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Volunteering can boost business as well as community links

February 2015

Paul Buchanan, community director, Business in the Community explains why volunteering is good for the bottom line as well as the spirit

Recently I sat in an audience listening to a young man talk passionately about the support he had received from volunteers on Give & Gain Day, Business in the Community’s annual celebration of volunteering.

Andrew who had been unemployed for a number of years – attended an into work programme, run by the ClementJames Centre in west London supported by business volunteers who provided CV and interview training. Andrew now has a job at Tesco, after a referral from one of the volunteers. He spoke excitedly about his new found confidence and hopes to return to his native Ghana to run his own business.

No one hearing his story would doubt the positive impact of employee volunteering but is that enough for business?

Today approximately 70% of FTSE 100 businesses have an active employee volunteering programme and it is now widely recognised that it provides a range of benefits. Consumers are more likely to buy from a business that visibly supports and engages in activities to improve society. Volunteering also engages staff, which boosts morale, performance, retention and recruitment. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, employees who are most engaged with their employer perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organisation.

Volunteering also demonstrates a business’s visible commitment to local communities made up of current and potential customers, suppliers and employees. Building strong relationships with these local stakeholders can translate into stronger supply chains, access to a wider pool of talent and better consumer engagement.

There have even been efforts made to quantify the value of volunteering, to the volunteer, with a study commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions estimating the monetary equivalent of the wellbeing benefit to frequent volunteers to be £13,500 per year. With all this considered, its little wonder that employers are taking employee volunteering more seriously.

Yet despite these benefits we’re still a long way from employee volunteering being truly culturally normal and a recent ComRes survey found that only 15% of employees say they’re given time to volunteer by their employer. Indeed, the picture outside big business is very different. Only 20% of medium-sized businesses, and 14% of small businesses offer volunteering to their employees. With SMEs accounting for 48% of private sector employment it is clear that the actual take-up of volunteering across all business is not what it could be.

The development of skilled volunteering is an encouraging trend. At Business in the Community, we engage with approximately 80,000 per year across our programmes. We’re increasingly working to support businesses to shift towards more sustained volunteering rather than the one off challenges. Five years ago, 99% of the team challenges we organised for companies were physical e.g. gardening or painting. Now40% of activities are skills-based and companies are reporting clearer benefits.

What is clear is that employers now want to offer a range of volunteering opportunities to their staff matching their talents and motivations to community needs. The benefits for business are proven. The benefits for communities, when employee volunteering is done right, are undeniable. Now let’s see more of it.

UK & NI Ireland | Volunteering


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