‘Employee volunteering is broken’, Parliamentary group hears

‘Employee volunteering is broken’, Parliamentary group hears

‘Employee volunteering is broken’, Parliamentary group hears

Governance | Alice Sharman | 15 Jul 2015

The culture of employee volunteering is “broken”, and unless it is fixed then little good will come from government plans to require businesses to offer staff three days' paid volunteering leave, a group of MPs and peers heard yesterday.

Linz Darlington (pictured), who founded Benefacto - an online brokerage to connect employees with volunteering opportunities, was speaking on scaling up employee-supported volunteering

Darlington was speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civil Society and Volunteering, which followed announcements that the government will introduce three days of paid volunteering for all businesses with over 250 employees.

The proposals were first announced by Prime Minister David Cameron prior to May’s election, and confirmed by minister for civil society Rob Wilson during his first keynote speech of the new government last month.

Darlington said that employee-supported volunteering “provides an amazing exchange between different parts of our community, broadening the sector’s involvement, sharing skills and developing aspirations”. However, he said that, in his view, “employee volunteering is broken”.

He said that there are several reasons for this, one being that an estimated 10 million people are already given the time off to volunteer by their employer, yet there is only about a 20 per cent take up of this at firms that are seen as “best in class” when it comes to volunteering, meaning that 80 per cent of the support that is pledged by firms never reach the third sector. Darlington said that this could constitute “hundreds of millions of pounds worth of support for the sector”.

He also said that a lot of the volunteering that does go on is “more of a burden to the charities involved”. A lot of it is dictated by the needs of corporate firms, not centring round what the charity needs.

Darlington told the APPG that the government’s pledge of three days' volunteering leave in charities “is great”, but before its potential can realised, “we need to fix employee volunteering”.

He said one thing that is needed to make it work is volunteering options that corporate volunteers would find engaging and want to do, as professional people are “very busy and live in the world of the iphone”. He said it needs to be so easy for them to get involved, that “there is no reason for them not to be”.

He also called on more support from line managers in encouraging and supporting employees to volunteer to change the culture of volunteering that many businesses currently have.

Darlington said: “Unless we address these problems first, purely increasing the proportion of staff that are getting paid to have time off for volunteering will be nothing more than a platitude which will do little to actually increase the volunteering that charities actually receive.”


The discussions also focused on micro-volunteering. Anne Heal, who leads BT’s volunteering strategy, said that this form of volunteering, where volunteers contribute a very small amount of time to a project or task – often through the use of technology - is likely to be the future of volunteering, and that there should be more of a focus on volunteering tasks that can be done from someone’s own desk. She said that, unfortunately, the regular volunteering that charities most benefit from is harder for employers to provide, but micro-volunteering is a way to combat this.

Kate Van Der Plank, head of UK community investment at the National Grid, as well as recently appointed business engagement director at Step Up to Serve, also spoke on the panel. She told charities that they “need to learn to say to no” to offers of employee volunteering that are not directly beneficial to them, and instead say what it is they want to get from volunteers.

Nick Hurd, the chair of the APPG, said that the introduction of the three days volunteering leave, which he said is set to start in this government, is the brink of a “game changer” for employee supported volunteering.



[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

'Could mega cities be even harder to work with than individual local councils?'

29 Sep 2016

Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC, asked Labour mayoral candidates how devolution would impact the charity...

Barnardo’s opens 89 charity shops and aims to be ‘biggest chain in the country’

29 Sep 2016

Barnardo’s opened 89 charity shops last year, and has overtaken Oxfam to become the second largest charity...

Report: What makes a good charity?

29 Sep 2016

A free guide on how to assess whether a charity is operating effectively has been published by think tank...

‘There’s no question Oxfam was culpable in fundraising scandals’, says Mark Goldring

30 Sep 2016

Oxfam was culpable in fundraising scandals of last summer because it failed to supervise its contractors,...

‘Charities do not have the technology to comply with the Fundraising Preference Service’

30 Sep 2016

Only a handful of large charities have the technological tools to comply with the Fundraising Preference...

Sport Relief 2016 raises record £72.5m

30 Sep 2016

Comic Relief has announced that its biennial fundraising event, Sport Relief, raised a record £72.5m,...

‘Charities do not have the technology to comply with the Fundraising Preference Service’

30 Sep 2016

Only a handful of large charities have the technological tools to comply with the Fundraising Preference...

Eduserv agrees £138,000 payment to retiring CEO without telling full board

26 Sep 2016

Eduserv, a charity that provides IT services to the public sector, agreed to pay its retiring chief executive...

Barnardo’s launches ten-year strategy with plans to double fundraising income

22 Sep 2016

Barnardo’s has announced a ten-year strategy which will aim to grow income by a third and change its...

Join the discussion


Attending our one day courses is a highly effective way of ensuring new and existing trustees fully understand their role, responsibilities and liabilities.

>> Find out more <<