How to make the most of skilled volunteering: a guide for charities

Are you working for a private sector company? Check out our guide to skilled volunteering for volunteers here.

What is skilled volunteering?

Skilled volunteering is working with volunteers using their professional skills to help you with a strategic or operational challenge.

This can be split up into two main areas:

  • Skill sharing is working with a volunteer who either uses their experience of a particular job or their general professional competencies to help you. This could include an HR Manager advising you on your HR policies, or helping you to improve your pitching skills thanks to their experience of giving presentations.
  • Pro bono is when the volunteer performs a task for free that a client would normally pay them to complete. This could include a lawyer helping you to draw up a contract, or an accountant helping you with your pay roll.

If properly executed, it’s a highly effective and efficient form of support that can have an exponential impact on your organisation for years to come.

This type of volunteering is genuinely a win-win-win. For you, a key issue is tackled, meaning greater efficiency indefinitely, which will open up time and resources for focusing on service delivery. For the employee volunteer, the satisfaction levels are likely to be high given the immediate and lasting impact. It also helps with professional learning and development – 91% of Fortune 500 HR Managers think volunteering improves business and leadership skills (Source:Deloitte). For the employee’s company, a motivated and productive employee with improved skills and experience is obviously desirable.

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Here are our tips on how to make the most of your skilled volunteering experience:

1. Identifying areas of need

There might be an idea that immediately that jumps to mind, but it’s also worth having a more comprehensive review of your organisation at this stage to establish where some advice and support would have the greatest impact. Speak to your colleagues and gather honest feedback about areas where you need to develop knowledge or improve efficiency.

Areas to consider could include:

Business planning, overall strategy, finance, accounting, legal & compliance, marketing & branding, social media, HR, PR & communications, internal communications, impact reporting, data management, IT infrastructure, website development, design, sales & business development, etc.

Essentially, you could consider any back-end issue that might be stopping you give enough time and attention to your front-line delivery.

Once you’ve got a clearer picture of your high level strengths and weaknesses, you can start drilling down further and developing finite, specific, and manageable focus areas within them. Often, choosing a a topic where you understand the basics but need help to improve is ideal. That means you don’t have to waste valuable time with your volunteers going over simple stuff and can really get into the meaty bits while you’ve got access to those skills and experiences.

2. Seeking out the right support

Don’t rush into a relationship that is going to take a lot of time and resource to manage but not provide impactful support. Pro bono support can be valuable enough in and of itself that there’s no need to only try to work with companies that might be able to partner with you in other ways as well. Take the support at face value and don’t compromise on the quality for hypothetical longer-term support.

If you’re a small organisation then think about working with a small business – there will be less hoops to jump through and they’re likely to understand the pressures of trying to do a lot with not very much.

Take a look at our guide to approaching companies for support for a few more ideas.

There are also plenty of resources to help you find the support you need. Here are just a few suggestions:

And of course our very own thirdbridge network!

3. Preparing for your time together

At this stage you should be aware of the skills and experiences your volunteers have. That means you can start turning your ideas into actual project plans. Make sure that you pick something with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Don’t just ask for ‘help with our website’ – work out exactly what it is you want to tackle, and formulate a specific plan for what you want to get out of the session. Make sure you have a structure in place to follow during the discussion.

4. During your time together

As well as following the structure you planned out in advance, here are our other tips:

  • Be as honest and open as possible. There’s no point in sugar-coating your situation, or the advice you get won’t get to the bottom of your issues.
  • If something isn’t clear, then say so. Your time together is limited and you won’t get the most benefit from it if it isn’t making sense.
  • Ask as many questions as you want, but stay on topic. Don’t be afraid of delving into the details of the problem – make sure you get all the necessary information while you’re there. However, it’s easy to start straying into other areas of concern you may have. This isn’t the time for that – focus on the project you’re trying to tackle and save your other questions for another time or another volunteer that might be better suited to it.

5. Implementing ideas afterwards

Obviously part of the reason you need this support in the first place is that you’re stretched. However, you’ve already invested time into preparing and taking part in the session. There’s no point in just putting the project on the back burner and making no improvements. Make sure to get the relevant members of your team together to talk it through. Invest some real time into putting together an action plan, delegating responsibilities, and starting to implement the ideas.

If you’re going to be working with the volunteers going forward, include them in the discussions and make sure they have clear tasks as well. If not, only contact them if something from the session was unclear. Put timelines in place so tasks don’t keep dropping to the bottom of everyone’s priority lists and allocate a project manager to make sure people are on top of everything.

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If you would like any support with planning a skilled volunteering project or finding new volunteers, please get in touch: rose@thirdbridge.co.uk.

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Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge.

How to make the most of skilled volunteering: a guide for volunteers

Are you working for a charity or social enterprise? Check out our guide to skilled volunteering for charities here.

What is skilled volunteering?

Skilled volunteering is using your professional skills to help a charity with a strategic or operational challenge.

This can be split up into two main areas:

  • Skill sharing is either using your experience of a particular job or your general professional competencies to help a charity. This could include an HR Manager advising a charity on their HR policies, or helping a charity improve their pitching skills thanks to your experience of giving presentations.
  • Pro bono is when you perform a task for free that a client would normally pay you to complete. This could include a lawyer helping a charity to draw up a contract, or an accountant helping a charity with their pay roll.

If properly executed, it’s a highly effective and efficient form of volunteering that can have an exponential impact on the charity you work with for years to come.

This type of volunteering is genuinely a win-win-win. For the charity, a key issue is tackled, meaning greater efficiency indefinitely, which will open up time and resources for focusing on service delivery. For you, the satisfaction levels are likely to be high given the immediate and lasting impact. It also helps with professional learning and development – 91% of Fortune 500 HR Managers think volunteering improves business and leadership skills (Source:Deloitte). For your company, a motivated and productive employee with improved skills and experience is obviously desirable.

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Here are our tips on how to make the most of your skilled volunteering experience:

1. Understanding your own skills

Breaking down your own areas of expertise can be tricky, especially if you have a job that mostly requires soft skills. Draw on your experiences from your entire career – you don’t have to focus on things you do every day in your current role. Take your time and come up with a comprehensive list of experiences you’ve had, then separate out the skills that you picked up from each of them.

Understanding the level of skill the charity has in their areas of need is a good way to decide whether you are skilled enough to help. If you’re working with a big charity that has dedicated staff in the area you’re going to be discussing, then high level knowledge probably won’t be enough. If, however, you’re going to be advising a small organisation with just a couple of staff members in total, your expertise could still make a big difference.

Be upfront about what you can and can’t do – don’t just agree to something you’re not comfortable with. You can even sculpt the project together with the charity to make sure it maximises impact for them while making the most of what you have to offer.

2. Finding charities that need your expertise

A good place to start is your company. They are likely to already have relationships with various charities that you might not even know about. Speak to the relevant people within your organisation to find out what projects they’re already running – there might already be some pro bono initiatives on the go. If not, why not speak to them about your interest? Most companies run projects with charities specifically to make sure their employees are motivated and engaged, so there’s a good chance they’ll work with you to set something up. Otherwise, you could reach out to the charity partners directly to see if they have any needs in those areas.

You can also do some research yourself. Decide where you want to volunteer, how often, which causes you care about, etc. – Google is your best friend here but also try the Charity Commission website to find out some more details about the charity before approaching them. When reaching out, be clear about what you’re offering – whether you represent your company or if you’re just an individual. Use LinkedIn and the charity’s website to find the right person.

There are also external support organisations that you can approach to help you find a charity to work with – including thirdbridge!

3. Preparing for your time together

Working with charities can be quite different to working in the corporate world. They are often smaller than you’re used to, with less staff, and far more limited budgets.

These are our tips:

  • Don’t make suggestions that will require a lot of money to implement. For example, it’s very unlikely these organisation could bring in consultants – unless they could give their time for free.
  • Try not to make suggestions that will require significant manpower in a short amount of time. Most of these organisation have small teams that are already stretched.
  • The representatives you are talking to may not be familiar with what you consider to be standard business language, so try and keep it jargon-free.
  • Having said that, don’t be condescending. Third sector organisations are experts in their fields, and often only struggle to create or implement strategies due to lack of capacity.
  • Remember that the aim is not to create profit. Although some organisations will be looking for advice on fundraising or even selling products, that money is not an end point in itself. It will be used to reach more beneficiaries, recruit and engage more volunteers, and provide the most impactful service they can to those who need it most.
  • Efficiency is so vital for these organisations. If other issues come up during your conversations with the charity, do not be afraid to flag them. Just drawing attention to an issue the organisation may not realise it has is useful.

4. During your time together

Clearly there needs to be some flexibility in the process, but putting some structure in place for the discussion is definitely a good idea.

Here are our thoughts:

  • Start with a quick overview of the charity, the challenge they are hoping to address, and how your skills fit in with that.
  • Start exploring the challenge. Think about how it fits into the wider context of the organisation, where they are now, and where they want to be. Consider the culture or internal politics of the organisation too.
  • Use this time to try and gauge how far along the organisation is on the journey to solving the problem, and adapt your approach accordingly.
  • Take into consideration any work already done to address the issue, both internally or through other external support.
  • Then you can get stuck into recommendations, solutions, proposals, and really tackle what needs to be done to overcome this challenge.

5. Afterwards

Be upfront about whether you can keep supporting them after your initial time together. If you can, also be clear about how much time you can commit, how often, and for how long.

If you can’t keep supporting them, consider at least offering to stay in touch – that way if they have any quick follow up questions about the work you’ve already done they are able to reach out. It would also be nice to check up on how things are going after three, six, and twelve months. That way you’ll have a real understanding of the impact you’ve had and how the charity has used your ideas to improve their operations.

If you can continue the support, then spend some time setting expectations and making an action plan for everyone involved. Committing to a relationship like this should be taken seriously by both sides and you should all be clear what your responsibilities are and how the project will be managed going forward.

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If you would like any support with finding a charity to volunteer with, please get in touch: rose@thirdbridge.co.uk.

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Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge.

Remaining impactful while volunteering outdoors with your team

I’m the first to admit that England is not a tropical paradise. However, the British people are famously resilient. The slightest glimpse of a ray of sunshine and we’re sprawled on the grass, Pimm’s in hand. For those of us lucky enough to work for a company that gives us time off to volunteer, it’s obviously very tempting to make the most of the weather by volunteering outdoors. There’s certainly no problem with that in theory, but it’s important to keep in mind that outdoorsy, group-style volunteering activities are really in demand with employers and employees alike. Often, they are resource- and time-intensive for the charity to organise, and, sometimes, they don’t really have a huge impact. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it though. Just make sure you keep a few things in mind when picking your opportunity:

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1. It might come with a cost

Hosting a large group of volunteers takes a lot of time to organise and requires a lot of supervision on the day. Charity workers are extremely stretched as it is, and staff time obviously has a cost that needs to be considered. Furthermore, outdoorsy activities are often quite resource-heavy – gardening tools, equipment, paint, seeds, etc. This obviously also has a cost that needs to be covered. You can ask your company to help, pay it out of your own pocket, or raise the money with a bake sale or other fundraising activity.

2. Be upfront about whether you or your company might be able to support them with other things as well

If there isn’t a cost, it might be because the charity is hoping to engage you, your colleagues, or your company longer-term. Be honest about whether this is a possibility or not – it doesn’t have to be a guarantee! There are plenty of ways this could work. Is your company looking for a new partner? Might your colleagues want to do a sponsored run for them? Do they need skills that your company could provide pro bono? Would you be interested in volunteering with them in your free time? If not, be up front about it – they’ll probably still appreciate the one-off help.

3. Make sure they actually need this help

Check that the activity you’ll be doing is actually going to make a difference to the charity. Sometimes charities will allow volunteers to take part in ‘fun’ activities so they’re enthusiastic and more likely to encourage their colleagues or companies to work with them in the future. If you’re not sure that will happen, make sure the activity is actually going to be useful for the charity.

4. Use your skills

If you’re known for killing every houseplant you’ve ever had, then perhaps helping out at a community garden isn’t the best use of your time. Think about what you’re good at and try to find an activity that suits you – you’ll enjoy it more and it will have more of an impact.

5. Enjoy yourself but take it seriously

Volunteering outdoors in the summer with a group of colleagues is a really fun, but make sure you actually got the job done. Also, make the most of being there – take the time to talk to staff from the charity and find out about their work, get to know beneficiaries if they’re there as well, and engage with the issue they’re trying to solve.


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There are plenty of great charities in genuine need of groups of volunteers for outdoors activities. Here are a few that we’ve come across recently:

The Wimbledon Guild

Groups of up to 10 people are welcome in The Wimbledon Guild‘s community garden in Wimbledon. There are plenty of tasks to get stuck into, including building raised beds, weeding, composting, and generally keeping the garden looking neat and pretty.

SweetTree Farming for All

Team-building days can be spent at SweetTree Farming for All‘s farm in Mill Hill. Tasks include building a shed together, clearing brambles from woodland areas, digging out a pond area, or planting new plants in growth beds.

Deen City Farm

Groups of up to 20 can head down to Wimbledon to help Deen City Farm and Stables continue with their activities. There are tasks all year round, including fencing, building, painting, gardening, woodwork, and mending.

Friends of Bradford’s Becks

In the springtime, your group would be able to help the Friends of Bradford’s Becks with keeping the waterways of the area clean and free from litter.

Sedbergh Youth and Community Centre

Sedbergh Youth and Community Centre are struggling with an overgrown, untidy outdoor cycle track and woodland walk. They need clearing so the centre can carry on with their summer activity schemes. Their outdoor activity equipment also needs painting and staining.


If you would like any help with finding suitable volunteering opportunities for your team, please get in touch on info@thirdbridge.co.uk.

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Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager at thirdbridge

Timewasters need not apply

Collaboration is rarely easy, and working cross-sector is even more complicated. Traditionally, partnerships between companies and charities have been characterised by the private sector organisation as the dominant party. Often these are not relationships of equals, in which both party’s needs, boundaries, and aspirations are taken into consideration. A healthy relationship would be one where both sides give and take, teach and learn, and grow together.

We want to make sure that no charity feels like they’ll lose out on support by being assertive, so here’s a few things we think that companies should keep in mind when asking charities for volunteering opportunities.

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The charity you’re working with probably doesn’t revolve around you

While you may be a significant part of their day-to-day or their strategy going forward, they definitely have lots of other things going on too. That’s why it’s not going to do them any favours if you get in touch with a week’s notice asking to have 25 volunteers accommodated. Remember that it takes a lot of work for a charity to set up volunteering activities and they need enough notice so that their other workstreams aren’t compromised.

Charities are always evolving and their needs may not always be the same

Just because they needed some physical labour in their garden last year, it doesn’t mean that will still be a helpful thing for them now. Of course, it’s important that your employees are undertaking a type of volunteering that is engaging for them, but it’s also important that it’s something useful for the charity. Most volunteers can tell if they are there as part of a tick-box exercise anyway and would prefer to do something a bit different but feel like they are making a real impact. Speak to your contacts at the charity and speak to your employees – I can almost guarantee there will be some cross-over in their wants and needs.

Volunteering sometimes has a cost and it’s usually justifiable

Certain volunteering activities are expensive for charities – particularly hosting large groups, providing activities that require a lot of resources, or facilitating participation in sports-based fundraising events. It’s hard enough for most charities to make ends meet as it is without covering these costs as well. Sometimes they will ask you for a small financial contribution to cover the costs. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in the form of a company donation – individual employees can cover their part, or they can fundraise to make the money. They’re putting a lot of work in for you and the engagement you’ll get from your employees as a result is more than worth it.

Charities also have a lot to give

It’s seems to be very easy to forget that charities are full of passionate, committed, educated, experienced people. Yes, charities often need your expertise to make sure their operations are as efficient as possible. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t experts as well. They have a deep understanding of the demographics and communities that they work with every day – communities and people that could be your customers or future employees. They’re often extremely adept at engaging their stakeholders. They also certainly know how to make a big impact on a tiny budget – I’m sure all of us could benefit from that skill! You don’t just have a cause to support, you have a partner who can make you better as a person and as a business.

The onus is on both sides to make the relationship as productive as possible

There are so many fabulous and innovative ways for companies and charities to work together. Here are some of our favourite examples:

PetRescue Australia & Pedigree

Macmillan Cancer Support & Boots

Save the Children & GSK

Great relationships like these don’t just spring up naturally, and they are rarely driven by one side only. Collaboration usually breeds the most exciting ideas. Work together as colleagues. Not as a benefactor and recipient, but as two equals who are passionate about social and environmental change and have complimentary experiences that can be combined to make a real difference. Think about skilled volunteering projects where staff from each side have teaching or mentoring roles, developing a product to sell together, an unusual cause marketing campaign, running an event together – the world is your oyster.

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From conversations we’ve had with parties from both sides of the coin, it looks like things are already starting to move in this direction. Charities are becoming more confident about what they have to offer, and companies are learning to treat charities as valuable partners rather than grateful recipients of their philanthropy. We’re looking forward to hearing more and more examples of relationships that are genuine partnerships working towards solving the most important social and environmental issues we all face.


If you would like any more information about how thirdbridge can help you find new charity or company partners, please contact Rose on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk.rosedelfino_bw

 

Post by Rose Delfino, Community Development & Marketing Manager

How to get your employees excited about volunteering

Is your strategy around volunteering in place? Is your policy perfectly formulated? If so, congratulations – you’re ready to get your employees involved! No matter how brilliant your plans are, if nobody knows about them then your engagement levels aren’t going to be where you want them. In our experience, ~10% of your staff will be ready and raring to go without any encouragement, another ~10% will never get involved unless forced, so your efforts here are to get that middle ~80% to take part and to love it.

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Here are our top tips on how to engage your employees in volunteering:

1. Make best use of internal comms

First things first, people need to actually know that your programme exists and the basic facts about how they can get involved.

There are three main points to get across:

  • the existence of the programme and the reasons why you’re running it
  • the benefits of volunteering in general
  • which specific projects and initiatives are available to them and how they can get involved.

Make best use of all channels available to you:

  • Email

Send an introductory email around with the basics, then every month or so send a little reminder with some interesting stats or info about a new project you’re running.

  • Intranet pages

Make sure all the necessary links are readily available, as well as signposts to the key info points. You can also put up the odd ad about a particularly exciting initiative.

  • Communal spaces

Think beyond the humble noticeboard and get posters up advertising specific volunteering opportunities in places where people can’t help but see it – we favour next to the kettle and on the inside of toilet doors!

  • Meetings

Ask department heads or team leaders to remind their teams about the importance of getting involved when they have catch ups.

  • Newsletters

Use internal newsletters to show off case studies of people who’ve really enjoyed their volunteering experience, or to advertise any events you might be hosting.

  • Blogs

Get your enthusiastic employees to write blogs about how much they love volunteering. You can also ask external partners to write guest blogs about their work or about relevant topics they’re experts in.

  • Social media

Get some pretty pics of your employees looking happy while volunteering on your social media – you’ll kill two birds with one stone by making the rest of your staff jealous and also showcasing your efforts to the wider world.

  • Brown bag lunches

Organise short lunchtime or breakfast events on relevant topics – this could be volunteer case studies, talks from external speakers about the psychology of volunteering, presentations from local charities who do interesting work, etc.

On average, people need to hear a piece of information seven times in seven different ways in order to properly retain it, so you’d better get creative!

2. Recruit internal champions

Tap into that ~10% of super enthusiastic ambassadors that you have at your fingertips and establish a group of employees who really care about volunteering to help you spread the word. Their natural enthusiasm will make it easy for them to help you promote it across the organisation. Make sure they’re right across the company so their reach is significant.

You can make this as formal or as informal as you like. Will this be an official role where they have actual accountability? Will they be required to take someone who has never volunteered before with them at least once? Will they host talks to let people know about their experiences and the benefits they’ve felt? Will they be incentivised?

3. Get some competition going

Everyone loves winning! Capitalise on that by creating volunteering leaderboards within teams and between teams. These could simply be based on hours volunteered or you could make it more complex depending on your specific aims and objectives. Make use of your volunteering champions to stoke the fire and get people into the competitive spirit!

4. Incentivise!

Obviously the rewards of volunteering are a gift in themselves, but sometimes a little something extra helps people get into things! You could give a prize once a quarter for the best volunteer, or perhaps consider a more democratic prize draw for everyone who has volunteered that quarter.

5. Charity donations

As people start to get passionate about the causes they’ve chosen, some additional support from their employer is very motivating. There are several ways to approach this:

  • matched donations for employees who have done some fundraising for their charity of choice
  • grants that employees who have volunteered can apply for on behalf of their chosen charity
  • a quarterly prize draw for a fixed donation to the charity of choice of the employee that wins.

6. Focus on development opportunities

This is more of a long-term goal but definitely worth keeping in mind from the start. Volunteering, particularly when skills-based, is a more effective way of developing an employee’s professional skills than traditional class based training. With HR’s support, it’s possible to map volunteering activity to employee performance and learning & development objectives that are discussed in reviews. This could include credit for saving the company money by promoting environmental initiatives, increasing sales by improving the company’s reputation through stellar local community engagement, improving their own productivity by practicing their skills in a new environment, etc.


 

Hopefully that’s plenty to get you started! We’d love to hear about any other methods you might be trying internally, success stories, or learning curves you might have experienced. Let’s share ideas and get more and more people out there making a difference. Good luck!

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If you have any questions about engaging your employees in volunteering, would like to discuss how thirdbridge could help you with this, or would like to share any of your experiences, then we’d love to hear from you! Just drop Rose a line on rose@thirdbridge.co.uk!

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?

society

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