Most organisations nowadays recognise that whatever their line of business, it is important to (be seen to) have a corporate social responsibility agenda. For some this appears to be a tick-box exercise, managed by HR as a ‘side of desk’ initiative with little budget or senior management buy-in, for other organisations it is integral to their strategy and culture — with reference to colleagues, customers and the wider community. What’s for sure CSR is becoming increasingly important and those who are simply paying lip service are likely to pay the price in future.
Putting that to one side for now, supporting employees with non-profit endeavours is often the starting point for CSR strategies. The most common way of doing this is through corporate fundraising and give-as-you-earn (GAYE) schemes, with employers matching their employees donations. Much lesser known but surprisingly commonplace are corporate volunteering days — offering employees paid leave to spend time on non-profit ventures. Most large organisations offer at least 1 or 2 days a year for volunteering, with my alma mater, PricewaterhouseCoopers, offering a very generous 6 days! According to a survey by Benefacto, if you add up all of the employee volunteering time pledged by firms in the UK, an estimated 11 million people are given paid time off to volunteer. Even valued conservatively this equates to c. £2 billion pounds worth of support to deserving causes. Incredible.
Except, not so incredible when you learn that take-up of these paid volunteering days by employees is less than 15% (the London Benchmarking Group)… that is £1.7bn worth of volunteering not being put to work every year.
Historically organisations have often liked to see their employees engage in a group activity (to give them some corporate benefit from team building) whether painting a school, litter picking, or a sponsored three peaks challenge (Alex Marsh and I have done a fair few of these ourselves!) However for non-profits, whilst these en-masse corporate days can certainly be beneficial and high impact, they involve a lot of time and effort to organise, and bring logistical challenges to cover health and safety risks. From a charity perspective if it is a one-off it can again feel transactional — with the aim to tick a CSR box.
The good news is that more and more initiatives are being launched to help employers (and employees) make better use of these corporate volunteering schemes — Ethical Angels, Benefacto, Groundwork to name but a few. However where individuals have specialist skills (particularly financial), non-profits would often prefer to have the same 8 hours of volunteering spent on a governance committee (2 hours, 4 times a year) or ad-hoc pro-bono work. This allows them to benefit from the individual’s expertise in their field, giving them a different perspective and more sustainable support. The challenge we need to overcome is connecting individuals to the non-profit needs.
I first became involved with The Passage when I signed up as a weekly driver collecting donations from M&S. When the FD heard that he had a white van (wo)man who was a qualified accountant, I was quickly drafted onto their Risk & Audit Committee, then their Finance & Fundraising Committee, and 13 years later… I am still there. Although more recently back in my van during the pandemic!
So where to start? Find out what your company volunteering day policy is and make best possible use of it. In the not-too-distant future we hope to have a Charterpath platform to connect roles to volunteers… meantime here are some ideas to get you started.
Overseas: fancy something with an overseas angle, check out Accounting for International Development (AfID) opportunities directory
If your mind boggles at so many options, we will be providing more guidance on the different types of roles and what sort of responsibilities (and time commitments) they are likely to involve. And don’t worry, whilst the time commitments might often be precious evenings, most companies who offer charity days will offer time off in lieu for out of hour volunteering. And if they don’t — ask them to.
As we have said before, the benefits that employers reap from their employee’s new skills and experiences gained in non-profit governance, far outweigh a few extra days out of the office. Good luck!
If the idea of volunteering your skills with a non-profit has caught your imagination - follow these 3 simple steps:
Follow Charterpath on LinkedIn for all the latest news, inspiration, and roles
Have a look around our website at www.charterpath.org.uk for case studies, helpful resources, and live volunteer opportunities
Sign the Charterpath pledge to show your support for our mission and volunteer your skills for at least 2 days each year
Alice Clementi and Alex Marsh co-founded Charterpath as a community interest company in 2020, with a mission to increase the proportion of accountants volunteering from 10% to 50% - inspiring more accountants to volunteer their time and expertise, connecting them with non-profit opportunities, and engaging with a wide range of organisations so volunteering is a core part of an accountant’s career. For more information, visit www.charterpath.org.uk.