Why employer-supported volunteering does everyone good

Why employer-supported volunteering does everyone good

“Volunteerism is a basic expression of human relationships,” according the UN. “It is about people’s need to participate in their societies and to feel that they matter to others.”

As a growing number of businesses aim to make a positive impact in the world as well as a profit, volunteering is a simple way to do just that, by supporting and building relationships with communities, charities and people in need. That in itself should be recompense enough. But did you know that it’s also a sure-fire way of increasing employee engagement, talent retention, and even developing new skills across your business?

What is employer-supported volunteering?

An ESV or corporate volunteering programme involves giving your employees opportunities to volunteer during paid working hours, or as a company, collectively dedicating time, resources or skills to people and non-profits in need, and contributing to social change. Volunteering can be structured in a number of ways, from annual volunteering days to one-off team projects:

• Individual employees can work with charities of their choice, helping people in need directly or providing behind the scenes support

• A team of employees can work together for a cause chosen by the company, either long-term or as a one-off project

• Companies can offer individual or group skills-based volunteering where employees use their skills and experience to support charities with pro bono work or services.

Benefits for the community

Many non-profits, charities and community groups work with limited budgets and resources, so volunteering can help them in multiple ways from speeding up projects and lowering costs, to increasing their exposure and widening their reach. By partnering with a charity that aligns with your values, you can build profitable relationships for both parties.

Skills-based volunteering is becoming increasingly popular with businesses and non-profits alike. We’re used to hearing about lawyers doing pro bono work, but the practice can work with a much wider range of skills. When PwC set up a skill-based volunteering programme in 2021, offering employees 40 hours of paid vacation time, they saw their pro bono services increase by 20% and services to social justice grow by 30%.

Benefits for your employees

As a result of the same PwC programme, 95% of employees felt they made a positive impact, and nearly two-thirds felt fulfilled. This is the real power of volunteerism: it makes people feel better and feel empowered – boosting morale and general happiness.

Research by the CIPD also discovered that more than 80% of those who took part in volunteering reported higher community awareness, 65% had better communication skills, and 59% increased in confidence – all good for employees’ personal development. A recent Deloitte report noted that HR professionals agree that volunteering improves employees’ skills and that active volunteers are likely to get promoted faster.

Benefits for employers

All of the benefits above feed into a considerable value stream for businesses:

Higher engagement: A strong EVC leads to a harder-working, more positive workforce that raises overall levels of employee engagement and productivity.

Better retention levels: “When employees are actively involved in giving back it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work,” notes Elizabeth Stocker, a consultant at Great Place to Work. Over 80% of employees would show increased loyalty to an organisation that supports social and environmental causes1 and 89% believe organisations that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better working environment2.

Deeper brand affiliation: Employees working for companies with volunteering programmes are proud to tell others where they work, likely to share their volunteering activity on social media which raises your profile with the community, customers and prospective employees.

Stronger teams: when employees pull together for a good cause, they build team spirit, cooperation and bond with each other – all qualities that transfer into their work.

Improved skills: those new heightened employee skills we’ve already touched on are good for your business, and can demonstrate a new side to employees that can help reveal their future potential.

Where to look for inspiration

The type of volunteering your employees can get involved in will likely depend on the size of your company and the degree of flexibility you can offer – if you’re a small team, simply giving your employees time off work to donate blood is a positive move.

Here at Lucent, our founder, David, is a long-time volunteer with Bristol-based Youth Moves. As well as mentoring teenagers on a weekly basis, he donates time and skills in pro-bono work for the charity that in turn makes a real difference in our local community.

Here are some (slightly) more famous companies who are putting the va-va-voom into volunteering:

Nationwide – the building society gives employees two volunteering days a year and encourages involvement in a whole range of charitable activities. As one employee explains: “The culture is great and PRIDE is at the core of everything.”

Sage – employees can take five fully-paid volunteer days a year to do meaningful, purpose-driven and passion-aligned work.

Salesforce – employees are able to take up to seven paid days off per year to volunteer. The top 100 volunteers are also granted $10,000 to donate to a charity of their choice.

Intel – during the pandemic, employees volunteered their data science expertise to help Costa Rica save lives. They donated over 1,000 hours of problem-solving to help the government develop an effective response plan.

IBM – employees are given the chance to participate in a four-month, pro bono project where small teams of employees are sent around the globe to help governments and organisations with education, healthcare, and economic development projects.

The Gates Foundation – though themselves a non-profit that fights poverty, disease, and inequity, they also encourage their employees to volunteer for individual causes they care about with a generous 3:1 charitable donation match.

Of course, there are plenty of small businesses that really punch above their weight in the volunteering stakes too – it’s genuinely something that all of us can do to make a tangible difference.

So, if you’re looking for new and powerful ways to foster employee engagement, strengthen your team and give back to your community, volunteering is a practical and feel-good option. And as we’re in Volunteer Week – the first week of June every year – it’s the perfect time to put your hand up and get started.

1 https://conecomm.com/2016-millennial-employee-engagement-study/

2 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/citizenship-deloitte-volunteer-impact-research.html?nc=1