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Employee volunteering can be a great way to promote a good CSR image, as well as benefiting the wider community. Despite the benefits it can have to both charities and businesses, there is a stark contrast between the number of employee volunteers available to charities, and the staggering need for them. With this inconsistency, businesses need to think carefully about the real needs of charities and how they can offer them meaningful help.
A recent report by Three Hands, “Employee Volunteering: Is It Working for Charities?”, explored what charities really think of employee volunteering by surveying 181 charities alongside 14 in-depth interviews. The report was able to highlight the strong and weak points of employee volunteering, including charity needs and who needs help the most.
We’ve highlighted four points from the research that you may not have known before.
1. Charities need employee volunteers on an on-going basis, rather than for one-off activities.
Just over half of the charities surveyed said they needed employee volunteers on an ongoing basis, whereas only 20% of charities are offered them. On the other hand, 35% of charities are offered employee volunteers for one-off activities, while only a quarter of charities need them.
Ongoing employee volunteering can take the form of sharing business skills with charities and giving pro-bono support. Carmen Llorente, from Youth Engagement Solutions, commented that they are “in need of volunteers who can be ongoing for a period of time to carry out specific skilled work to help our charity prosper”, and this seems to be the consensus from the other charity responders.
2. Charities need employee volunteers to help with fundraising the most, but it is not offered enough.
One of the biggest challenges that most charities face is fundraising and resources. As well as creating working relationships with businesses, charities are eager to learn more and receive help with business-related skills and activities.
The report highlighted that fundraising was the top priority for 51% of charities, but only 16% are offered fundraising support.
Through fundraising, employee volunteers are able to make an impact on causes they care about, as well as helping the charities supporting those causes. This can be done through any activity, for example, as Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice hold “Corporate Challenge Events”, where small teams of employee volunteers take part in running, cycling, or even skydiving to fundraise for their charity.
3. Communication and clarity is key in terms of employee volunteer skills.
Businesses must know and understand what a charity wants in terms of employee volunteers.
Only 34% of charities in the report said that they felt businesses put the charities’ needs before their own in terms of employee volunteering, while 13% of charities felt that businesses were not genuinely interested in the social impact of their employee volunteering. Katy Sandford, corporate fundraiser at Sick Kids Friends Foundation Edinburgh, mentioned “thinking outside the box” when it came to businesses offering employee volunteers.
With clearer communication, and a more imaginative understanding of what employee volunteers can do, both companies and charities can move away from typically unskilled team-building days towards offering valuable skills, such as sharing business expertise that is truly valuable to charities.
4. Smaller charities and those in rural areas are affected the most with a shortage of employee volunteers.
While charities nationwide suffer a shortage of employee volunteers, those in big cities are often the most fortunate ones – receiving a lot of support from large corporations. The same goes for big charities, too.
On the flip side, however, small charities and those in rural areas have the greatest need, and receive the lowest numbers of employee volunteers. The report points out that smaller charities are three times more likely to lack employee volunteers, and those in less populated areas are half as likely to be offered their help.
While there are big obstacles to overcome to remedy this situation, there is certainly more corporations can do to make sure that their help is fairly distributed among charities in need.
While employee volunteering is a great way to develop more collaboration between the charity and business sectors, communication is a must. By identifying where the need is greatest, corporations can ensure that their volunteering programmes have the biggest impact, and that all parties receive the maximum benefit.
For more insights into how charities feel about employee volunteering, download the report here.