Recruiting corporate volunteers can help charities to access the valuable digital skills they need and create mutually beneficial partnerships. Here’s a quick guide to getting started
We’ve previously covered the emerging trend of skills-based volunteering. If you’re not already familiar with the concept, then don’t worry, it’s very simple. It is a method of volunteering where people can pitch in by offering their professional skills and expertise, as opposed to fulfilling more traditional roles in fundraising or service delivery.
An example of skills-based volunteering might be a trained finance worker spending a few hours a month helping a charity to develop a sustainable financial plan, or a cyber security specialist volunteering some of their time to test or build a charity’s cyber defences.
There are a lot of advantages to skills-based volunteering, and it is a particularly good fit for digital roles. Small charities may stand to benefit the most, as hiring digital staff can be difficult or expensive.
Whether you’re a small local charity or operate on a larger scale, private companies and businesses can be a great untapped source of skilled and willing volunteers. Corporate volunteering, or Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) as it’s also known, is on the rise, with an estimated 11 million people in the UK given time off by their employers to volunteer each year.
Corporate volunteering may be practical or it may be skills-based, making use of the experience of qualified professionals to perform specialised tasks or advise on strategy. Skills might be from the absolute basics to leadership-level, and staff might volunteer as a group or individually, for a set amount of time, as ’micro-volunteers’ undertaking quick tasks, for a one-off event or project over a longer period, or on an ongoing basis
The number one plus point of skills-based corporate volunteering in particular is that it allows charities to take advantage of the industry-specific talents of highly skilled individuals, often with valuable digital skills to lend. With charities struggling to cost-effectively fill the gaps in recruitment and find people with the right digital skills, it may be a cost-effective solution.
Charities can save money and resources on the cost of paid workers and consultants. By using corporate volunteers they can carry out work they otherwise might not have the time or resources to focus on, enabling them to put their all into achieving their missions.
In addition to this, building bonds with businesses could be a huge boost to charities in the long-term and lead to other opportunities for collaboration and sourcing future trustees, as well as cementing their role in the local community.
Mid to large companies often set ’corporate social responsibility’ quotas and have formal volunteering schemes, while others let employees choose to volunteer on a more informal basis with an organisation that interests them.
For companies, it’s a chance to give something back, build their reputation, and encourage teams to bond and learn communication skills. There’s also some evidence that it makes staff more productive and motivated in their jobs. And for the staff, there’s the feel-good factor of doing good for others and the opportunity to add to their CV, making these kind of arrangements a triple-win.
With restrictions on face to face volunteering due to the pandemic, one avenue for corporate volunteering can be digital-based mentoring. The great thing about digital skills is that they can often be taught remotely through a combination of cloud-based platforms, video calls and screen sharing.
Digital mentors from the corporate world can also work to improve the skills of young beneficiaries or those who are digitally excluded. We’ve seen how charities like UK Youth have partnered with local tech companies to mentor young people in coding and digital skills – a pattnership model that can easily be replicated through a digital platform.
The UN’s Online Volunteering Service has been running since 2000, with the aim of connecting charities to volunteers within organisations around the world for online ’micro-volunteering’ that can be done soley over the web.
Tech companies themselves are known for their volunteering schemes, offering big incentives to staff who take up a certain number of volunteer hours. They have the resources to plug into volunteering programmes and the technical skills to really make a difference. So it’s worth approaching these companies directly to find out about specific volunteer skills you are looking for.
Salesforce, for example, give their employees seven days paid volunteer leave a year, and also have specific pro-bono programmes built around helping charities make the most of Salesforce and the cloud. Similarly, enterprise software firm Sage offer five days a year for their staff to volunteer through its Sage Foundation.
But you could also benefit from approaching local IT businesses and software companies for mentorship. Most will be keen to improve their reputation within the local area and contribute in a way that isn’t monetary. The NCVO recommends approaching companies with a well thought out Terms of Reference that provides a clear outline of what each party can expect from the role.
As well as approaching companies directly, there are a number of volunteer organisations that exist to partner charities up with corporate talent. A few of them include: