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A lot of us have seen old films, mainly comedies, where taking a step forward was always an invitation for trouble and contrary to the old adage of the British Army soldier, “Never volunteer”.

Well today the ethos of many people and companies alike is to embrace volunteering. Indeed, more and more companies now encourage their employees to spend several days of their paid employment working in the voluntary sector. This isn’t a new idea of course, many companies have been urging their workforce to volunteer throughout the last 10 years.

EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEERING

One such company is nfpSynergy, who have given their staff 5 days of volunteering leave per year for the last decade, but as company founder Joe Saxton, pointed out in a recent article, it is not always as simple as it sounds. “We discovered that 5 days volunteering a year is not nearly enough to be useful for many opportunities.Even a volunteering spot of half a day a week would require 25 days a year. So five days didn’t provide enough time for people to volunteer the way many charities wanted them to”. And this, indeed, is the nub of the issue.

Underwood Consulting has supported many charities to consider corporate fundraising and has found there is nearly always a gap between what a charity and a company are looking for from the relationship. Other common concerns echoed by charities Underwood Consulting has supported includes;

  • The significant amount of time taken to manage volunteering opportunities
  • Clashes of culture
  • Staff, volunteers and service users attitudes towards the individual companies participating, (often a more significant issue the more well known the company)
  • Concerns about managing relationships between volunteers and vulnerable service users
  • Similarly many companies have their own concerns;

  • The need for employees to see tangible results from their volunteering quickly to boost motivation, (something which is not always possible for charities delivering services to people with complex needs)
  • The need to promote teamwork and competition across the company
  • The difficulty of finding a cause all employees favour
  • The need to provide meaningful volunteering opportunities with a clear outcome
  • The need for these opportunities to fit with the company’s workload and schedule
  • This is not to say effective corporate relationships cannot be developed if the parameters of the relationship are clear and agreed from the outset however. Underwood Consulting supports charities to identify which opportunities add real value to their organisation and what they can give in return.

    INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTEERING

    Of course volunteering is not simply the prerogative of company employees, many individuals volunteer within the UK. However as volunteering becomes more common place in the charity sector it is also important for charities to consider the benefits for the volunteer. One charity Underwood Consulting supported were particularly strong in considering and promoting the benefits individual volunteers gained.

    USING VOLUNTEERS IN A FRONT LINE SERVICE DELIVERY

    At the same time with more charities using well trained, competent volunteers in the delivery of frontline services, commissioners are beginning to ask how charities recognise, support and manage volunteer input.

    For this reason many charities are now developing comprehensive volunteering policies across their organisation, which recognise and address many of the challenges and benefits outlined in this article. In addition more forward thinking charities are considering gaining the Investors in Volunteering accreditation (IIV).

    TO VOLUNTEER OR NOT TO VOLUNTEER

    The answer to the question to volunteer or not to volunteer will be different for each charity but the issues highlighted above will be common to many and should be considered before a charity embarks on a volunteering journey. Underwood Consulting can help charities to consider this important issue when developing their fundraising or tendering strategies