Employee volunteering? Create a skills based strategy.

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Employee volunteering programmes are common place these days, but what does it take to make of success of them? This article is the second in the mini-series, 5 Steps to a Successful Employee Volunteering Programme.

Encouraging employees to volunteer in the local community can be a great way to build and develop social and professional skills. However, you should first consider what you can offer to charities, as well as what you hope to gain.

Research by employee volunteering research firm ThreeHands has shown that the most common type of support given by corporates comes in the form of unskilled team projects (think beach clean or painting a wall at your local school). Even though no hard skills are required, this form of volunteering is still marketed as a human resources tool and low-cost option for staff development. Some skills developed through this kind of volunteering include: people skills (team-work, negotiating etc.), organisational skills, prioritisation, time management, and communication.

However, charities are not blind to the fact that one of the motivations behind unskilled employee volunteering is to develop core competencies of staff (some have even described the practice as passing on staff development costs to the third sector). While it is still a valued form of volunteering, ThreeHands’ research has shown that the majority of charities prefer volunteers that can contribute more specialised knowledge and skills, such as help with accounting or pro-bono consultation.

CSR professionals should think about any instance of employee volunteering on a scale ranging from unskilled (developing soft-skills) to skilled (utilising specialised skills to make a bigger impact). Every company and every employee is different, with a range of skills to offer and to gain. A successful employee volunteering programme should therefore aim to develop core skills where required, but also utilise specialist knowledge as much as possible as a way to give back and maximise community impact.

The true challenge lies in incentivising and guiding your employees to volunteer in a way that is most beneficial to their own development, while keeping the interest of the wider community in mind. One way to do this is through leading by example, which we’ll be exploring in the next piece in this series.

How local will you go?

By | Going Local | No Comments

Speaking at a recent event in London, Bola Gibson of TSB Bank and Mike Barry of M&S outlined their respective approaches to ‘going local’, discussing the ways that corporations can respond to what many see as growing trends of personalisation and localisation.

However, while more and more big brands are going down this path, is ‘local’ what people are looking for when they choose to shop in a place like M&S? While many of us like the idea of lots of local shops lining our high-streets, when faced with the commitments of a busy life, it is the big chains — or increasingly the Internet — that often win out. So, what role is there for corporations to be local, and how do they do it while preserving the convenience for the consumer that comes with being a big national brand?

According to Barry, the aim of M&S is to localise not in terms of product, but in terms of “footfall and customer service”, giving people “humanity, warmth, and the desire to be in a shop”. This means that rather than stocking local products, staff and store managers themselves are empowered to become a part of the community, working to develop an identity for the store that’s rooted in the local area. Another example is the new M&S email strategy, where the generic, nation-wide email update has been replaced with news tailored to a member’s local area.

Both M&S and TSB Bank are also concerned about being local not just in terms of the consumer, but also in their wider impact in the community — benefiting the areas in which they operate irrespective of whether the people they help are customers. M&S do this through donating excess food, and then volunteering in the local food banks that distribute it. For TSB, it is about empowering branch managers to take control of charity partnerships, volunteering links and sponsorship in their local area. For example, in 2015 they scrapped the National Charity of the Year, and allowed every branch to select their own organisation from the local area to support.

Bola Gibson describes the incredible results and feedback they have had from this approach. After going local, funds raised by staff for charity nearly tripled, and managers reported increased morale in the branches. Local people were overwhelming positive about seeing TSB support local causes, and the supported organisations themselves benefited from increased exposure in the community.

From the stories of M&S and TSB Bank, perhaps we can conclude that the key to going local for big brands is to think not only about product or service, but instead about what impact and benefit a corporation can have in the local communities in which they operate. If schools, charities and community cohesion are the beneficiaries of a move towards local, then consumers can continue enjoying the familiarity of supermarkets, or the convenience of a bank branch in every town, while knowing that the places they spend (or save) their money do care about and support what is local to them.

Does your company’s employee giving programme need a cause?

By | Employee Engagement | No Comments

person holding out a hand for anotherEmployee volunteering programmes are common place these days, but what does it take to make of success of them? This article is the first in the mini-series, 5 Steps to a Successful Employee Volunteering Programme.

A good employee volunteering program can be grounded in a solid and purposeful partnership with a specific charity, but it doesn’t have to be. Employee happiness and retention can also benefit from granting more freedom in how employees get to allocate their volunteering allowance.

Building an employee volunteering program with a cause can be a great way to complement your organisation’s purpose. For example, British Gas — Britain’s largest energy supplier and client of GivingForce — has built a purposeful volunteering campaign around their partnership with housing charity Shelter.

However, it is by no means necessary to affiliate your organisation with a bigger cause. On the contrary, being seen as appropriating a cause for your own promotion can be potentially damaging (see Pepsi’s recent media backlash for their advert based on civil-rights movements).

So do you need a cause?

There’s no single or simple answer but luckily there is a simple solution that can often get overlooked: ask your employees!

Reach out to your employees through a survey or questionnaire to find out about existing community involvement. Find out what causes your employees care about before you build or refine your volunteering program.

While it’s fantastic for a company to rally its employees around a shared cause, employees may be more engaged if they have the freedom to choose their own projects. If your employees are already heavily engaged in their local communities and passionate about what they do, that’s great. You should maintain that freedom for them to continue doing what they love.

GivingForce has worked with successful volunteering campaigns that gave employees full freedom to decide how they want to spend their volunteering days, as well as with campaigns that were successfully built around a cause. Realistically, most companies will choose a combination of the two.

Either way, figuring out which approach best fits the identity and culture of an organisation is a crucial first step in setting up any successful volunteer program.

Going Local — How employees can connect global companies to local issues.

By | Employee Engagement, Volunteering | No Comments

field with sunsetGlobalisation — a term that has caused much contention in its relatively short life. While its development can be traced through the work of Adam Smith, all the way back to the early market integration of civilisations, for us non-scholars of economic history, it is very much a modern phenomenon, barely more than a few decades old. To talk about ‘going local’, therefore, can seem to be forgetting the recent past. For most of us, for most of history, ‘local’ was all there really was.

The fact that we now talk about ‘going local’ is testament to the enormous and transformative power of recent trends of globalisation. But what do we actually mean when we say ‘local’? With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, a return to local — as these events are often seen — can be as big as returning from the global to the national stage; focusing on one’s own country rather than its relationship with the rest of the world. For most people, however, when asked to think about what is local, they think of their town, or village, or borough — the place where they do their shopping and their children go to school. With all the change that has occurred since globalisation first entered the popular imagination, people’s sense of what is local really hasn’t shifted.

For global corporations, the question of what is local — and how to connect with it — is a bit more complex. It is quite common for a company or brand to operate or market itself differently in different countries based on local traditions, customs or history. Opel vehicles driving around the streets of continental Europe, for example, sport a Vauxhall badge when in the UK, and you won’t find a bank closed on a Sunday in Dubai. These, however, are really decisions of practicality, or are based on what will appeal to local consumers. The challenge facing corporations is how to connect with what is local in the sense that ordinary people understand it.

A corporation’s best connection to what is truly local — the issues and institutions of individual communities — must be its employees. However large a corporation, at its core it is made up of individual people, each of whom have a local area in which they live, with schools, groups and charities that they care about and want to see succeed. In the UK, while the days of the local bobby, milkman, and British seaside holiday may be a thing of the past, people’s desire to see their communities thrive is most definitely not.

We can see evidence of this by examining volunteering activities in the UK. According to the UK Civil Society Almanac 2017, over 1 in 4 adults in the UK volunteer at least once a month. Out of these, sports organisations and social clubs and groups are the most popular — initiatives with a direct impact on the local community. Despite the seismic shifts in how we interact with the world outside our immediate surroundings, and what many see as a growing depersonalisation to life, it seems that many people do still very much care about what is ‘local’ to them.

So, what can corporations do to take advantage of this treasure trove of local fervour hidden within their ranks? One key way to leverage this enthusiasm is through employer-supported volunteering, where employees take time out during work hours — with the permission of their employer — to volunteer with community projects or charity organisations, often within their local area. While it is not a new phenomenon and is generally well known, participation, at least in the UK, remains relatively low, at about 8% of adults. So, what might be holding enthusiasm for corporate volunteering initiatives back?

In most companies, volunteering is split into two types, 1) strategic volunteering that is aligned with the company’s own targets, where volunteering opportunities are provided for staff, and 2) employee led volunteering, where the employee is responsible for identifying the opportunity themself. While strategic volunteering, when done right, can often have a greater impact on a particular charity, finding good opportunities beyond “painting a wall” isn’t easy. And finding good local opportunities can be even harder. Beyond this, the process of finding out about strategic volunteering opportunities can be arduous for employees, especially if there isn’t an effective solution in place. Often promotion is based on spreadsheets of people who have expressed an interest or offered to spread the word, so reaching and engaging new volunteers, especially for global corporations, is difficult.

While having an effective system for managing and promoting strategic volunteering is essential, it is often employee led volunteering that is most engaging for staff, and most effective at reaching truly local causes. As we have discussed, people’s interest in their local communities is strong, and empowering them to spend time out of work helping the causes and charities that matter to them is, naturally, exciting. While the challenges of employee led volunteering, including risk assessment, charity vetting, reputational management and general administration costs, are many, with an effective solution in place the benefits are well worth it.

At GivingForce, we have seen the best employee engagement in organisations where an employee has a range of volunteering opportunities to pick from, but also autonomy to find and suggest their own, as well as share them with colleagues and invite others to participate. Empowering employees to ‘go local’ and engage with charities, causes and colleagues in their community can increase participation and engage a workforce, but is also a corporation’s best connection to what is truly local in the areas in which they operate, and an opportunity to connect with communities on an entirely human level.

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CAF finds volunteering up, despite ‘tumultuous’ year.

By | Volunteering | No Comments

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) have recently published the CAF UK Giving Report 2017. The report provides giving and volunteering data collected during regular interviews throughout 2016.

For this year’s publication, CAF has – for the first time since starting reporting in 2004 –  collected data on a month-by-month basis. This has allowed at least one headline-worthy conclusion: the Brexit referendum in June and other ‘tumultuous’ economic events of 2016 had no immediate impact on giving in the UK.

Another major insight from CAF’s data for the year is that volunteering has gone up in 2016 – 17% of respondents said they volunteered for a charity in 2016, up from 13% in 2015.

Based on GivingForce’s own work with FTSE 100 companies and their employees, we believe that the increase in volunteering in 2016 is not a random observation, but a trend that is likely to continue in upcoming years.

The idea that time spent volunteering is time spent learning (e.g. as recursive learning to complement formal training) is not limited to the corporate world. For this reason it is no surprise that CAF has found that students are the group most likely to have volunteered in the last year (23%).

Maximilian Weidlich

Global Goals – Global effort

By | Giving/Philanthropy, SDGs, Tech4Good | No Comments

Sustainable Development Goals logo

Judging by the intensity of debate at the Crowd event earlier this month the United Nations’ Global Goals clearly struck a chord with everyone in the room.  I thought I’d share my perspective.

Joe Franses, Director of Coca-Cola European Partners, gave a captivating talk on the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for business. The public sector have shaped and supported, what has now become, the SDG initiative – even before they were implemented last year. The third sector quickly learned the value of SDG’s as advocacy tools for their own noble causes. There is a growing awareness in the private sector that implementation of SDGs can and should play a central role in what a responsible business does.

Sustainable development depends on the active engagement of both the public and private sectors. We expected the tone of discussion to begin with – ‘if’ businesses should start working towards the Global Goals. However, the Crowd attendees jumped right in and asked how enterprises could work towards a healthier, fairer and better world.

Entrepreneurs who understand how their business can benefit from sustainable development initiatives – taking into account the importance of corporate social responsibility – will become more effective champions of the SDGs.

report by risk management firm DNVGL regarding specific SDGs concluded “businesses of this kind are ready to take “extraordinary action” to help achieve the goals”. These businesses “see the SDGs as a way to achieve competitive advantage”. This is especially apparent when vying for the attention of millennials, for example. Millennials appear to have an intrinsic understanding of how important the SDGs are to the success of shared global objectives – they are value driven employees. A data driven report on business action and millennials by Corporate Citizenship states that “[They] believe in collaboration on multiple levels, both within and outside the private sector.”

Business culture of today and new generations will need to collaborate on many levels – one learning and growing from the other – a cross-generational effort to nurture corporate citizenship and shared values such as the SDGs. At the Crowd event, Sonja Graham explained how Global Action Plan implemented a value-driven schools program which had a phenomenal effect on students’ feelings giving them “greater appreciation of how they impact the environment and inspire them to be sustainably responsible citizens”.

Altruism/philanthropy was once at the discretion of an individual – the answers to how the private sector can achieve success in the giving arena will ultimately define the chance of success of both the Global Goals and individual businesses.  

Unsurprisingly, the importance of technology to achieve scale and reach expands into the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the Crowd’s plenary session, Joe Franses brought our attention to the UN’s official SDG in Action App, which allows users to browse, join and share actions that support the Global Goals. Similarly, GivingForce will launch its own app early in 2017, which will allow employees to find, record and share their own volunteering activity. The creation and emergence of these apps shows that all citizens – be it of a school, business or planet earth – are looking for ways to get together and improve their local and global community.

Maximilian Weidlich


Engage the Millennials!

By | Employee Engagement | One Comment

@GivingForce Group of young people (millennials) sitting on a fence using their phonesMillennials – a buzz word, also described as ‘generation Y’ (the generation born from the eighties to the noughties) have grown up with the world at their fingertips – access to everything through the internet and social media. They can be a fearless generation; believing their voices can make a difference, undauntedly confronting tricky issues. Whatever your opinion, it would be wrong to underestimate the power, this supremely open generation have, to use their voices. GivingForce believe millennials can be valuable employees – and as they will make up half the global workforce by 2050 – this is a generational talent pool that you’ll want to hire from!

The key lies in CSR

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, millennials are among the most community-minded generation. 70% of Millennial employees spent at least an hour per year volunteering in 2014 and 37% devoted up to 10 hours per year (2015 Millennial Impact Report). A strong level of engagement is something you should strive to replicate in the workplace through an innovative and engaging CSR programme. Believe me, done right, millennials will talk about it! According to the CEO of Achieve and researcher for The Millennial Impact Derrick Feldmann,

“What motivates millennials is a desire to affect THEIR cause through YOUR organization with their friends.”

Millennials want to achieve more from their daily 9-5 than peer recognition and successful project completion. Don’t get me wrong, holidays and pension schemes are as important as ever, but this generation want to know how many paid hours they can spend helping out at the local RSPCA or mentoring at their local school. These extras are what will entice your millennial recruit through the door and give them an incentive to stay. A study by Price Waterhouse Coopers found, “88% were looking for employers with CSR values that matched their own, and 86% would consider leaving an employer whose values no longer met their expectations.” This might strike some as fickle or flakey but this is a generation who might; change career paths several times, work in a number of different roles and organisations, to fulfil their own personal goals.

Volunteer initiatives have the power to become an indispensable millennial recruitment and retention tool – a route to connect with your employee base in a meaningful way. Millennials have the potential to reshape the workplace, they need added value and higher purpose in their roles. Get this wrong and they will either head for the door or not step through in the first place!

The GivingForce Team

Maximise Your Fundraising Efforts with Company Matching

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Maximise Your Fundraising Efforts with Company Matching - piggy bank

This blog post will finish our mini series on how technology has transformed Employee Engagement.

We have looked at volunteering, payroll giving and now, after an incredibly insightful Crowd event this week highlighting Broken Society, we will turn our attentions to company matching and fundraising.

Technology has transformed fundraising, making it compelling and engaging. For example, online fundraising, social media campaigns or crowdfunding are all means of raising money that didn’t exist until recently whether for profit or not.

We have all experienced a FaceBook newsfeed featuring “sponsor me” requests, facilitated by websites such as JustGiving. Donations can be made from just £3 to any of your friend’s fundraising initiatives, even for people you don’t know. The process is smooth, slick and easy.

Social Media Campaigns
Well known examples include the ALS ice bucket challenge, first fiver or the no make-up selfie. These fun campaigns have taken global engagement for causes to a whole new level, raising large amounts of money purely with the power of extensive social media networks. You can now do something good purely by tweeting, posting or sharing these viral taglines. Sharing is literally caring.

Linked to the point about JustGiving, crowdfunding can achieve more than just “doing good”. In fact, crowdfunding can lift a business off the ground. Entrepreneurs can use crowdfunding sites to back their business and make it a reality.

Now imagine if the money these technology-based campaigns raised could be even higher. You could maximise your fundraising efforts through matching if your company has a matching programme.

Companies will establish rules and limits for matching programmes on either the number of applications employees can submit or the maximum amount of money they wish to match. So think carefully about which cause to apply for – you may only get one chance!

Typically you need to do your fundraising, raise as much money as you can, then apply for your company to match it.

If your company does not use a portal such as ours, matching still doesn’t need to be complicated. Do make sure you keep track of the URL for your online fundraising page or a copy of receipt/letter confirming the amount paid to the charity – you’ll get asked for it at some point. Don’t leave it too long to apply as some online fundraising sites will archive your fundraising page and it will be harder to provide evidence of you fundraising.

Fundraising can be fun and exciting.  Matching isn’t as much but it’s worth it and technology has at least made it an easier process. For one thing the use of technology has moved matching from something spreadsheet based, to a concept that is streamlined, transparent and auditable.

We hope this three-post long mini series has proved insightful, whether you are a newbie or a veteran to Employee Engagement. Your opinions on all three topics are valuable to us so please do get in touch with any thoughts or queries.

Alice McAnulty and Ejaz Rashid for GivingForce

Using Technology to Supercharge Payroll Giving

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As discussed in last week’s blog post, the upcoming Crowd event on November 7th has inspired a miniseries of our insights on how technology is having an influence on employee engagement. Having already looked at volunteering, this blog post will look at how technology can be used to supercharge payroll giving.

Payroll giving has always been the dull cousin of the glamorous credit card donation. Greater tax relief and lower processing costs are all very sensible but like most sensible things, also a bit boring. The traditional process of signing up and changing payroll giving instructions isn’t that easy and the pain doesn’t end with the donor; the company’s payroll department has to deal with a spreadsheet or paper forms, each in their own format and not always that consistent. Further down the chain whoever is disbursing the donations has to piece together the bits of information to match the right money to the right charity, like some sort of office-based Miss Marple.

You rarely need to think about a credit card transaction in terms of credit card company, intermediary banks, payment processors, etc… It just works. The same should be true for payroll giving.

The key to transforming payroll giving to the aforementioned ideal is to look at the whole process and integrate each part to make it work like a single system. When it’s working properly payroll giving should be just another means of making payments. You have cash, credit/debit cards, bank transfers, cheques…and now payroll.  

Payroll is perfect for donations but could also be used to pay for goods and services. Benefits companies have effectively been doing this for a while but the ‘marketplace’ is limited to whatever deals each benefits company has negotiated – kind of like buying vouchers you can only spend in one place.

At GivingForce we’ve created a payroll giving engine that makes the process of giving simple and intuitive for donors, integrates with payroll departments and payment processors. We still have a little way to go to join up all the dots – integrating beneficiary organisations so they’re also part of the payroll giving ecosystem (due next year!).  

This isn’t meant to be a blatant plug but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and I think it’s a good start to resolving the issues holding back payroll giving. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, please do get in touch.

I think the future will mean opening up our technology to everyone to make it the engine, the hub, the backbone for payroll giving. Perhaps it’s time to speak to governments about making this happen?

We’d love to get your input – contact information below.


Ejaz Rashid for GivingForce

info@givingforce.com     +44 (0)20 313 77088

How Technology is Changing the Face of Volunteering

By | Uncategorized | One Comment

There are undoubtedly big changes around the corner due to advances in technology and the emergence of AI. Google’s DeepMind project is an example of AI starting to deliver practical solutions to traditional problems and limitations. So what could the future look like for companies trying to engage with a host of stakeholders – employees, communities, investors and the public? This could be the stuff of dissertation legend so let’s stick to one area – employee engagement – as that’s where GivingForce has the most experience and insight.

Inspired by the next Crowd event due to take place on November 7th, we will be looking at whether technology holds the solution to employee engagement through a mini series of blog posts. To start off, let’s take a look at how technology is changing the face of promoting and coordinating volunteering efforts.

Running volunteering programmes can be very time-consuming needing a lot of intervention by a few people who know how things work. Technology should be an enabling and time-saving tool – we see it being used to promote, drive and measure volunteering.


Companies and individuals are moving away from traditional volunteering promotional platforms such as basic websites and company “ad boards” and getting more personal and innovative.  

Deliver information everywhere – office, home, mobile – wherever potential volunteers have time.  Use technology to identify and promote volunteering that is likely to be of interest.

Drive (the process)

Technology should help drive the volunteering process by delivering the right information for the right person at the right time.  It should ensure the “boring” details are handled without needing extra time from the CSR team, volunteers and beneficiaries. Things like H&S, risk and compliance and the more general tasks like sending reminders don’t need to be done manually.

Measurement (as if by accident)

Collecting and cleaning data can be a horrible experience. It needn’t be if people offer it willingly and the data is validated by the time you need to report on it.  This isn’t wishful thinking – confirmation of volunteering, logging hours, gathering feedback, impact surveys, personal stories and photo’s should all happen almost as a byproduct of using technology.

Needless to say all of this makes reporting really straightforward!

Any thoughts or questions welcome in the comments – or why not contact us directly ?


Alice McAnulty and Ejaz Rashid – GivingForce