This week to mark national Volunteer Week, we have invited Voluntary Action Leeds, one of our third sector partners to write a guest blog about Employer Supported Volunteering which is helping both businesses and volunteers in Leeds to exchange skills – a ‘win-win’ situation all around you might say!
Natasha Mort and Sonja Woodcock, Voluntary Action Leeds
In a nutshell, Employer Supported Volunteering (ESV) is when employers offer their employees paid time off to volunteer in their local community. It’s a great way of fulfilling corporate social responsibility, policy and arguably most importantly, building a reputation as a responsible business. In return, employees gain both personal and professional development while third sector organisations benefit from their time, skills and expertise.
Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) has recently set up an ESV program called Businesses Doing Good in Leeds to support and develop volunteering opportunities between businesses, statutory organisations and the third sector in Leeds. The program aims to offer tangible benefits to the third sector through the sharing of skills, expertise and increased exposure. Businesses Doing Good in Leeds offers a complete ESV service that supports an organisation’s ability to produce a positive impact on society, raising their profile within the third sector and helping staff in their personal and professional development.
Businesses Doing Good in Leeds offer organisations a comprehensive, customable ESV service that includes Give and Gain days, matching volunteers’ interests and skills with local charities and community organisations. Employees have the opportunity to volunteer with a wide array of organisations from animal charities to arts organisations and children’s charities, and care homes to environmental organisations and everything in between!
A Give Day is about the giving of specific skills and expertise to a third sector organisation, such as a HR professional assisting with the development or review of HR policies. ESV projects provide opportunities for businesses to make a real impact in the local community as they can provide skills and expertise that are often outside of a charity’s skill set or budget. Skills that are in high demand include marketing, HR, social media and financial expertise but there are also requests for IT support, mediation and fund raising. Clearly, there’s an opportunity for everyone.
Gain Days are about the giving of time (and potentially some skills) to a third sector organisation in the form of Team Days. They are called ‘Gain Days’ as the expectation is that the staff from the ESV project will gain experience and knowledge around what the third sector provides to the city.
We recently arranged a Gain Day for a team of volunteers from ASDA to go to Temple Newsam to support the grounds team with clearing up debris from the lakes, which had been drained as part of a comprehensive restoration project. For some of the team it was a new experience to be away from their desks and doing a bit of manual labour, but they were soon busy hauling logs and other debris out of the lake. Some even developed new lumberjack skills sawing up long branches! Tom, the estate manager, was impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment to getting the job done while having fun. He commented that the tasks they ask visiting groups to help with are all essential, and would likely not get done without the help of volunteers.
ESV volunteers tend to really enjoy their experience and find it rewarding to learn more about the work of the third sector. Many continue to volunteer with their host organisation on their own time, providing an on-going relationship. Host organisations also benefit from the volunteers’ skills and interest in the work they are doing – it’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone so why not give it a go!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Businesses Doing Good in Leeds ESV program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to Natasha and Sonja for taking the time to write today’s blog and also for giving us a useful insight into how we could all benefit from ESV.
Tomorrow we’ll be speaking to Stephen who has been volunteering with us in the communications and marketing team here at Leeds City Council in exchange for his knowledge and expertise in all things design!