Volunteers working in the third sector are commonly retirees, young students looking to gain work experience, or people of all ages wanting to re-join the workplace.
It’s rare that someone in a busy, full-time role has the time or headspace to volunteer—particularly so if they have family commitments. Every moment of their time will be claimed already.
Sometimes, though, people want to volunteer just to give back. It’s not necessarily about what they can get from a charity, it’s more to do with them being a contributing member of their local community. Which is all well and good, but time is the kicker here, as is the need to pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.
The number of people, however, who would actively get involved with their favourite cause if their employer could spare them for a few hours and if it didn’t affect their wage would be huge!
Believe it or not, such schemes exist.
Corporate volunteering is one way in which employers and employees can give back (and get something back!). Carried out in work time, it requires a little sacrifice from the boss—but here are my reasons why more companies should practice it as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility commitment.
Benefits for the employer
Yes, some of your employees won’t be working within their role for a short period of time, but a change is as good as a rest, so they say. If morale is low in your company, it’s a great idea to give your employees a change of scene and a project in which they can work together as a team.
Some companies pay hundreds to thousands of pounds for staff away days, in the hope they bond with each other and they return feeling refreshed and revitalised. Corporate volunteering offers the same outcomes for free, and everyone involved can feel good about helping those less fortunate.
Lots of volunteering opportunities involve outdoor activities, which can help your employees feel healthier and give them some exercise—this could be particularly beneficial if they’re bound to a desk for eight hours each day. Volunteering projects may require your employees to manage others or lead a team, which are valuable skills they can bring back to the workplace.
Feeling that their employer cares about causes and local need can increase their loyalty to the company. I would far rather work for a business that puts its money where its mouth is, so to speak, when saying it’s giving back to the community, than a firm that says the same but does nothing but reap the PR opportunities. I’d be proud to say I work for a brand that has strong values and which actively tries to improve the community its consumers and staff live in.
Benefits for an employee
A week away from the corporate hamster wheel—yay! Well, not really, but almost. Employees will no doubt have to do some form of work but knowing that they’re helping people in need on their doorstep and improving their lives in some way will be incredibly fulfilling. And they’re being paid for it…double yay!
As an employee, upskilling in your own time and on your own dime is difficult and less appealing than learning new things for free in a warm, inclusive, non-judgmental environment—skills that you can take back to the workplace and build on to perhaps improve your prospects of promotion. Volunteering can bring lots of opportunities for a person to grow.
It’s humbling to take a peek into the lives of others. Maybe, as an employee, you’ve spent weeks bemoaning to all and sundry how stuck in a rut you are in your role. Then you volunteer to help someone fleeing from domestic abuse with just the clothes on their back, for example. It’s very likely that their situation will put yours into perspective. Maybe you’ll look at your job, your family life, your day-to-day routine, and agree that things are not so bad after all, when compared to people struggling to survive. Maybe this new sense of perspective will light a fire underneath you, to speak up, to progress, to want more from life.
Through corporate volunteering, you’ll most probably realise that your job is only a small part of you, that it’s not the be all and end all. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about it or you wouldn’t want to do a good job, but it might stop every workplace setback or challenge becoming something that keeps you awake at night. Volunteering in the third sector can certainly show you what’s important and can help you feel more motivated to make changes in your own life if things have been getting you down.
Benefits to charities
Corporate volunteering can help charities enjoy a deeper connection with companies who actively follow through with their CSR (corporate social responsibility) objectives. The type of volunteers coming to help out will likely have a different set of skills to your regular supporters. Their presence may be short-lived, but they could be very effective in promoting your cause and getting a project off the ground due to their numbers and the fact they already know each other and work together on a regular basis.
Other than structuring their volunteering period so that the corporate employees have something appropriate to do when they’re there, it’s difficult to see how corporate volunteering could be a bad thing for any charity, should a company be keen to give back or help out.
Given that there are a lot of benefits to be had all round, it’s a wonder why so little corporate volunteering goes on. Come on, companies…charities need more support now than ever!