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“The type of volunteering we could utilise well is not the type that is generally offered. Employees seem to prefer to spend their volunteering days doing something different rather than using their professional skills.”
– Emma Brown, W.A.I.T.S.
The relationship between businesses and non-profit organisations can often be a distant one. Recent research from Three Hands, however, sheds some light on charities’ experiences of one of the most common ways they interact with businesses – through volunteers.
This research has unearthed some striking statistics, and laid bare where the relationship is working and where it isn’t.
How do charities feel about employee volunteering?
While there are many examples in the report of positive experiences that have been had with employee volunteers, one particularly striking statistic is that only 34% of charities feel that businesses put charities’ needs before their own.
Charities have also stated that they might be unwilling or reluctant to take on employee volunteers for the following reasons:
- Not having many activities or suitable activities for employee volunteers to undertake.
- Having a lack of capacity to manage employee volunteers – especially if there is a large group of them.
- The business being unprepared to cover the costs of the volunteers.
- A mismatch between what the business wants and what the charity needs.
The final point here is key. Three Hands found that the divergence between what charities need and what businesses are offering is very wide.
Where the differences are most stark:
51% of charities said that they were in need of support for fundraising, while only 16% said they had been offered it.
47% stated that they required skills-sharing from employee volunteers, while only 25% of charities – and though this number appears small, it is actually the second most commonly offered form of volunteering – were being offered it.
And 37% seek pro bono support from professionals, while only 15% receive it.
The difference is one of skills.
While skilled forms of volunteering were heavily underrepresented, 50% of charities stated that they were offered support for unskilled team projects, while only 29% were in need of it.
Unskilled projects was the only category where supply outstripped demand.
What can be done to help?
From this data, it is clear that businesses must pay more heed to the specific needs of charities, or risk wasting time and resources, and an opportunity to make a real difference.
Charities need to be more vocal about what they want from businesses, and corporations need to be willing to fulfil these needs if they seek to actually make a difference rather than simply meet a measurement for their annual reviews. And while non-skilled projects still have their merit – in environmental, conservation and heritage charities, especially – the skills that companies have in abundance could be utilised to make a much more meaningful, long term impact.