Make a Difference Day

Volunteering
is on the corporate agenda this week as ‘Make a Difference Day’ kicks off,
writes Roisin Woolnough. It is the UK’s biggest single day of volunteering,
with 75,000 people taking part in more than 3,500 activities.

According
to Community Service Volunteers (CSV), the organisation that runs ‘Make a
Difference Day’, the benefits for participating companies are improved employee
morale and productivity and an enhanced reputation among the wider community.
An addition to this, 76 per cent of Make a Difference Day activities gained
print or broadcast media coverage in 2002.

Corporate
social responsibility (CSR) is of increasing importance to people. And a 2002
Mori report shows that 84 per cent of the British public take note of an
organisation’s community activities when forming an opinion. But, according to
a new report by The Work Foundation, 58 per cent of the 277 organisations it
surveyed do not have a strategy for CSR or corporate citizenship.

Barclays,
which is sponsoring the event, had a quarter (around 18,000) of its employees
participating last year. Lucy Shackleton, emerging talent consultant in
Barclays’ HR department, thinks staff gain a lot from their voluntary work.

“It
helps employees to develop their communications, teamworking and organisational
skills as well as helping them to think out of the box,” she says.

Water
and infrastructure group AWG is taking part in Make a Difference Day for the
first time this year. The company has encouraged its workforce to get involved
in volunteer work for a while and runs a scheme called ‘Give me five’, whereby
employees can take up to 30 work hours to spend on community work.
Participating employees and their line managers are expected to identify
potential skills that could be developed through volunteering and tie that into
the employee’s company appraisals.

“All
the volunteering is linked to personal development plans,” explains Shelagh
Linkleter, group community investment manager at AWG. “It helps with employee
development – things like presentation skills, listening and communication
skills.”

Some
of the projects are also linked to NVQs as well, enabling the volunteer work to
count towards the qualification.

In
2001, AWG carried out an internal survey into the benefits of voluntary work.
It found that participants were more likely to achieve appraisal targets, said
it improved their interpersonal skills and motivation and made them more proud
to work for the company.

For
volunteer schemes to be successful, Shackleton believes management support is
essential. “Having the buy-in of managers across the organisation is certainly
a key driver,” she says.

Like
many big companies, Barclays has a community affairs team who oversees the
volunteering projects and policies. But one of the most important things,
Shackleton thinks, is to ensure that projects are interesting and people can
choose which ones they do.

AWG’s
survey results:


72 per cent of ‘Give me five’ volunteers achieved appraisal targets


81 per cent found volunteering rewarding


68 per cent said it broadened their life experience


66 per cent claimed it improved their communication skills


57 per cent felt it improved other interpersonal skills


50 per cent claimed it enhanced morale and motivation


43 per cent had an increased feeling of company pride


more than 40 per cent found it increased job satisfaction, enhanced
teambuilding, planning and implementing, counselling and listening skills

How
to get involved

Make
a Difference Day (25 October 2003) is run by Community Service Volunteers
(CSV).

For
more information visit www.csv.org.uk or contact Sara
Burdon on 020 7643 1433 (e-mail: sburdon@csv.org.uk)

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