Volunteering has been central to so much of life in Britain that we almost take it for granted. Surveys such as NCVO’s own Time Well Spent tell us that roughly one in four adults volunteer at least once a month for a club, society or organisation.
Stories abound as to the life-changing experience that volunteering opportunities can provide for people – both those volunteering, and those who volunteers are working for or alongside. At its best, volunteering is a positive experience, an opportunity available to all.
This is a story that is being refashioned for our times: a new generation of volunteers want to make a difference to the causes that they believe in. Some want to do this purely in their own time. Others however want to make a difference when at work, whether that is working for an employer with a social purpose, or volunteering through work.
It is little wonder therefore that employers have recognised for some time that supporting their own staff to get involved in the community is good for business and for good causes. It is also good for the staff who volunteer, as this report explores. We should view employer-supported volunteering as a win-win-win national project: good for employers, good for employees, and good for society.
About this report
But could it be better? And could volunteering supported by employers make a bigger difference? In fact, is there a case to be made for asking more employers to support their staff to volunteer?
If there is an answer to these questions that has also emerged in recent years, it would almost certainly have been yes, there is more to do. This report therefore explores what better employer-supported volunteering may look like, with the aspiration that we might nurture and grow what might be an increasingly important mechanism by which people get involved.
The report builds on Time Well Spent, a major survey of the British public’s experience of volunteering. It suggests that volunteering supported by employers is worth getting right, but that this isn’t always happening. Building on existing work on corporate volunteering, the report looks at employer-supported volunteering first and foremost through the eyes of the volunteer. The aspiration is to improve practice around employer-supported volunteering.
The message from this report is clear: employer-supported volunteering needs to start with why people want to volunteer, even if that doesn’t quite fit with what we want as employers or volunteer-involving organisations. We then need to improve how employers and volunteer-involving organisations work together so that they can make the experience of getting involved a good one. A bad experience of volunteering will inevitably put people off in the future.
Finally, we should all remember the reasons why we want people to get involved: to make a difference to the causes we all care about. Employer-supported volunteering can make a bigger impact on society, and I hope that this report contributes to discussions as to how it can do so.