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Employer-supported volunteering

Volunteering while employed: the pros and cons for employers and employees.

Organisations in the private and public sectors can and do encourage their own staff to volunteer in their own time or provide opportunities for staff to volunteer in work time (eg by allowing volunteering leave). This is usually referred to as employer supported volunteering or ESV for short.

Some organisations may set up more regular arrangements or partnerships with businesses to work on a particular project together on a time limited basis or to develop opportunities for employees to volunteer on an ongoing basis. Chambers of Commerce and local business infrastructure organisations (like Brighton and Hove Strategic Partnership) may help in this.

Benefits of employer supported volunteering

A successfully managed employer supported volunteering programme can be a fulfilling experience for everyone. The organisation should benefit from attracting volunteers with the skills, experience and enthusiasm they need but employees and the participating organisation can benefit too. Participating employees can gain new skills and experiences which can often be applicable to their role in the business they work for. 

For example, the potential benefits include:

  • developing future leaders 
  • building strong teams
  • employee skills development
  • improvement in staff attraction and retention
  • increased staff morale and reduced sick leave
  • improving reputation and brand management
  • effective investment in the community

survey by workSMART (a Trade Union Congress website) found that:

'three-quarters of employers prefer to recruit people with volunteering experience on their CV rather than those without it. Voluntary work is unlikely to be the main factor that persuades an employer to take on a particular applicant, but it will certainly help your chances. At the very least, employers favour people who show enthusiasm, energy and drive, and there are few better ways to demonstrate those characteristics than by doing voluntary work'.

Pitfalls of employer-supported volunteering

While ESV can benefit employers and their staff, charities and workers in public services, it is important to ensure that the needs of all parties are matched. For example, an employer may want to develop team building through decorating a charity's office but the charity may really need a new photocopier! It's important therefore that all employees have open conversations about how best they can work together. 

Business in the Community and some Volunteer Centres can 'broker' volunteering opportunities for companies and advise how best to plan and implement ESV. There is usually a charge for the service but this can be less than other activities such as training and motivation events. 

For example, Darlington Building Society teamed up with Age Concern to work together on their own version of 'Silver Surfer', digital inclusion projects. Staff from the Building Society volunteered to run the session once a month from Age Concern, where they passed on their computer skills to the older residents of Darlington.

There are different models of ESV programme and you should find the right approach to ensure that there is mutual benefit for everyone involved. This may depend on how much availability employees have to volunteer, what kinds of roles they are interested and also what kind of support the voluntary organisation needs. 

Further reading

Useful links

Page last edited May 24, 2017

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