THE CEO of an award-winning charity noted for its use of volunteers is calling on businesses to work more closely with the third sector.
Diane Vernon set up EmployabilityUK in 2014 and has helped boost the career prospects, confidence and skills of hundreds of young people from some of the country’s most deprived areas.
Her small team has been supported along the way by more than 1,500 volunteers, including 100 who give their time and expertise on a regular basis, all of which earned the charity a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service earlier this year.
Their programmes include a variety of face-to-face and virtual sessions on everything from confidence-boosting to CV writing, and they’re also part of the Kickstarter scheme.
Now with many companies looking to return to status quo now the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, Diane is urging managers to promote volunteering among their workforce.
She explains: “Since the first Lockdown, we’ve seen a big uplift in the number of people able to offer their time to us – whether that’s because they’ve been on Furlough, have no commute thanks to working from home, or they were simply spurred on to become a volunteer thanks to the huge wave of community spirit we saw in action during the pandemic.
“If these people have to return to the rigidity of a 9-5 within the office, many may no longer be able to give that time – and this spells bad news for them as individuals, the charity sector as a whole, and the business sector too.
“There are so many ways in which businesses benefit from supporting the third sector, and they need to be reminded of this now there’s a rush to return to ‘normal’.”
more people than ever are realising that charities are run in much the same way as a business
Research has shown that Millennials – who will account for three quarters of the global workforce within the next four years – are highly motivated to join a company with strong community and charitable values. And separate research reveals those who volunteer have better mental health, which has been proven to increase productivity, morale and presenteeism rates.
Diane suggests there are a number of policies and practices businesses can easily introduce which will make a difference. These include volunteer days for employees (in addition to their annual leave) which they can take off fully-paid to support a charitable cause; a small donation for each team member which can be used as a fundraising kick-starter; and encouraging flexible and remote working so that staff have the option of fitting volunteering around their paid work, should they choose to.
Diane added: “A greater exposure to volunteering over the past 18 months means more people than ever are realising that charities are run in much the same way as a business. We have lots of volunteer mentors who work directly with the young people we support, but we have others whose skills are better suited to different teams within the charity.
“So, you’ll find volunteers writing content for our website, updating our IT systems, developing our marketing strategies, and supporting us in admin roles.
“Almost everyone within a business has expertise they could share with a charity – and vice versa. By thinking about charitable giving not just in terms of time and monetary donations, but also in terms of being able to swap skills between the private and third sectors, it opens up a whole world of opportunities and gives businesses an opportunity to really showcase their commitment to CSR.
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