Don’t switch off employee volunteering schemes this summer

The summer months are often a great opportunity for employee volunteering projects. But despite social distancing restrictions, there are still ways to engage your workforce in doing something good, say Steve Butterworth and Chris Hillman.

Summer is usually a peak time for employee volunteering, with many schemes running through the warmer months to match employees with good causes.

This summer, there is increased demand for charities’ services, as the impacts of the coronavirus crisis continue to put vulnerable communities across the UK under severe strain.

Yet social distancing means that face to face volunteering opportunities are much more limited, with many charities already seeing a big reduction in volunteer numbers.

Rather than switch off summer volunteering schemes, we urge employers to switch approach; there remains a crucial role that people can play to support good causes by volunteering from home to share skills remotely.

Volunteer from home

Volunteering from home offers a simple, safe and flexible way to make a big difference to good causes across the UK. It enables employees to provide much needed support, all the while at home, fitting around other time commitments or their usual workday.

By matching a wide range of relevant employee skills with charity needs, businesses can support essential local services at a time when they are needed more than ever.

Our recent survey of almost 1,000 front-line community partners found that over half (54%) wanted the help of remote volunteers to support vulnerable people and the causes themselves in the coming weeks and months.

Charities told us that the most important areas of remote volunteering for the beneficiaries they work with are support for individuals in using technology, befriending schemes, help with financial management and letter-writing to socially isolated people.

When asked how volunteers could help their organisation, respondents said their charity would benefit most with help on fundraising, social media activities, marketing and website management.

Although the volunteering is done remotely rather than face to face, it still has a huge impact on a very personal level – for those receiving support as well as the volunteers themselves.

Engaging and rewarding

Taking part can help employees to feel engaged and rewarded, which is particularly important in helping people stay connected and motivated while working from home or furloughed.

Employees can get involved in a wide range of areas – including writing letters to isolated people who greatly appreciate the companionship and comfort at a time of loneliness.

Others can run online workshops with young people looking for work, including CV writing tips and interview practice, which offers a great fit for the skills of HR teams.

Neighbourly is currently helping businesses including Danone, Heineken and the Football Association to adapt their schemes this summer. For example, employees from Danone recently took part in a workshop with more than 50 secondary school pupils, to help inspire and educate them about the world of work in the food and grocery industry.

Other Danone employees have helped a community kitchen to set up processes to support their emergency food distribution rotas, providing essential support to people in real need.

Charities and communities across the UK are stretched, and of course we are one of many organisations helping employees to give their time. We know that companies want to help and remote volunteering is a simple but impactful way to make a big difference.

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About Steve Butterworth and Chris Hillman

Steve Butterworth is CEO of Neighbourly and Chris Hillman is head of sustainability & social innovation at Danone
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