Charities and companies failing to understand employer supported volunteering, research finds

23 Nov 2015 News

Charities and companies are failing to understand the costs and benefits involved with employer-supported volunteering, a new report by NCVO and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claimed today.


Charities and companies are failing to understand the costs and benefits involved with employer supported volunteering, a new report by NCVO and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claimed today.

Proposals for employer-supported volunteering (ESV) 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 in June. But the scheme has been met with criticism by some in the sector.

Today’s report, On the brink of a game-changer, found that businesses and charities themselves are not effectively working together to make volunteering opportunities happen.

Executive director of volunteering for NCVO, Justin Davis-Smith, said employer-supported volunteering has the potential to “offer huge benefits for the voluntary sector and businesses”. But “without clear communications around the expectations and resources involved, those benefits would be lost”, he said.

“We need to recognise that volunteering isn’t free,” he said. “There is a cost to the charity in terms of staff time, resources and supervision – yet the right kind of volunteering could outweigh those costs tenfold.

“The government’s commitment to introducing three days’ volunteering leave offers a game-changing opportunity, but we will need to get the systems and processes in place to make the most of it. Resources will be required to create meaningful opportunities and to ensure that volunteers are properly managed and supported, so that placements are beneficial to everybody involved,” he said.

The report found conflicts between charities and organisations often arose from incompatibility issues, including companies wanting to place large groups of staff together into volunteering placements, not being prepared to pay the full costs involved and wanting a one-off, non-specialised activity.

Companies were also often likely to be publicity-shy and undertake volunteering for team-building reasons, the report found. Charities on the other hand often preferred to utilise specialist skills of volunteers through a long-term commitment with smaller groups or individuals.

The report also reveals that cost to both parties – and disputes about who should pay the cost – is often a barrier to volunteering.

Head of policy campaigns for community investment at CIPD, Katerina Rüdiger, said: “Volunteering has been an important part of the political agenda in recent years, and the Prime Minister’s announcement ahead of the 2015 election – that staff at large organisations should have the chance to take time off to volunteer – clearly placed responsibility with employers.

"But what we’re unfortunately seeing from this research is a lack of understanding from many employers about why volunteering is important, and a lack of communication between charities and business about how they can work together," she said. 

Some 70 per cent of FTSE 100 companies currently have an ESV programme. The research was based on the findings of two workshops and 12 telephone interviews.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civil Society and Volunteering heard in July that the culture of employee volunteering was “broken” and unless it was fixed, little good would come of the government’s plans.

Linz Darlington, founder of Benefacto - an online brokerage to connect employees with volunteering opportunities, said volunteering was often “more of a burden to the charities involved” – often dictated by the needs of corporate firms rather than the charities.

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