From the Frontlines of Corporate Skilled Volunteering

From the Frontlines of Corporate Skilled Volunteering

Blog by Link UP's Corporate Partnerships Manager, Nicolle Brooks | Sep 2023

What we’re hearing from London companies about utilising employees’ professional skills for social good 

Mention workplace employee volunteering programmes, and so many of us who’ve worked in corporate workplaces conjure up images of classic ‘days out’: weeding a community garden, working the line in a homeless shelter soup kitchen, reading to a group of children.  In an era of burgeoning ESG agendas, so many corporates are now questioning the breadth and depth of their employee volunteering programmes and asking: is it possible to offer more? While there will always be a place for more manual ‘frontline’ volunteering, what about using employees’ actual core professional skills in a new setting and for a more philanthropic purpose? Enter the rise of Corporate Skilled Volunteering in UK corporate workplaces.  

At Link UP London we’ve spent the better part of a year launching our Social Impact Solutions programme with a set of offerings in the Corporate Skilled Volunteering space, and as Link UP’s Corporate Partnerships Manager, I’ve been struck by the consistency of themes coming out of the market.   

 

Theme #1: “We want to offer something new for those less keen on frontline volunteering” 

At Link UP London we’ve had the privilege of rolling out our Social Impact Solutions programme to a wide range of London-based companies from fields as diverse as banking, private equity, retail, technology, consumer products, consultancy, and client services.  Across the board we’ve heard the same theme in practically every conversation: corporates want to reenergise and diversify their existing employee volunteering initiatives with something a bit different. 

This theme may manifest itself in different ways.  In some quarters there is a frustration with the cost, logistical difficulties, and lack of responsiveness from some frontline volunteering options in London.   It may be the case in another organisation that some staff are expressing a dissatisfaction with ‘manual’ work such as at an urban farm or river cleanup and looking for something more office based.  In other cases, employees may have experimented with more skills-based volunteering of their own accord during the Covid-19 pandemic and are looking to bring that model of volunteering to their teams or companies in general.  In any of these cases, the savvy manager with responsibility for employee volunteering will recognise that offering something unique and high impact will achieve greater results in terms of participation, satisfaction, and reported impact. 

Corporate Skilled Volunteering as practiced by Link UP’s Social Impact Solutions offers a wide array of formats ranging from an hour of consultancy to a multi-month engagement, directly based on the skills and interests of the employee volunteers.  Our results show a strong impact on participating employees and charitable organisations alike.  A two-hour quick hit ‘Flash Consulting’ session organised for a major online retailer recently was nearly doubly booked past capacity and revealed a full 100% of participating employee volunteers stating they would definitely repeat the experience should their company offer another event.   

“t’s been so interesting to learn more about what charitable organisations are doing and it’s a nice way to help, to give back to the community we’re part of.  It takes you out of your routine and gives you a feeling that you can give more – all you need are the skills you already have.  I would definitely recommend it.” – Link UP London Corporate Volunteer

 

Theme #2: “We’re after real two-way learning and development” 

So many corporate contacts who reach out to Link UP express their opinion that traditional employee volunteering opportunities can sometimes feel a bit ‘stale’ in not directly linking to the individual learning and development of their staff.  It’s true that volunteering is in part about escaping the routine of a day-to-day role and providing a chance for staff to socialise outside the office.  But there’s another side to employee volunteering that has historically been overlooked: the potential for volunteering to further the development of employees’ professional skills and workplace confidence and satisfaction. 

One senior manager from the banking sector we spoke to recently explained that his interest in Corporate Skilled Volunteering stemmed from a desire to “further two-way learning and development, with both the charitable organisations as well as his team reaping the benefits from participating in the engagement”.  With Corporate Skilled Volunteering opportunities such as Social Impact Solutions’ engagements, charitable organisations are on the receiving end of significant professional expertise, which directly affects their own capabilities and ability to achieve their social missions.  Conversely, employee volunteers have just as much to gain by participating in an engagement.  By utilising their professional skills and experience to advise a charity on a strategic plan, a marketing campaign, a data architecture, or any other such brief, employee volunteers are honing both professional skill and confidence.  This directly translates to employees’ satisfaction and general well-being at work and in their lives more generally. 

“The Social Impact Solutions engagement reminded me that there are a lot of charities doing awesome work outside of my day-to- day bubble. It was great that I could share my experiences, things I know, and at the same time learn from others.” – Link UP London Corporate Volunteer

 

Theme #3: “We want to find a way to tap into the true needs of London charities” 

As ESG and Corporate Social Responsibility has continued to move up the agendas of London corporations, so too has the desire for real, impact-driven contribution to the charitable sector.    The companies we speak to at Link UP London aren’t after a superficial ‘badge’ of having completed an away day at a charity’s premises; rather, they are looking for a way to engage more authentically and holistically with deserving causes. 

Corporate Skilled Volunteering allows companies to tap into a wide array of charitable organisations and causes, contributing to the areas where they need the most skilled help to grow. Link UP London’s Social Impact Solutions takes the hard work and guess work out of finding good, qualified skilled volunteering opportunities, creating real, authentic, impact-driven engagements between employee volunteers and their matched charities, from start to finish.  

“The one-on-one opportunity to work with a skilled volunteer was invaluable. We were able to pick their brains and fire all the questions at them, and they were able to respond to them all. The informal feeling of the engagement also meant that ideas could flow and we could work collaboratively on our most important issues.” – London charitable organisation participant

 

Taking Corporate Skilled Volunteering Forward 

Forward-thinking employees and managers are turning to Corporate Skilled Volunteering in increasing numbers in London, and for good reason.  Volunteering that puts employees at the forefront of the issues that matter most to charities means those charities are changing for the better, while the employee volunteers involved are growing and developing right alongside them. Engaged charitable organisations, satisfied employees, fulfilled corporate entities, and grateful London communities – there’s something on offer at every level with Corporate Skilled Volunteering. 

Drop me a line at nicolle@linkuplondon.org or find us at https://linkuplondon.org/corporates/ and be part of this movement. 

You can also Subscribe to our Corporate Skilled Volunteering Newsletter to keep up to date with the latest news.

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