Most of Britain’s workers want to volunteer their professional skills to charities – and their employers could benefit significantly from making it easier to do so.

Research published today by Pilotlight shows many UK workers (21%) are already putting their work skills into use on a voluntary basis – around six million people* – and that a further 50% would like to volunteer using their professional skills. This represents a huge employee development and engagement opportunity for businesses and a vast, untapped resource for the country’s vital charities at a time of increased demand.

Of those currently involved in volunteering their professional skills, around half do so with the support or knowledge of their employers and they largely believe (79%) that businesses themselves benefit from employee volunteering.

Among the half of workers saying they would like to share their work skills with good causes, many said they struggled to find time (69%) and over a third (38%) said they needed guidance on how to do this – two barriers that employers are able to lift.

Pilotlight is mounting a campaign, backed by former CBI President Paul Dreschler CBE, to ask businesses to Give Back Better by creating more opportunities for staff to volunteer their skills to good causes.

The new CEO of Pilotlight, Ed Mayo is a veteran business campaigner and charity sector leader who says workers’ desire to share their expertise with good causes is positive news for both businesses and charities and could counter the recent drop in volunteer numbers from their lockdown high. He said:

“A few hours a month can do wonders for employee morale and for the charities they support. It does need some care to do it well but the good news is that, for personal and professional development, it is better by far than sending your staff on another training course.”

Pilotlight already partners with a range of the UK’s top companies including Barclays, BlackRock, Ipsos MORI, Morgan Stanley and Virgin Media as well as hundreds of smaller businesses to match their employees with charities for facilitated coaching programmes. The latest Small Charity Leaders Insight Report conducted by Pilotlight and Garfield Weston Foundation showed that 69% of small charities were on the look-out for pro bono professional skills giving from their community. That figure is likely to keep rising.

Paul Drechsler CBE, Chair of London First and former CBI President is supporting Pilotlight’s Give Back Better campaign and is calling on employers to create a lockdown legacy by widening corporate volunteering. He said:

“Pro bono skills giving is good for business and good for society and all employers should be doing it, especially now when charities need support more than ever. There has never been such a great opportunity for employees to volunteer and make a really big difference, learn and show what a great force for good their organisation and business can be. This is a huge opportunity for achievement, satisfaction and pride for a small investment of time.”

 Additional findings drawn from a nationwide survey for Pilotlight are that:

  • The vast majority of people who volunteer with their employer’s support (82%) say it develops their work skills and knowledge
  • Three quarters of employees (77%) believe that employers should be supportive of their staff taking time to volunteer. This view is high across all age groups but strongest among younger employees (81%, age 18-24 and 25-34).
  • Two thirds of people in work (64%) believe that employers have a moral duty to help their communities and wider society through support for volunteering.
  • The cities that perform well in terms of their share of workers who volunteer are Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, London and Southampton. The cities that underperform compared to their peers are Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham.
  • People identifying with a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background are around twice as likely to volunteer with the support of their employer than others (21% compared to 9% for the rest of the population).

Sally Bailey, Chair of Pilotlight and former CEO of the retailer White Stuff, says:

“We have seen a love affair with public volunteering this year and our research shows that corporate volunteering is high on the agenda for many employers across the UK. We have also discovered that millions more employees want to volunteer and are looking for their employer to give them the time or the mechanism to do this which is why Pilotlight is launching a campaign calling on all employers to give back better – to contribute to the social and economic recovery in the UK.”

Give Back Better with Pilotlight

*Based on a UK workforce of 32.92m in August, according to the ONS. Populus conducted a survey for the charity Pilotlight in August 2020 of 2,144 UK adults. Of those, 1,197 of those are currently in work.

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Sally Bailey
Chair - Pilotlight