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We all love a sweet spot. And for the world of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), having evolved from a philanthropic endeavour to a strategic imperative for businesses, employee skilled volunteering is arguably one.

Here employees use their professional or occupational expertise to make a positive impact on society. According to our research, around six million people (21% of the UK workforce) are putting their work skills into use on a voluntary basis

This is something that we love and in this article, we will explore the concept of skilled volunteering and share why we believe that it has become a sweet spot for CSR, benefitting not only the community but also businesses themselves.

What is skilled volunteering?

Skilled volunteering, often referred to as pro bono volunteering, is a form of volunteerism where individuals contribute their professional or occupational skills, knowledge, and expertise to non-profit organisations, charities, or social enterprises. This type of volunteering goes beyond traditional volunteer tasks like gardening or packaging food; it leverages the unique skills and talents of employees to address complex challenges and create long-lasting social impact.

Skilled volunteering can encompass a wide range of professional domains, including marketing, finance, legal, technology, project management, and more. For example, a marketing professional can help a non-profit organisation develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, while a software engineer can build a website for a charity.

The key is that these volunteers provide services that are typically associated with their job roles, thus making their contributions highly valuable to the receiving organisations. Seven out of ten charities in the UK are looking for support from skilled volunteers, but only four in ten are able to find it.

In turn, there is good evidence that skilled volunteering can bring benefits in terms of staff well-being, accelerating a sense of meaning and purpose at work.

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Why is skilled volunteering a sweet spot for CSR?

Skilled volunteering has gained prominence in the world of CSR for several compelling reasons:

  1. High-impact results

When professionals lend their expertise to non-profit organisations, the results are often of higher quality and have a more significant impact. Skilled volunteers can help these organisations overcome challenges, improve their operations, and fulfil their missions more effectively.

  1. Skills-based matching

Skilled volunteering allows organisations to match the specific skills and experience of volunteers to their needs. This tailored approach increases the likelihood of successful outcomes and provides volunteers with a sense of purpose, knowing that their expertise is being put to good use.

  1. Employee engagement

Employees who engage in skilled volunteering often report higher job satisfaction, improved morale, and a stronger connection to their company's mission. This, in turn, boosts employee retention and loyalty.

  1. Professional development

Skilled volunteering provides employees with opportunities to enhance their professional skills, gain new experiences, and broaden their expertise. It's a win-win situation where employees can both give back to the community and develop their own talents.

  1. Community connection

Companies that encourage skilled volunteering not only give back to the community but also build stronger ties with local organisations and initiatives. This fosters a sense of social responsibility and aligns the business with community needs.

Examples of skilled volunteering initiatives

  1. Barclays Inclusive Leadership

Barclays supports teams of six skilled volunteers from different levels and parts of the business to work together to support charities that are focused on the needs of communities that are marginalised or excluded in society. In doing so, they take away knowledge and insight that can support their own development as inclusive leaders.

  1. Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge

One of the five core values at Morgan Stanley is ‘Giving Back’ and skilled volunteering is a key way in which the business looks to make a difference to charities and to support employees in developing the habits of pro bono action. An annual Strategy Challenge sees teams working with a range of charities, competing to provide the greatest impact that they can for each and for all of the charities.  

Why skilled volunteering is good for employee engagement

In our research here, we see a widespread interest among employees in the option of skilled volunteering:

  • Three quarters of employees (77%) believe that employers should be supportive of their staff taking time to volunteer
  • 79% believe that businesses themselves benefit from employee volunteering
  • 82% say volunteering develops their work skills and knowledge
  • Those who volunteer with the support of their employer are around twice as likely to be people of colour as the population at large (23% compared to 12%)
  • rather than leave it to employees to take action on their own, the majority view is that employers should be taking steps to help employees around options for volunteering (60% of those who expressed a view)
  • The obstacles that we see are those who say that they struggle to find time (69%) and over a third (38%) who say they needed guidance on how to do this - two barriers that employers are able to lift.
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Benefits of skilled volunteering for businesses

Skilled volunteering isn't just a one-way street; it offers significant benefits to businesses as well:

  1. Enhanced reputation

Companies that engage in skilled volunteering build a positive reputation as responsible corporate citizens, which can attract customers, investors, and top talent.

  1. Employee retention

Skilled volunteering is a powerful employee retention tool. When employees feel that their company supports their desire to make a difference in the world, they are more likely to stay with the organisation.

  1. Talent attraction

Skilled volunteering programmes are an attractive proposition for potential hires. Young professionals, in particular, seek employers who are committed to social and environmental responsibility.

  1. Professional development

Companies benefit from employees who continually develop their skills through skilled volunteering. These skills can be directly applied to the business, making the workforce more agile and versatile.

  1. Innovation and problem-solving

Skilled volunteers often bring fresh perspectives and innovative solutions to non-profit organisations, which can lead to new ideas and problem-solving approaches within the company.

Challenges and considerations

While skilled volunteering is an invaluable CSR tool, it's not without challenges:

  1. Resource allocation

Businesses need to allocate resources for skilled volunteering programmes, including time, funding, and management oversight.

  1. Alignment with business goals

Skilled volunteering initiatives should align with the company's mission and values to ensure that they are mutually beneficial for the business and the community.

  1. Alignment with talent development priorities

Skilled volunteering can be an outstanding experiential way of learning and a valuable option therefore for personal and professional development. Bring in those leading talent development in the business early.  

  1. Measurement and reporting

Companies should establish metrics to measure the success and impact of their skilled volunteering programmes. These measurements can help refine the initiatives over time.

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Skilled volunteering is indeed a sweet spot for Corporate Social Responsibility. It harnesses the professional skills and expertise of employees to drive positive change in communities, while simultaneously benefiting businesses. Skilled volunteering enhances a company's reputation, boosts employee engagement, and contributes to social and environmental well-being.

As businesses increasingly recognize the importance of their role in creating a better world, skilled volunteering has proved to be a valuable tool that aligns business goals and values.

Give your culture a workout

Pilotlight is a charity that amplifies the impact businesses and their people can bring to the world. We deliver experiential programmes that develop employees and give charities the skills and expertise they need to thrive. Since 1996 we’ve developed partnerships with over 180 of the UK’s top businesses including Barclays, Ipsos Mori, Lendlease, Morgan Stanley, Sodexo and KPMG, to develop their people whilst also helping charities tackle the pressing issues they face.

West Midlands