Is volunteering good for business? Because it is a large part of our cultural psyche. Millions of us give up time on a regular basis to do voluntary work. According to the last government Community Life Survey for 2020-2021, 19 million people in England were volunteering at least once a month. For those who had done some kind of voluntary work in the previous 12 months, that figure rose to 28 million.
Many of these people do this through schemes run by their employers. This phenomenon is sometimes called Employer Supported Volunteering or ESV.
Why do these businesses do it? And why should you consider helping your employees to volunteer?
Here are ten reasons why!
1. Volunteering develops employee skills
Volunteering helps your staff to develop and stretch themselves. It provides opportunities for them to learn and practice soft skills, such as leadership and communication, as well as to apply professional expertise in fresh environments.
A well-designed ESV programme that exposes employees to activities that are relevant to your business can actually add value to your organisation when it is factored into their learning and development plans. Indeed, this can often be a faster and less expensive way of developing your team than traditional classroom learning.
2. Volunteering boosts employee health
In 2020, the sickness absence rate among UK workers was 2.7% in the public sector and 1.6% among private companies. It’s been shown in repeated scientific studies that volunteering has a positive effect on health, particularly mental health.
Employee mental health and its impact on wellbeing has been in the spotlight in recent years, particularly during Covid-19 when widespread remote working removed much of the social interaction that gives meaning to work. According to a 2016 British Medical Journal study (looking at data from 1998 to 2008):
“When not considering age, those who engaged in volunteering regularly appeared to experience higher levels of mental well-being than those who never volunteered.”
Volunteering supports mental health in a number of ways:
- Opportunities to meet new people
- A sense of achievement and having made a difference
- Feeling part of a community
- Gaining confidence
- Discovering new interests
3. Volunteering promotes employee engagement
One survey from Business In The Community found that:
- 87% of employee volunteers had an improved perception of their employer
- 82% felt more committed to their employer as a result
It has been shown time and again that a more engaged workforce:
- Is more productive
- Displays less absenteeism
- Experiences fewer workplace accidents
- Deliver better customer service
- Generates more ideas for improving your business
Not only that…
4. Volunteering improves employee retention
At organisations with the highest levels of employee engagement, staff turnover is significantly lower. A 2017 Gallup study found:
- In low-turnover businesses, the most-engaged companies saw 24% better staff retention than average
- In typically high-turnover sectors, that figure was 59%
Better retention leads to a more experienced, capable workforce; lower recruitment and onboarding costs; and better continuity and quality of service for customers.
5. Volunteering helps you attract talent
Growing numbers of people want the work that they do to have a positive impact on society and the environment.
Organisations’ commitments to social goals can be a big draw for talented candidates with aligned values. This is particularly relevant in sectors where there are skills shortages – for example, green skills in construction.
At the other end of the scale, businesses that develop links with schools and colleges can expect graduates to have higher awareness and a positive impression of them than of their competitors.
6. ESV boosts your reputation
As well as helping you to attract the best people, a volunteering programme can provide great opportunities for PR and marketing campaigns.
Annual initiatives like Giving Tuesday allow businesses to showcase the good works that they do, in a whole range of different ways.
And businesses that build volunteering in support of particular causes into their core corporate values can use it as part of their brand strategy.
7. Volunteering demonstrates social responsibility
Of course, good press is just a side-effect of good corporate citizenship! Far more important in many businesses’ minds is the actual opportunity to do good in the communities they are a part of.
ESV programmes regularly feature in big companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports – for example:
- Nationwide Building Society – 3 days paid leave per year for voluntary work
- Experian – 3 days paid leave per year for voluntary work
- Ricoh UK – 2 days paid leave per year for voluntary work
- Salesforce – 56 hours per year volunteering
8. Stronger communities yield more business opportunities
Voluntary work can help get money, skills, and opportunities circulating in disadvantaged communities – just as it can help reinvigorate depressed individuals.
Renovating community facilities, helping to nurture green spaces, and making the streets more livable can all help stimulate new investment – and that creates opportunities for new business!
9. Volunteering enables third sector organisations to achieve more
Your company’s volunteers can make a massive difference to the impact that community and charity organisations are able to achieve.
By providing professional expertise on a pro bono basis – whether it’s legal, financial, or technical – businesses can empower these third sector bodies to accomplish far more with their often-limited budgets. Indeed, in many cases, small groups would find it impossible to buy in the skills that business volunteers can provide on a commercial basis.
10. Volunteering creates social value, which can win you contracts
Finally, a volunteering programme can make your business more attractive as a partner to public bodies putting contracts out to tender.
And many of the benefits of ESV that we’ve discussed in this blog explicitly support goals stated in the Social Value Model. For example, here are details of the two Policy Outcomes associated with the Wellbeing theme:
- Improve health and wellbeing:
- By taking action that supports these goals within the contract workforce
- By influencing suppliers, staff, customers, and communities to support health and wellbeing through delivery of the contract
- Improve community integration:
- By collaborating with users and communities in the co-design and delivery of the contract
- By influencing suppliers etc through the delivery of the contract to support strong, integrated communities
Did you know that Thrive has a software module for managing employee volunteering?
Whether your priority is boosting participation, streamlining management, or measuring impact our Volunteering Module can add dynamism, efficiency, and maturity. Get in touch today to find out how!