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Employer sponsored volunteering – filling in the gaps

Personnel in large companies want to volunteer, and third-sector organisations would like welcome them with open arms – so why is employer-sponsored volunteering still not reaching its full potential in the UK?

Research by Dr Jon Burchell from Sheffield University Management School, alongside Dr Joanna Cook at Hull University Business School, has identified four ‘gaps’ which, if filled, could encourage growth in this activity.

Dr Burchell said: “There are benefits for employees and companies with volunteering, such as job satisfaction and staff retention. And given the level of cuts and lack of funding available for third-sector organisations, volunteers are a vital resource. So there is interest from the voluntary sector to engage businesses, but there are hurdles from each perspective.

“For the voluntary sector, time and resource is a problem. Facilitating an activity for a business which wants to spend some time with them requires both of these, for example – training of their staff, and they have little going spare. Also, volunteers don’t often want to partake in activities that might be very useful to the organisation, such as accounting. They might want to come and paint a room or plant a tree – but the organisation could benefit more from the professional services they offer in their day jobs.

“Conversely, large organisations become frustrated by the ‘red tape’ they have to complete for volunteering activities, such as risk assessment forms and health and safety procedures – especially when they are sending large numbers of staff.”

Read the Financial Times’ coverage of these findings here.

Dr Burchell and Dr Cook suggest that relationships between the businesses and third-sector organisations need be facilitated – they work best when both groups can work with someone who manages the relationship and ensures that they’re a good fit. This will require infrastructure and funding, but would help to overcome the four gaps identified by the research team:

Skills gap: Volunteers should consider using their professional skills in the volunteer organisation
Capacity gap: Third-sector groups must get to the point where they have the infrastructure to accommodate volunteers, and also pitch the benefits of a relationship to large organisations
Knowledge gap: When relationships are formed, they rarely understand the difficulties experienced by the other group
Infrastructure gap: Relationships between businesses and third-sector organisations work well when they’re ‘brokered’ – there is a benefit to someone looking at each party’s needs, and matching successfully

Dr Burchell and Dr Cook discussed these gaps further on a recent radio interview – listen to it here.

For more information on the gaps identified by the research team, click here.

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