Despite the turbulence of the past 18 months, there have been some surprising positive outcomes from the impact of the pandemic. One of these is an increase in volunteering, with communities pulling together as people offer up their time to support one another.
Younger people, in particular, not only want, but expect employers to provide volunteering opportunities. 53% of under-35s want to volunteer and 60% of 18-24-year-olds feel the same1.
Whether it’s down to the fact that they feel a renewed need to connect to others following periods of isolation, or just because they want to help create a better place to live, they’re looking for more meaningful workplace experiences.
Volunteering has always been a two-way street, with both the intended recipient and volunteer gaining something from the relationship – no matter if it’s a tangible outcome or simply a sense of fulfilment. But this applies to businesses too.
Dedicating your time as a volunteer can help you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills. And while pursuing personal or business advantages certainly won’t be your primary driver, volunteering can often benefit you, your employer, and your customers just as much as the cause you choose to help. Below are just some of the potential outcomes from volunteering.
The employee benefits of volunteering
Feeling refreshed and recharged - Although volunteering is still a form of work, employees can enjoy time away from the daily pressures of business life with a refreshing set of challenges to overcome.
Learning new skills - From building a school abroad, to promoting a charity event in a local shopping centre – all these opportunities have the power to enhance existing skillsets, or form entirely new ones.
Gaining a fresh perspective - Understanding and cherishing the things that matter most to employees can help to build empathy – a key skill for driving successful innovation.
Thinking differently - Many employees become so engrained in their role that they stop thinking outside of the box, and a new environment can stimulate new ideas and the ability to tackle problems in a new way.
Experiencing new things - Working with charities and not-for-profit organisations can help to expose employees to new experiences – and witness things they may have never thought existed.
The business benefits of volunteering
Improved loyalty - Providing employees with the freedom to pursue their passion develops a profound connection to their employer – and subsequently reduces the likelihood of an employee choosing to leave.
Enhanced skills - Volunteer projects help people develop new skills and apply existing skills to new scenarios. This can enable employee growth with limited financial investment.
Better customer experiences - Working in new environments, and with new people, could help to establish new ways of working and developing better relationships and customer experiences.
New and exciting opportunities - Working with charities and not-for-profits can mean building new relationships outside of the workplace, which could in turn see new business opportunities arise.
What can organisations do to encourage volunteering?
Around 69% of people in the UK have formally volunteered through a club, group or organisation at some point in their lives2. So what can we do to foster volunteering within businesses specifically?
It’s clear that volunteering should be embedded into a business’s people and culture practices due to its positive effects on employee upskilling, wellbeing, and engagement. And the only way to enable this is to give employees the time and encouragement they need to volunteer on a regular basis.
From a practical point of view, nothing says you care like giving your employees paid time off to volunteer – making it easier for them to say ‘yes’. And importantly, workplace roles should be disregarded when volunteering; we shouldn’t let the managers take over, everyone should feel equally important. This can help to boost employee confidence and teach them the leadership skills they need to progress in life.
Ultimately, everyone has something to give through volunteering, regardless of age or background. We should listen carefully to employees and understand what they want to get out of the experience to ensure they find it rewarding.
At Softcat, giving back to the community is an innate part of who we are as a company. It’s a value that we share with some of our closest customers and Partners – a good example of which is leading voice and video platform developer, 8x8.
We’ve recently joined forces with 8x8 to support a number of exciting fundraising and volunteering initiatives. And our hope is that by outlining the business benefits of doing so, more corporate enterprises will want to get involved. This is a cause we’re passionate about and we really want to put our employees’ skills, qualities, and attributes to good use.
Our Love2Give campaign focuses on encouraging employees to demonstrate the difference we can make together. As part of Love2Give, every employee can take two days a year to volunteer, and we’ve got lots of exciting opportunities for them to choose from thanks to our new partnerships with OnHand and Matchable.
Assignment example: Angela’s story
Angela Saville is the Love2Give office rep at our Birmingham office. So far, she’s completed 16 missions including a regular phone call with a lady called Valerie. Angela explains:
"I have been enjoying volunteering with OnHand as it has allowed me to connect with so many interesting people. One of my recent calls was with an ex-nurse who had become very lonely. We had a good giggle together and it was humbling to help lift her spirits."
OnHand is a volunteering platform that matches you to simple tasks based on your location – almost like an Uber for volunteering. The innovative app allows you to support your local community with a diverse range of activities, from dog walking, to making befriending calls and arranging food drops for vulnerable people.
- To date, we have achieved:
- 377 sign ups
- 310 missions completed
- 279 employees registered with OnHand
Matchable pairs employees with skilled volunteering projects at some of the most innovative non-profits and start-ups. From developing the marketing strategy for an organisation that empowers bame women through fashion, to providing admin support for a charity supporting bereaved children, there’s a huge range of projects to tackle.
- To date, we have achieved:
- 167 sign ups
- 69 employees have picked projects
- 63 employees have been matched
Assignment example: Hannah’s story
Hannah Ellis, Softcat Service Development Product Manager, was matched with Lyra in Africa, a charity that works to help end poverty in Tanzania through a number of targeted programmes. The Lyra team commented:
“Hannah has been a real asset to the team. We set a specific project for her to work on, and from the get-go, she went beyond what we asked her to deliver. Once the project is completed it will have a really transformational impact on Lyra.”
Assignment example: Adam’s story
Softcat’s Chief Technologist Team Leader, Adam Louca, was matched with Flooglebinder, an organisation that aims to change attitudes to sustainability via travel. Adam explains:
"After speaking with Flooglebinder, it was clear there was an opportunity to take their sustainable travel ethos to a wider audience. It is a great opportunity to use and develop some of my skills in a totally different market and support a company that is having a positive impact on the world."
Create your own story
Now you’ve hopefully seen some of the benefits of volunteering, perhaps you’ll consider getting involved too? At Softcat, we’d love to see you create your own story and make a positive impact – not only to your chosen cause, but also within your own business.
If you’d like to learn how to get started, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and ask us any questions you might have.
So, hands up… who’s in?