow employees to volunteer with any organisation they choose or will you put restrictions on it? Do the organisations they choose need to fit in with your over-arching objectives around cause or location? Do they need to be UK registered charities? Can the charities have a religious or political aim?

4. What type of volunteering can they do?

Does it include fundraising? Is it only volunteering done during working hours? Should employees volunteer in groups? Is skilled volunteering particularly encouraged?

5. How long can they volunteer for?

How many hours per year can employees spend volunteering during working hours? Do they need to be taken as whole or half days, or can they be split up into individual hours?

6. What about volunteering in their own time?

Should they still log those hours? Would TOIL be considered for volunteering outside of working hours? If so, would that only be for certain types of volunteering?

7. When can they volunteer?

Do they need to have been in post for a certain amount of time? Are there any restrictions on certain times of the year / month / day? Does this vary from team to team? Can more than one member of a team be out at the same time?

8. How can it help career development?

Will volunteering be linked to performance appraisals or L&D goals? Could future leaders be matched with trustee opportunities to help them gain experience?

9. How do employees identify and find volunteering opportunities? Do you use internal or external tools?

Do you use any tools to help them find opportunities? Do you have company-led initiatives for them to get involved with? If so, how can they find out about those?

10. What is the authorisation process?

Will there be a formal process or can employees just ask their line manager on an ad hoc basis?

11. Will you provide additional support to their chosen organisations?

Would you match any donations they make or funds they raise? Are there any grants they can apply for? Are there any formal channels for them to suggest their chosen organisation to other colleagues who may want to volunteer with them?

12. How will expenses work?

Will you reimburse them? If a DBS check is required, will you cover the cost?

13. What about insurance?

Do you have insurance that will cover them or do they need to provide their own? Do the organisations they choose to volunteer with need to have public liability insurance? If so, whose responsibility is it to check if that is in place?

14. What is the feedback process?

Where will they record hours? Where and when will they provide feedback? Will it be anonymous?


There are certainly other things you may need to consider for your particular organisational needs, but we think that covering all of these points would be a great start! Once you have these details in place, you can relax and start focusing on the more exciting stuff – engaging your employees, building new partnerships, and enjoying all the impact you’re having!


If you have any questions or would like to discuss how we could help with your employee volunteering programme, then please do not hesitate to be in touch: rose@thirdbridge.co.uk

What’s so great about volunteering?

Volunteering rarely gets the credit it deserves. It’s a hugely powerful force for good in so many ways – it helps keep the third sector afloat, it benefits the individual volunteer, it’s a lifeline for our public services, and corporate volunteering improves a company’s profits.

Here are just some of the ways volunteering makes our world a better place:


How can you benefit?

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Feeling good

Volunteering can make us feel good for many reasons. Recognition, gratitude, validation that you’re a ‘good person’, satisfaction at the impact you’ve had – the list goes on. But it’s more than just feelings, it’s science! The act of volunteering has a similar effect on our brains as exercise and sex. Cortisol is blocked which stops us feeling stressed, oxytocin is released which encourages bonding, and endorphins and dopamine are produced making us feel happy. 1

Improving your CV

Volunteering is a great way to improve your professional skills. Taking the lead on a project allows you to practice management in a low risk setting, improving your leadership and people skills and preparing you for future promotions. However, it’s through skilled volunteering, particularly pro bono, that the real benefits come to light. In fact, 91% of Fortune 500 HR Managers said that skilled volunteering improves business and leadership skills. 2 By using your professional skills in a novel setting, you’re able to get a whole new perspective on your day job. A consultant, for example, that is used to providing solutions to clients that involve a great deal of expense, manpower, or resources would be forced to consider the problems in a totally different way – a way of thinking that they can take back to their normal work.


How can society benefit?

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Keeping the third sector alive

The charitable sector in the UK does far more work than we often realise. Services one might reasonably assume are covered by the government are actually provided by charities – air ambulances, hospices, many mental health services, support for carers, and the list goes on. 80,000 charities get by on less than £10,000 per year which I think is pretty shocking (and amazing). 3 Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, a fifth of small and medium charities face closure in the next 12 months due to funding, skills, and resource gaps. 4 The sector struggles to keep afloat even with the many committed volunteers it relies on. In 2015/16, 14.2 million people volunteered at least once a month, and the value of volunteering was estimated to be £22.6bn. It doesn’t bear thinking about what would happen to the sector without that incredible amount of generous support from volunteers, but the amount and quality of services provided would certainly be jeopardised.

Supporting public services

In recent years, political decisions around austerity have carved into our public services making it impossible for them to continue functioning without the support of volunteers. There are around 20,000 special constables who support the police force on a voluntary basis, doing almost the exact same work. And that’s to say nothing of the hospitals, libraries, and parks that would grind to a halt without their volunteers. 6

Improving human empathy

I know this sounds like a big statement, but bear with me! Humans are naturally inclined to empathise and it’s played a big role in how we’ve survived and thrived as a species. Darwin talks about this altruism in his writing about evolution. Essentially, if we didn’t care about those around us then we would find it harder to survive and pass on our DNA. Allowing a member of your immediate community to succumb to injuries means less protection for you, and leaving your children to fend for themselves means they are less likely to live long enough to pass your genes on. However, our empathetic tendencies are almost solely reserved to people we consider to be part of our in-group. The only way for us to expand this inclusive group is by sharing meaningful experiences with people we wouldn’t usually spend time with. Volunteering is a perfect way to do this – it’s often a new experience for both parties, both sides can learn from each other, it’s usually a meaningful activity, and it’s a non-threatening space to get to know a new group of people. In the right circumstances, we can leave a volunteering experience as a fundamentally changed person whose world views and perceptions of people traditionally seen as ‘other’ have shifted for the better. 7


How can business benefit?

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Recruiting and retaining the best talent

Millennials care about social good and are starting to make choices about their careers based on this. In fact, 88% of millennials say they want to work for a socially responsible company. Providing a robust employee volunteering programme, allowing them plenty of time during working hours to give back, providing matched donations, and presenting them with plenty of varied options to get involved with will set you apart from the competition and ensure you have your pick of young talent. However, you’ve still got to practice what you preach to ensure you retain the talent you’ve invested in. 50+% of millennials would consider leaving an employer whose values no longer matched their own. 9 Make sure it’s not just a policy that sits in a binder somewhere – it should be a part of your company culture. Senior staff should set the example that’s it not frowned upon to take the time to volunteer but actually encouraged. People can easily see through false promises of being responsible – don’t fall into that trap.

Increasing employee motivation

Believing that we’re part of something good is really important to humans. I feel proud every day to be working for a company whose main focus is making the world a better place. That’s what motivates me to keep working hard even when I’m tired or ill or just in a bad mood. The same goes for companies and their CSR programmes. In fact, 66% of employees report a greater commitment to their company after volunteering 10, and 94% of companies surveyed believed that employee volunteering provides a way to raise employee morale. 11 With motivation comes increased productivity which means more money for the company. Skilled volunteering also provides learning and development opportunities at a cheaper price than normal training. In fact, it costs £19 less per employee to develop skills through volunteering than traditional training. 12 Committing to a decent budget for CSR can lead to savings in the long-term.


So I think it’s safe to say that volunteering is certainly something to be celebrated. The individuals who give up their time, the companies who encourage their staff to give back, and the third sector organisations who provide meaningful opportunities for people to take part in should all be so proud of what they do. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without volunteers, and hopefully I’ll never have to.


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Post by Rosalia Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager 

For more information about how thirdbridge could help you set up and manage an employee volunteering programme, contact Rose on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk. 


1 Source: Realized Worth
2 Source: Deloitte
3 Source: NCVO
4 Source: Centre for Social Justice
5 Source: NCVO
6 Source: The Guardian
7 Source: Realized Worth
8 Source: Deloitte
9 Source: PwC
10 Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London
11 Source: Corporate Citizenship & City of London
12 Source: Corporate Citizenship