Three Foolproof Ways to Get Started with Corporate Skilled Volunteering

Three Foolproof Ways to Get Started with Corporate Skilled Volunteering

Blog by Link UP's Corporate Partnerships Manager, Nicolle Brooks | Jan 2024

What we’ve learned about how to set up employee volunteering for success in your company

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the first year of Link UP’s Social Impact Solutions programme, it’s that when it comes to delivering employee volunteering programmes, everyone is different.  Where volunteering sits in the company, who owns it, who funds it, and who participates varies widely.  

Interesting? Certainly.  Surprising? No. Corporate skilled volunteering – in which employees volunteer in the charity sector using their professional skills – is still in its infancy in the London volunteering marketplace.  Lately, we’re seeing more companies taking steps such as offering paid volunteering days to staff, and many are talking about new ESG agendas.   

We’re excited to see Corporate Skilled Volunteering now starting to appear on the radars of many London companies. At Link UP, we know that Skilled Volunteering can enhance professional skills by allowing employees to engage meaningfully with community causes. Volunteers can drive social impact working closely with charities, while simultaneously building leadership, satisfaction, and wellbeing that translate back to the workplace. This burgeoning interest in the space from companies begs the question: what is the best way for companies to embrace Corporate Skilled Volunteering? 

As we entered the new year, we’ve taken time to reflect on some of the most important lessons we’ve learned from companies both large and small about how to set Skilled Volunteering up for success in a corporate environment.  Consider it our Corporate Skilled Volunteering for London companies version 1.0, which boils down to three simple lessons: 

 

1. Give power to your people 

Like so much else in corporate environments, change happens when employees ask for it and help champion it.  Corporate Skilled Volunteering is often a departure from ‘business as usual’ and a shift from how companies have approached volunteering in the past. This means that having a point person at the helm can be critical.  And importantly, it is not necessary for this skilled volunteering point person to be the boss.  In fact, our experience has shown that sometimes the best way to get employee skills-based volunteering programmes off the ground is to empower employees at different levels to champion it and give them a degree of autonomy to take it forward themselves. 

We recently enjoyed two Corporate Skilled Volunteering engagements with Amazon UK, which were owned end-to-end by a highly motivated apprentice from one of Amazon’s corporate volunteering teams.  Because these apprentices have the autonomy to trial new volunteering formats, this allowed the events to progress seamlessly and with streamlined decision-making.  Fast forward six months, we have an amazing track record of events under our belts and we’re off and running planning an ambitious programme of events for Amazon across 2024. 

We understand that not all companies have structured community or volunteering teams in place. We’ve found that you don’t necessarily need a dedicated team but what you do need is the willingness to give people across the company the power to take new types of volunteering engagements – like Corporate Skilled Volunteering with Link UP London – forward and trial them. 

 

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment 

Trying something new can feel daunting. When trying something new in the area of employee volunteering, companies need a willingness to experiment.  Many companies have years of experience offering ‘frontline’ volunteering opportunities such as mentoring schemes, classroom literacy programmes, or community gardening, but far fewer have provided structured opportunities for employees to volunteer based on their professional skills. One of the key differences in preparing for a skills-based volunteering engagement is a willingness to recruit the right employee volunteers with the willingness and confidence to get stuck in and provide professional advice to a charity.  

Companies can help line themselves up for successful skilled volunteering engagements by reinforcing to employees that they are signing on for an experience that is personally and professionally meaningful – and a departure from how they may have experienced volunteering in the past. As one of our corporate volunteers explained, “ I’d previously done other kinds of volunteering: helping clear outside spaces and doing other manual jobs to support charities in a more physical way. Skilled volunteering was a refreshing change – I felt like I was bringing my professional expertise to the charity. This made me feel that I was personally making a difference, as opposed to doing a physical job that could be done by almost anyone.” 

The lesson here is to embrace experimentation, and revel in the newness of a skilled volunteering opportunity.  When a company is able to work in partnership with an experienced skilled volunteering provider, and fully embraces the value of the experience, the result is a drastic shift in the scope and impact of the volunteering programme on offer to employees.  It’s worth the effort! 

 

3. Keep it simple and start small 

One of our key corporate sponsors put it succinctly when asked what advice she’d offer companies considering employee skills-based volunteering: “ “My advice? Just do it.” 

Sometimes, the very best advice is just to give it a go.  Corporate Skilled Volunteering can help you address the ‘S’ in your ESG strategy, it leads to happier, more fulfilled employees – and lends important skills to charities and communities at the same time. Undisputably, all great stuff – why not give it a go?  

We have sometimes spoken to corporates in London who want to do more with their volunteering programmes, but are daunted by signing up for a multi-month engagement, or worry about being committed to an engagement should employee schedules shift.  The good news is the sector is well positioned to address this, with opportunities on offer of all shapes and sizes.  Link UP’s Social Impact Solutions provides engagements ranging from just a two-hour advice clinic or a team away day through to a flexible, multi-month consultancy-style project, so clearly something that can be adapted to suit most needs.  

In short: start small. If you’re unsure, commit to a small Corporate Skilled Volunteering engagement that will quickly give you a sense of the impact achieved and gauge the response from within your company, and let your future strategy evolve from there.  At the very least you’ll have shown your employee and stakeholders the breadth and variety that skills-based volunteering has to offer, and London charities and communities will thank you for leveraging your employees’ skills to give something truly impactful back to the community.  

Piqued your interest? Get in touch with me at nicolloe@linkuplondon.org and let’s keep the conversation going.   Make 2024 the year you consider how to give Corporate Skilled Volunteering a home in your company. 

Find out more at https://linkuplondon.org/corporates/

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