Building on Time Well Spent: taking a closer look at employer-supported volunteering

Having recently launched our major piece of research on the volunteer experience, Time Well Spent, it has been hugely encouraging to hear that volunteer-involving organisations have already been using our findings and thinking about what it means for them. From the start, our aim was for this research to spark discussion and debate, and to inform practice and policy.

One of the exciting – and challenging – aspects of this research is the wealth of data we’ve had to work with. Even our full 100-page report can’t do justice to exploring some areas, which inevitably warrant more time and need more evidence. As ever with research, as many questions are raised as answers given.

At our launch event, as part of the National Volunteering Forum (read our recap of the event), we kicked off some of these discussions, but we want to do more to keep these conversations going. So this year and beyond we’ll be producing a series of shorter reports focused on a number of key issues, starting with employer-supported volunteering, public services and diversity. The aim of these reports is to explore specific areas in more detail, building on the findings relating to the area from Time Well Spent, drawing on existing evidence, and also carrying out new research and working with partners, as relevant.

We’ve already started looking at our first theme of employer-supported volunteering (ESV) and skills-based volunteering more widely. Here’s a summary of what we’ve got planned:

What do we already know?

From Time Well Spent, the findings highlight that:

  • Awareness and participation in ESV are low. Those giving time through ESV, ie during work hours or organised by their employer, as their main volunteering make up just 10% of recent volunteers (those who have given time in the last 12 months). Of all those who took part in the survey who worked for an employer, a majority say their employer either does not provide opportunities for ESV (51%) or they don’t know if they do (25%).
  • Those who volunteer through ESV report being less satisfied. Those who have been involved in employer-supported volunteering in the last year are less likely to report being satisfied with their volunteering, compared with those who volunteer unrelated to their employer (with the greatest difference for being ‘very satisfied’: 39% vs 56%). Those who volunteer through employers are also more likely to agree there is less flexibility and their volunteering ‘is becoming too much like paid work’.
  • Volunteers have skills and experience to offer, and there’s interest in doing more. Half of recent volunteers (not just through ESV) use their occupational or professional skills and experience when volunteering, and others also use other skills and experience gained outside of employment. But around one in six volunteers say they have skills and experience that they would like to use but aren’t. More widely, opportunities to use skills and experience rank highest from a number of potential future ways of getting involved in volunteering.

What are we doing now?

The findings above cover just a few key insights from the volunteer perspective. But employer-supported volunteering is unique in involving a number of different groups beyond volunteers themselves, including volunteer-involving organisations, intermediaries and of course, employers.

For our first focused report, we are very pleased to be working in partnership with the Corporate Volunteering Network (CVN), a peer support group for charity staff who manage and organise employer supported volunteering opportunities with their corporate partners.

This report aims to bring together latest evidence in employer-supported volunteering through all these different perspectives and explore issues such as:

  • the context and landscape of ESV, including key challenges
  • the motivations and drivers for involvement
  • the organisation of ESV and relationships between those involved
  • benefits and impacts of ESV
  • engagement in ESV more widely and key opportunities going forward.

We’ll be bringing together findings from Time Well Spent, research carried out by the CVN last year on the charity perspective, and recent literature on the subject. We’ll also bring in the perspective of employers and brokers/intermediaries by engaging with these groups over the coming months. We plan to publish the report in the spring.

Get involved

We want to ensure all perspectives are represented, so we have a number of engagement activities planned – including workshops taking place on 11 and 12 March. The more evidence we can gather, the stronger the insights we’ll produce, so we want to hear from you.

If you’re interested in sharing your perspective and/or want to be kept informed about the research on ESV, please let us know at the following links:

For anything else or any questions including about any of the series of reports we have planned, please email me at amy.mcgarvey@ncvo.org.uk.

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Amy McGarvey Amy works as a Senior Research Officer and is leading on NCVO’s major piece of research about the volunteer experience. She also contributes to other parts of NCVO’s research programme on voluntary sector and volunteering.

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