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Why Employer Supported Volunteering is a Work of Heart

Community Action Suffolk focused on Employer Supported Volunteering with its Work of Heart Campaign between the 9th to 13th May 2022. Many businesses have an ESV/CSR policy, yet only a small number of employees take up volunteering days and our plan at CAS is to help increase this number over the next year.

Janet Perry, Senior Manager for Volunteering Development explains, “One way we are approaching this is by hosting business and charity network meetings. Our first event in Ipswich saw great energy in the room and businesses left with new contacts, greater knowledge of charities that could host them and plenty of ideas of how they can support their staff to volunteer. We are looking forward to hosting more networking events across the county, so do let us know if you would like to be involved”.

One of the businesses in attendance was Scrutton Bland. Nicola Housden, Operations Team Leader, commented on what a useful and successful event it was and said that it had worked really well for them. For details of the next matchmaking event email: [email protected]

What is ESV?

Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) or Employee Volunteering, as it is also known, comes about when an organisation that employs staff, actively supports and encourages their employees to volunteer. The organisation may be a purely commercial organisation or a local authority and the act of volunteering could be performed as a group of staff or as individuals. However, it comes about, usually as part of a response to satisfy the need for a wider corporate need for social responsibility in the community it can reaps rewards for all involved.

Building a team again after working remotely

ESV builds a sense of teamwork within an organisation, particularly since many staff have been working remotely during the Pandemic. It can improve attendance at work and staff retention. There are clear benefits for mental wellbeing for staff and it develops competencies including creative thinking, problem-solving, project management skills, networking within new and existing teams, a sense of pride and achievement in giving something back, increased understanding of social issues and empathy, the list goes on.   

With a structured approach and an agreed policy that cascades down through the organisation, an employer can leverage a series of benefits that goes way beyond the   bottom line.

Two days for staff to volunteer as they wish and be paid

Here at CAS, we offer staff 2 days to volunteer as they wish, and this time is fully paid. Staff have a say in the planning of activities and their involvement is encouraged through the recruitment and appraisal process. It is core to our values in supporting VCSEs but the staff also see their own benefits in being involved.

Christmas 2021, saw a group of CAS staff volunteering at the Ipswich Family Bank putting together Christmas hampers that were delivered locally to families in Whitton. It meant that we were able to gain time out of the office to be together as a group, having been working and meeting remotely for so much of the time during the Pandemic. We were able to bond as a team and build skills such as problem solving. We were even able to improve our gift-wrapping abilities!

Benefits to CAS Staff

Our feedback showed that there was a real sense of shared achievement with the staff that took part. Not only did it develop a personal sense of achievement, but it also built confidence for some individuals that hadn’t integrated with others during the Pandemic and helped to combat feelings of isolation. It instilled a sense of pride of working for an organisation that were actively supportive of the activity and increased understanding of the social issues that food banks are facing. Whilst we are naturally empathetic, to be immersed in such an activity, particularly at Christmas, was a really beneficial experience for all involved.  

Achieving cultural change

With the regular and sustained volunteering time that can be built up by an organisation’s involvement with a charity, there can be a lasting legacy with what is achieved. At its best, employee volunteering can bring about a cultural change within an organisation that just wouldn’t be possible without this involvement within the community.

ESV also develops a mutually beneficial relationship between employers and voluntary organisations. For those VCSEs that have not considered it, we are offering networking and training opportunities during the week, which will then become part of a regular offer. In a way as CAS are acting as matchmakers in this process and are here to help link up charities, employers, and staff we are truly making this a Work of Heart.

To find out more go to the CAS website Employer Supported Volunteering – Community Action Suffolk