Volunteer-friendly business is good business
Volunteering can be immensely powerful and beneficial. According to Paul Buddery, Director of Strategy for Volunteering Matters, volunteering is likely to improve physical and mental health, raise life satisfaction and self-esteem, and even reduce milder depressive symptoms and psychological distress, as well as improving local communities.
Some businesses and organisations do encourage employees to undertake volunteer work while they are ‘on the clock’, but according to research by Three Hands, the typical type of activity – while well-meaning – is often not what the charity wants; what they really need is the skills within the business itself: some help with balancing the books, advice on setting up a new system, support with funding proposals.
Charities are a great place to meet local influencers
And there are really good reasons for encouraging employees to use their work skills in the community. For a start, charities have Boards that are made up of local influencers, business people and service buyers that will see what your organisation can offer and there is ample opportunity for relationship-building and networking.
CSR is enhanced and business reputation boosted by volunteering programmes; investing time and resources in the local community is attractive to your current and potential customers and clients as well as key stakeholders.
Employees and employers benefit from volunteering
As for internal business benefits, as well as the many personal gains such as increased confidence and learning new skills for volunteers who put their skills to use outside the everyday workplace setting, volunteering gives opportunities for managers to spot talent and growth potential and can contribute to CPD.
Having a workforce who volunteer improves team skills, loyalty and productivity. Volunteering serves to make employees feel proud of where they work, and increases empowerment, engagement and a sense of connectedness to the employer; the tendency to share on social media platforms what they’ve been up to gives a positive picture of the employer to boot. Working together as a team to reach a common goal in a volunteer setting fosters and strengthens bonding and a sense of teamwork which translates back to the office.
Community-minded employers are more successful at attracting talent
A strong volunteering culture is a powerful tool contributing to recruitment and retention of good quality, passionate talent. A study by PWC stated that 88% of young people in employment were inclined towards businesses with prominent CSR programmes and 86% would consider leaving their current organisation if their employer’s CSR no longer fit with their personal ideals and moral compass. Another recent survey of employees in Greater London showed that 53% of under 35s would like to volunteer more than they do, with this increasing to 60% amongst 18-24-year-olds.
It’s clear that meaningful volunteering, where the charity receives professional help in areas where they have genuine need makes excellent business sense, not to mention being incredibly positive for employees and charities.
To maximise the potential and make volunteering meaningful and productive for volunteers, businesses and charities the key is ensuring that what is offered matches what is needed. Rather than organisations offering a set number of volunteer days per year with fixed physical opportunities, businesses can try approaching local charities, particular smaller ones, to establish where the gaps are and how the business can help fill them, before offering matched volunteer opportunities to employees.