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The business of volunteering

3 June 2014

Do you volunteer, do you give up time to share your experience with people or projects that could benefit from your assistance?

Millions of us do. Millions of us roll up our sleeves for the good of others, whether it’s weeding a community garden or sitting on a charity board. And in doing so, we get to learn new skills, meet new people, and generally increase our understanding and appreciation of the world around us.

Increasingly, businesses are waking up to the opportunities that they can facilitate through volunteering (as well as the value this brings to their employees), and are establishing close bonds with charities and community groups to enable their staff to carry out volunteering programmes.

More than half (53%) of workers say that “a job where I can make an impact” is important to their happiness. And happy employees are less likely to leave, will be more productive and more engaged. Sometimes, opportunities to make an impact in the day-to-day grind are less immediately obvious, if you are, for example, auditing books. But, work with a local academy where employees can share financial expertise with young students looking for additional skills to progress in their careers and you have yourself a strategic partnership. This is precisely one of the programmes initiated by KPMG. In 2012, employee volunteering supported over 1,100 community organisations and helped over 3,400 people to improve their employability skills.

This week is the 30th national Volunteers Week (1st to 7th June) and there are hundreds of ways to take part. Volunteering is also an opportunity that employees want to be provided for them. A survey by our client Business in the Community (BITC) found that 98% of employees feel it is important that their employer supports employee volunteering. Furthermore, over 87% of employees report they feel more pride in their involvement with their employer and have an improved perception of them due to their support for employee volunteering.

Progressive initiatives will also have an impact on your bottom line, and help you to stand out in the market. More than half of consumers cite social purpose as the most important factor in choosing one brand over another, when quality and price are the same, making it a key driver of preference and brand loyalty.

At Forster, we have been working with Astellas Pharma Europe to develop its ‘Change Tomorrow Day’ employee volunteering programme, and organised and delivered volunteering opportunities for all UK office-based staff, as well facilitating the participation of all its European offices. Since the launch of the programme four years ago, employees have volunteered over 13,600 hours to help children and vulnerable people across Europe. All the participating charities were satisfied with the volunteering provided and 98% of employees found Astellas to be a better place to work as a result of volunteering. The success of this has enabled us to work with Astellas on creating an even bolder programme, partnering with the Fistula Foundation to upskill health workers in Kenya to launch ‘Action on Fistula’ last month. It aims to transform the lives of over 1,200 women suffering due to obstetric fistula. The programme reflects the company’s values and products, as well as providing truly engaging opportunities for employees to contribute to fundraising and the delivery of the programme.

Volunteers Week aims to be a national celebration of the contribution that volunteers make to the UK. Take time out this week to consider how volunteering could contribute to the health and development of your business.