When you think of volunteering, you probably think of someone working with a non-profit organisation in their own time, and in fairly traditional ways. But what if we told you there is another way?
The words ‘employee volunteering’ probably conjure images of corporate team-building days painting walls or weeding gardens for local non-profits. But it can be so much more!
With structured Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies becoming the norm within UK businesses, we are witnessing the rise of employee volunteering in a more strategic and impactful way. Think longer term, skilled projects such as marketing support or web design.
Of course, individual volunteering is still a popular option which often gives people more flexibility to support the organisations that matter most to them, in a way that best suits them.
In this blog, we will compare these volunteering methods and take a look at some of the pros and cons of each.
What is individual volunteering?
Individual volunteering is when a person chooses to dedicate their spare time to contribute to a charitable cause, helping others, or environmental projects for example. The individual will actively seek out the volunteering opportunity likely because they have the desire to make a difference to a cause that really matters to them.
The benefits of individual volunteering
When it comes to volunteering, it’s not just the charity or organisation that benefits. For the volunteer, there’s lots to gain too, from developing new skills, to building relationships.
- From a career standpoint, volunteering looks great on your CV and can even create opportunities. Prospective employers will see that you have enthusiasm, energy, and drive, as you willingly give your spare time to help others. These are very desirable qualities that could help you land an interview for your dream job.
- No matter how you get involved, there’s always an opportunity to gain new skills through your volunteering experience. It doesn’t stop at industry-related knowledge. Volunteering is great for learning transferable skills such as teamwork, time management, communication, and problem-solving. All of which contribute toward making you a more resilient person.
- Whether you want to help others or the environment, with individual volunteering, the choice is always yours. You decide what type of charity work you do, which organisation you volunteer for, and how much time you give. You can choose a cause that means a lot to you and create a volunteering experience that matches your own values; helping you get the most out of the opportunity.
- Volunteering is a fantastic way of making new friends. It puts you in scenarios to meet people from all walks of life and enables you to build new friendships and connections within your local community. Whether you’re outgoing or a little shy, volunteering with like-minded people improves your social skills and confidence.
- It feels good! Studies show that volunteering has a positive effect on mental health as it promotes better wellbeing, increased satisfaction, and heightened self-esteem.
Are there any drawbacks to individual volunteering?
The disadvantages of volunteering are few and far between. One thing to bear in mind is your commitment to the cause.
We’re all human, and we can only juggle so many things at once. Over time, priorities change and you may have less time to commit to volunteering. Our advice is to be honest with the organisation you’re working with, let them know if you need to decrease your hours and rearrange your time commitments. The organisation will likely still appreciate your support!
The main reason people give up on volunteering is down to poor organisation and lack of support in the role. Good volunteering opportunities will speak for themselves – literally! Word of mouth recommendations from existing volunteers demonstrates that an organisation works well with its volunteers and will provide you with a positive experience – so look out for these when you’re applying for volunteer opportunities.
What is employee volunteering?
Employee volunteering is when your employer allows you to have a specified amount of paid time off to volunteer for an organisation during working hours – usually a few days each year. It’s otherwise known as Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV).
More and more companies are becoming purpose-driven; they recognise that prioritising purpose over profit results in faster growth and achieves higher employee and consumer satisfaction. Many companies choose to lead with purpose by giving back to their local communities via methods that align with their corporate values.
The opportunities available through employee volunteering usually support the business’s CSR programme. Companies combine these policies in order to give back to their local community.
An employee volunteering programme may encourage employees to give their time to their company’s chosen charities. This could include activities such as fundraising events and team challenges, or spending the day with a charity conducting activities like fence painting or gardening. Other businesses take a more flexible approach, allowing their employees to devote their volunteer time to an organisation of their choice, and provide more meaningful, longer-term support.
How will employee volunteering benefit you?
All of the benefits of individual volunteering very much apply to employee volunteering. However, employee volunteering has its own range of advantages that could help you excel in your career.
- If you have a busy lifestyle outside of work, participating in an employee volunteering programme empowers you to give back to your community without affecting your daily routine.
- You can take the opportunity to develop skills outside of your current role through skilled volunteering. This is a great way to gain experience in a different field before committing to a big career change, for example.
- Alternatively, you could look for volunteering opportunities that utilise your existing skills. For example, if you work for a marketing agency you could help a charity with their website or social media. Sharing your knowledge will have a long-term, positive impact – so you know you will have made a difference!
- Employers recognise that effective teamwork drives results. Volunteering with your teammates will help you connect and communicate better than you were before. Working together towards social good will strengthen the group dynamic and boost team morale. But keep in mind that one-off team volunteering days are not always the kind of support that a non-profit is looking for. Try to think creatively about how you and your teammates can combine your skills to support these organisations in a sustainable, long-term way!
- When you volunteer you feel empowered, and the feel-good factor will stay with you when you return to the office. Studies show that volunteering through work increases your engagement, gives you a sense of achievement, and boosts your productivity.
Read more about the business benefits of employee volunteering.
What to consider when it comes to employee volunteering
A well-planned, structured employee volunteering strategy will determine how much you gain through employee volunteering. So what does an effective strategy look like?
NCVO states that ‘while ESV can benefit employers and their staff, charities and workers in public services, it is important to ensure that the needs of all parties are matched.’
Let’s take a look at an example of ineffective ESV. An organisation wants to focus on team building, so they arrange to send their employees to a residential home to tidy up the garden. However, they haven’t spoken to the organisation about what they need. What the residential home actually requires is telephone befrienders or drivers. So here, the residential home doesn’t benefit as much as the employees or the company.
Ensuring that you, your chosen charities, and the company you work for mutually benefit from the arrangement is the key to a successful volunteering programme. Strong communication between all three groups means everyone will reap the rewards of employee volunteering.
Individual volunteering vs employee volunteering – which is best for you?
So, there you have the pros and cons of individual and employee volunteering. Which type do you think is best for you?
While individual volunteering is what most of us imagine when we think of volunteering, don’t underestimate the positive impact, personal development, and potential for team building that employee volunteering gives.
Why is employee volunteering through Social Good Connect different?
At Social Good Connect, we combine the flexibility and autonomy of individual volunteering with the strategic impact and potential for skilled support that comes with employee volunteering. We connect employees directly to their perfect volunteer opportunities and help businesses develop their CSR strategies.
Our search and match function matches you to volunteering opportunities that resonate with your objectives, skills, and motives so you can get the most out of your volunteering experience.
Want to get started? Let your company know about the benefits of volunteering through work and get in touch with Social Good Connect to see how we can help.
Written by Holly Moore