MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Support staff volunteering

Feeling generous? Daniela Barone explains how to help your staff make the most of charity work...

by Daniela Barone
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
It’s volunteer week next week – celebrating those who give their time and skills freely. Set against David Cameron’s (er, fourth) re-launch of the Big Society, it’s a particularly potent issue at the moment.

Corporate social responsibility has been on the rise for some time - but are companies, their employees and the charities they help getting the most from the experience? It’s important to recognise the difference between a staff activity that is done as a team building exercise and professional skill-sharing that genuinely and effectively helps a charity.

MT asked Impetus Trust’s Daniela Barone Soares for her advice on managing corporate volunteering activities for maximum impact.

1. Explore your motivation
Consider why you are offering staff the opportunity to volunteer. It is good for your corporate social responsibility commitment but it can also be a great way to attract talent, and reward and develop staff

2. Create the right policy
Consider how much time you are prepared to give to good causes. Be clear whether there is an allowance per person or a ‘volunteering time bank’ that can be drawn down by particularly motivated individuals.

3. Focus on skills
Encourage employees to volunteer their skills, not just their time. There is a place for practical hands-on volunteering, but sharing expertise on a strategic project adds real value that can take a charity’s impact to the next level.

4. Help them to plan
Encourage employees to plan for their volunteering experience as they would for any new job. Have they thought about key questions, met people at the charity for a ‘chemistry check’ or requested a clear brief with deliverables and budget?

5. Demand commitment
Semi-committed volunteers reflect badly on your company, so be clear to employees that they will be using company time to volunteer and will be expected to deliver a project professionally, within an agreed timeframe and to meet set objectives.

6. Appraise
Professional volunteering could be one of the biggest challenges an employee faces all year. They will have to learn about a whole new sector and apply their skills in a very different context. Recognise this and consider how the experience could contribute to their professional development goals.

7. Promote partnership
Charities are professional organisations with talented staff. Remember that volunteering as a partnership between people with different skill sets exploring how to do things more effectively, not an opportunity to dictate solutions.

8. Reflect
Try to create a forum for feedback for both the employee and the charity. Review the successes and challenges and reflect on the impact and outcomes for all parties.

9. Use volunteers as advocates
If their volunteering has been a success then your staff will be powerful advocates for your partnership with the charity. Harness that enthusiasm and use them as spokespeople, to encourage others to get involved.

10. Get help from an intermediary organisation
An intermediary organisation will research and vet potential charities, scope out projects, timeframes and deliverables, match volunteers to placements that best suit their professional skills and monitor progress. This can get a strategic volunteering programme off the ground fast and save time administering it.

- Daniela Barone Soares is CEO of Impetus Trust, which last year placed £2.1m worth of pro bono support with the carefully selected charities and social enterprises in its portfolio.

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