Over the past year NCVO has received an increasing number of queries from employers regarding good volunteering practice. Employers approach us to help their employees understand what volunteering is and how employees can apply their volunteering leave.
I will share some of my experiences to show how you, as an employer, can approach talking about volunteering with employees without playing the superhero.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is an expression of a healthy society and is ultimately about doing good. It is not about portraying a particular image or saving money. That is not why I volunteer.
People will always want to weigh up what causes they make time for and why, because volunteering is not a frivolous pursuit – people make this choice based on their values and an evolving interpretation of the world.
Creating regular and structured opportunities to talk about volunteering with your staff will offer you insights and the potential to understand what volunteering means from an employee perspective.
Volunteering is reciprocal
Volunteering is about reciprocity. I challenge anyone who says that they gain nothing from volunteering. The give and return may be unequal and emotionally subjective – even unexpected! However it is always an exchange.
Whether it is learning or re-learning skills in an unfamiliar context or interacting with people who have a completely different worldview, volunteering can throw you out of your comfort zone and at times situate you very much within it.
In the spirit of reciprocity, are there any stories your staff would like to share about their volunteering experiences?
Volunteering is dialogue
Volunteering is about growing and maturing an understanding of the world and self. People who volunteer are part of a movement that says volunteering is powerful and life changing.
This means that they are in a dialogue with themselves – about their values and how they experience the world – as well as being part of a historical and contemporary movement in society.
How do you know that your employees are not busy, voluntarily, outside of work time with matters that are life-changing? How will you as an employer introduce yourself to the dialogue that your staff are having with themselves and the world?
What is employer supported volunteering?
Employer supported volunteering (ESV) is when an employer approves time off for staff to engage in volunteering. The latest NCVO Almanac data tells us that ESV has reached a plateau. The government has committed to giving employees of large companies and public sector workers three days paid volunteering leave per year.
But what does volunteering means to your employees? The conversations may astound you and confound you!
What does this mean for employers?
If you are thinking about ESV, I hope the following points are helpful. They are based on my experience of hands-on management of volunteers as well as managing teams of corporate volunteers, and learning from my volunteering:
- Volunteering costs. It should be a discussion between your organisation and the organisation hosting your employees as volunteers as to how that cost is shared.
- Ask your staff what they would like to do! Outside of work hours I am sure your staff already do plenty to support communities, challenge injustice and contribute to a greater social good. And they may not even refer to it as ‘volunteering’. Can you follow their lead?
- Get involved in Volunteers’ Week 1-12.
- This year we have extended the week by five extra days to coincide with the Queen’s 90th If you are holding an event, please share it on our map and request a resource pack.
- If you already offer ESV and this blog post has told you nothing new, why don’t you tell us something new? We’re calling for case studies so we can send your ESV story far and wide to government and companies, so they may learn from you.