Volunteers' Week 2023: Employee Sponsored Volunteering

3 July, 2023

Employee sponsored volunteering is where an organisation grants their employees paid time off to volunteer during their normal work hours (which may or may not also involve having the option to work outside of these, and then take time back). So, an organisation elsewhere, usually within the VCSE sector, that wants some voluntary support utilises the time and skills of corporate volunteers and the corporate volunteers are paid their normal wage by their employer to do so. This is usually above and beyond any other annual leave arrangements in the employees contract. The amount of time off an organisation gives employees for volunteering will vary, but it is usually one or two days. Sometimes employees may already volunteer somewhere, and use these days for some of this, or choose to find a more regular volunteering opportunity and then use their own time to enable a regular commitment to an ongoing role. 

A similar, often related form of volunteering is ‘pro-bono’ volunteering, where someone with specific skills, often garnered from a professional ‘corporate’ career, gives up their time to benefit ‘the public good’ - the term ‘pro-bono’ comes from a latin phrase meaning ‘for the public good’. Pro-bono volunteers may well be freelancers, people working in a small business, or people who are retired. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘skilled volunteering’- but, of course, all volunteering and volunteers have skills! 

“Skilled volunteering is an excellent way for businesses and people to make a social impact by providing support where voluntary and community organisations need it the most. It’s an absolute privilege to work alongside so many businesses and people who share a passion for making a difference in our region. 

I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of the incredible volunteers who share their expertise and professional services through the ProHelp – West of England service, which we deliver at Quartet Community Foundation.” John Stienlet, Pro bono Manager, Quartet Community Foundation 

Regardless of how someone volunteers their professional experience it’s possible for even a day to make a real difference to an organisation.  

Take Guliana who utilised her days volunteering leave to develop an entire fundraising appraisal for an organisation looking for some support with this – which goes to show, a lot can be done in a short space of time! Guillana was struck by the good work of Mothers for Mothers , a Bristol charity offering perinatal mental health support. Guillana had expertise and experience in fundraising and connected with the organisation to offer her time. Guillana fed back: 

“I think Mothers for Mothers are fantastic and it gave me a chance to deliver fundraising support again. Corporate volunteering offers both individuals and organisations a great opportunity to develop. Particularly during the cost of living crisis when there is even more demand for services and resources. Organisations may have needs across a variety of areas where they would welcome expert input - like fundraising, strategy, campaigning, marketing, finance etc. Personally, I appreciated the chance to support.” 

From the organisation’s perspective, Mothers for Mothers reported back how grateful they were. Guillana’s work helped inform their fundraising strategy and development, keeping their small staff team freeer to focus on delivery of services.  

By way of an another example Garrett Creative have a longstanding, and generous, offer to the Bristol VCSE sector, supporting 1-3 small organisations each year with brand identity and/or website design. 

“This was a really exciting and inspiring project to work on…Our priority for the brand identity design was to reflect their values and highlight the diverse and unique nature of Hartcliffe City Farm. Delivering this piece of work has helped us, as a business, put our values into practice and fulfil our mission.  

Working with inspiring organisations in the voluntary sector and supporting the amazing work going on in Bristol is something we are really passionate about.” Ed Garrett, Founder, Garrett Creative. 

Alternatively, some corporate volunteers and businesses are looking for something more ‘hands on’, perhaps with a team building element to the task, and potentially something very different to their usual working day. To offer tailored, , new experiences for medium to larger groups of volunteers, with impactful results for the host organisation, VCSE organisations have to in turn input time and resources. Not all VCSE organisations can access the resources to make use of this type of corporate offer, and those that do may need to ask for a fee to facilitate.  

 Your Park Bristol and Bath arrange team days in Bristol Parks, where groups from local businesses can get involved in all sorts of outdoor projects. With the support of One Tree per Child corporate groups can support with the planting of new trees (Autumn / Winter) or to maintain the newly planted trees outside of planting season. 

So, if you’re a corporate employee looking to do some social good, how best can you connect with VCSE organisations who may benefit from your skills? 

If you work for one of Bristol’s medium to large businesses your first step might be to check your organisations leave policy, think about what skills you have to offer, and have a chat with you manager or colleagues (if you want to make an offer as a team). You can currently reach out directly to organisations, or browse their role adverts to get an idea of the kind of skills they’re looking for, projects they’re working on or action days/events they have planned and need extra pairs of hands for. Roles currently being advertised can be found via Can Do Bristol and Voscur. 

If you have your own business, you’re a freelancer, you’re retired and/or you’re working in a smaller business why not approach Pro-Help?  

If you’re responsible in your corporate organisation for coordinating or brokering employee supported volunteering Can Do and Voscur would love to hear from you. 

If you’re an employee or volunteer at a VCSE organisation and keen to shape what the future of employer supported volunteering looks like you can currently respond to our Voscur and Can Do Corporate Volunteering survey. Where we hope to capture perceptions and experiences of, and hopes and wants from, meaningful corporate volunteering opportunities and partnerships. You can respond to the survey here: https://tinyurl.com/bdhh73sr