Employee volunteering has a huge potential value of donated time and talent

Last month saw the launch of Give and Gain Day, which will be held on 17 May. Launched in 2008 and organised by Business in the Community, Give and Gain Day provides a one day focus on employee volunteering in all its forms, from traditional team challenges to activities that enable people to use their professional skills. Last year saw 60,000 volunteers take part in the day and the hope is for that number to increase in 2013.

Employee volunteering (and I’m using that term here to cover all forms of employer related volunteering) is one of those divisive issues in the sector. Its detractors object to people who take time off work being called volunteers (because they are often still being paid for their time) and often remark that employee volunteering is more about the company and their corporate social responsibility goals than making any real difference to good causes. Sometimes they simply ask: “Why don’t these companies give us the money instead?”

Those who support employee volunteering recognise the huge potential value of donated time and talent. They can see charities and businesses benefiting from having a number of bodies turn up to engage in a task that needs labour in volume, like clearing a waterway. They don’t feel threatened by an employee with considerable expertise coming in to advise on, say, a marketing strategy.

As with all forms of volunteering, there are good and bad examples. I’ve seen team challenges where the employees’ time was wasted painting rooms to such a poor standard that the charity had to employ a professional decorator to go back and do the job properly. I’ve also seen team challenges where the charity got something done that they had never dreamt of while the employees went away on a high – perhaps having learnt something about teamwork – and passionate about a new cause they could support.

Whether employee volunteering works or not is often down to expectation management, planning, project management competence and a host of other considerations. Like all good volunteering, employee volunteering doesn’t just happen by magic. Time, effort and sometimes money need to be invested to make it work.

At the start of what many think will be another challenging year for the sector, the launch of Give and Gain Day 2013 is a timely reminder that there is a largely untapped resource at our disposal in the form of employee volunteers, regardless of the sector they come from.

Some sector organisations will single-mindedly plough ahead into 2013 with a mindset that continues to see money as the only solution. Others will see initiatives like Give and Gain Day or more ongoing projects like Give What You’re Good At as a great opportunity to harness a different form of resource (and talent) to help meet some of society’s most pressing needs. I hope many more organisations join this latter camp in 2013.

  • Pamela Ball

    As usual spot on Richard. ASSISST got by most of us and that begs the question who did know about it and therefore who got in under those farcial timelines ???

  • James Renton

    Richard
    You are right about the farce this has become, Both OCS and Big bleat endlessly about the lack of resources yet have have found money to fund a massive contract like ASSIST plus the money blobbed out to Your Square Mile and they were in negociations with Business in the Community to fund their Business Connectors scheme. It is quite clear that the market driven agenda will create new players in the market if that is their intention why not be honest and state it, if their vision is fee based services then state it and if they could not care less about “voice” then state.

  • Rob Jackson

    This is a really good assessment of the frustrating array of seemingly unlinked initiatives around infrastructure. Thank you Richard.

    Whenever I read tales of the woes of infrastructure in the current environment I cannot help but reflect on the missed opportunities of ChangeUp. I spent six years advocating for change, development, modernisation and rationalisation. As a result I spent just as long being told many reasons why change wasn’t going to happen. Having failed to change on their own terms, many of those people and organisations now face change directed by others who have little or no understanding of the reality of sector infrastructure, hence this bewildering array of initiatives, programmes and consultations.

    I agree that infrastructure and those they serve need to be clear on what they want and their role in giving the sector a voice. I just despair that so many spent so long ignoring calls for change that they find themselves ill-equipped and unprepared to face the future effectively.

  • stolen stolen

    In looking at the culture and performance of the infrastructure sector under the previous government, perhaps the present government has justifiable reasons for some of the things it does and the manner of doing it.

    • Karl Wilding

      That may well be, but the culture and performance of the infrastructure may also have reflected the design and delivery of funding programmes that sought to deliver outcomes (never mind activities) in time periods that were shaped by accounting rules rather than common sense.

      Mistakes were made, opportunities were missed – by all of us – but there was also a lot of good work done.

    • http://www.chadwickfocus.wordprsss.com/ Mary

      Yes I’ve just finished reading the National Audit Office 2009 Report on ‘Building the Capacity of the Third Sector’ and it makes sobering reading, especially with regard to Capacity Builders. Money wasted, no real strategy, failure to measure outcomes or achieve sustainability.

  • Karl Wilding

    Good assessment Richard. I think many of us can look back – but also look forward – and wonder what would have happened and what will happen if the role of infrastructure had been thought through a little more holistically and, dare I say, trusted.

    Your point about voice and representation is particularly important for me. This is what ‘infrastructure’ – which I should say in passing I find an unhelpful term – is all about. But if we are there to represent, or more accurately convene and amplify, is it right that we are just looking at external funders in government to set the agenda? They might reasonably say this aspect of our work is nothing to do with them.

    I wonder if instead the dialogue we should be having about this function, how it is funded, and how it is structured (national/local; horizontal/vertical) is one we should be having with our members? And maybe that’s a discussion we should be having collectively rather than individually.

    Maybe its a discussion we don’t want to have because some of the answers might be difficult for us – and I include myself in that. Is it about time we again all picked up a copy of the Wolfenden Committee’s report?
    Cheers
    Karl

  • Karl Wilding

    Good assessment Richard. I think many of us can look back – but also look forward – and wonder what would have happened and what will happen if the role of infrastructure had been thought through a little more holistically and, dare I say, trusted.

    Your point about voice and representation is particularly important for me. This is what ‘infrastructure’ – which I should say in passing I find an unhelpful term – is all about. But if we are there to represent, or more accurately convene and amplify, is it right that we are just looking at external funders in government to set the agenda? They might reasonably say this aspect of our work is nothing to do with them.

    I wonder if instead the dialogue we should be having about this function, how it is funded, and how it is structured (national/local; horizontal/vertical) is one we should be having with our members? And maybe that’s a discussion we should be having collectively rather than individually.

    Maybe its a discussion we don’t want to have because some of the answers might be difficult for us – and I include myself in that. Is it about time we again all picked up a copy of the Wolfenden Committee’s report?
    Cheers
    Karl

  • Mike Wild

    Seems to me that all Governments’ atitude to VCS infrastructure (and I agree with Karl, I don’t like the term either) has always been a love/hate cycle. What’s unusual about the present situation is that they’re doing both simultaneously – or a very good impression of it.

    If the current survey about using online tools is anything to go by, not only is the voice aspect missing from the thinking but so is any concept of true community development at a local level. That’s the most puzzling aspect for me – with Big Society and the localism agenda one would have thought that key partners would be those organisations ideally situated to bring local people together, stimulate local activity, etc. and yet we get these curiously mixed messages as Richard rightly says.

  • stolen stolen

    Dear Karl

    Technical mistakes were made but that was not the problem per se.

    Inflated egos and greed in the sector magnified those mistakes and did not allow for correction or course change.

    Are we still in the same culture by the significant players in the sector is the concern.

    Stolen

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