Headlines: November 25th, 2015

Despite new opportunities for employer-supported volunteering, neither organisations nor the voluntary sector are effectively tackling the barriers preventing greater co-operation.

The Government is committed to introducing three days volunteering leave requiring large businesses and public bodies to offer employees three days’ paid leave. While this offers a game changing opportunity it has also revealed a need to get the systems and processes in place to make the most of it.

Research by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations found a lack of understanding between charities and companies about the costs and benefits involved in ESV, with some companies unwilling to contribute to the costs involved in hosting volunteers. Similarly, some of the businesses interviewed reported that charities often overlooked the additional benefits of a one-off placement, including the potential of sponsorship or support from the company in the future.

Another barrier revealed by the research was that many charities benefit from skilled volunteering, such as help writing strategies, but feel that people are less likely to volunteer in their professional capacity than for typically unskilled volunteering tasks such as painting or gardening. The research highlights the significant gaps in employer knowledge about volunteering, and explores assumptions made by each sector that risk undermining the potential of volunteering initiatives.

The research, ‘On the brink of a game-changer?’, has been published to explore how better collaboration between business and public organisations, and the voluntary sector is key to achieving successful ESV placements.

The findings of the research are supplemented by a new survey of HR professionals by the CIPD, whose results highlight the business case for supporting ESV. The survey found that 81% of those who took part in volunteering reported increased community awareness, 65% had increased communication skills, and 59% reported an increase in confidence. There was evidence of unmet demand for volunteering opportunities; although 65% of respondents would be more likely to work for an employer that encourages and promotes volunteering, 39% said their employer did not support it.

Katerina Rüdiger, Head of Policy Campaigns – Community Investment at the CIPD, said: “Volunteering has been an important part of the political agenda in recent years, and the Prime Minister’s announcement ahead of the 2015 election – that staff at large organisations should have the chance to take time off to volunteer – clearly placed responsibility with employers. But what we’re unfortunately seeing from this research is a lack of understanding from many employers about why volunteering is important, and a lack of communication between charities and business about how they can work together.

“Simply put, corporate volunteering can deliver big business benefits, not only through helping organisations build relationships within their local communities, but also by giving employees the chance to build new skills and capabilities that they can then transfer back to their day jobs. We therefore hope to see those responsible for ESV programmes using the recommendations from today’s research, working closely with the voluntary sector and helping employees to make a difference.”