· 1 min read · Features

Employer-supported volunteering held back by lack of communication

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Corporate volunteering is inhibited by cost confusion and lack of understanding of the benefits, say the CIPD and NCVO

There is a lack of understanding between charities and companies about the costs and benefits involved in employer-supported volunteering (ESV), according to research by the CIPD and The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

The research found that one of the most significant inhibitors to ESV was around the associated costs and whether it was the company or the voluntary organisation that should pay these. Smaller voluntary organisations were concerned that the cost of running ESV activities could considerably outweigh the benefits.

This is despite the proven benefits of such volunteering, the research stated. Another CIPD survey recently found that 81% of employees reported increased community awareness, 65% had increased communication skills, and 59% reported an increase in confidence following volunteering. It also found 65% would be more likely to work for an employer that encourages and promotes volunteering, though 39% said their employer did not support it.

Another issue identified by the CIPD and NCVO research was that many charities benefit from skilled volunteering – such as help writing strategies – but feel that people are less likely to volunteer in their professional capacity than for typically unskilled volunteering tasks such as painting or gardening.

Some of the businesses interviewed reported that charities often overlooked the additional benefits of a one-off placement, including the potential of sponsorship or support from the company in the future. A mismatch in expectations and needs around publicity was also uncovered, with voluntary organisations keen to promote their ESV activities while the business wanted to be discreet to avoid the accusation of developing such partnerships purely for positive press.

The research also revealed a mismatch between the types of companies able to offer volunteering support and what voluntary organisations most value. While larger companies are most likely to have the resource for such activity, some charities felt SMEs had more in common with them and so partnerships here would be more productive.

Katerina Rüdiger, head of skills and policy campaigns at the CIPD, commented: “Volunteering has been an important part of the political agenda in recent years, and the prime minister’s announcement ahead of the 2015 election – that staff at large organisations should have the chance to take time off to volunteer – clearly placed responsibility with employers.

"But what we’re unfortunately seeing from this research is a lack of understanding from many employers about why volunteering is important, and a lack of communication between charities and business about how they can work together.”