Skills based volunteering can ‘revolutionise corporate social responsibility’

Business leaders and staff volunteering their skills to help charities has “the potential to revolutionise corporate social responsibility”, a report is claiming.

The report by charity funder Lloyds Bank Foundation says that employees offering charities their expertise and skills for free can provide “significant advantages to businesses, employees and charities”.

This can include offering skills to help train charity staff or more long-term help sitting on charity boards as a trustee.

It found that nine out of ten charities helped by skills-based volunteering reported improvements in their workforces’ professional skills. A third of these said the improvements were “significant”.

Those offering their skills told researchers offering their expertise to charities bolstered their professional development and meant “they were able to apply and develop transferable skills and widen their perspectives”.

Researchers add that “skills-based volunteering helps engage employees and enhance the pride and sense of purpose they feel for their workplace, which in turn helps improve retention and build connection”.

Businesses are urged to ensure their skills-based volunteering schemes offer variety and flexibility for staff to fit in with their “varying levels of commitment” and include online options, as well as individual and group work.

Forging links with local charities through formal partnership arrangements are also encouraged. This will help ensure volunteering has the biggest impact by highlighting where charities need most help.

Supporting staff in ensuring their skills can be translated to the charity sector is also recommended.

In addition, “support for volunteering should come from leadership and be embedded in an organisation's culture”, found the report, which has been published to coincide with Volunteers' Week (3-9 June).

“Often, when businesses want to help a charity, they opt for a team day and some form of physical activity,” said Lloyds Bank Foundation director of charity development André Clarke.

“Our experience shows there is another way: providing opportunities for employees to share their professional skills that can be of mutual, even greater benefit for employers, charities and volunteers themselves.

“We've seen from the 700 charities we support each year that they are overstretched and find it difficult to find or afford professional skills.

“Skills based volunteering offers huge payoffs not only for charities tackling complex issues, but for businesses themselves and their employees working together to help communities thrive.”

Among those involved in skills-based volunteering is Lloyds Banking Group manager Kevin Barker-Lee, who is chair of trustees at charity The Hive Avon.

“When I first became a volunteer, I was looking for a new challenge and to give something back, but I found that it gave me the opportunity to develop personally and professionally, helping me approach things with more flexibility,” he said.

“I gained new skills in facilitation, managing, coaching and governance that I could apply to my work. It felt great to help strengthen a local charity and learn more about my community.

“I love being able to work for an employer that supports and encourages this. It has certainly given me increased confidence in my ability, what I can do, and how valuable my skills are.”

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