Up to any good in the community?

June 01, 1993

Up to any good in the community?

June 01 1993

by Mike Tuffrey

June sees the start of the 1993 UK Volunteers Week, as a revamped Employee Involvement Award is launched.

Are your employees up to any good in the community? That is the question asked of companies by the organisers of 1993 Employees in the Community Awards, launched at the start of June. This year the annual award scheme, which encourages and recognises employee involvement, has been revamped with a new corporate sponsor, following three years as the volunteering awards. Grand Metropolitan has joined the Home Office’s VSU in supporting the scheme, organised by BITC.

Broadened to include employee involvement other than just volunteering, the three main categories – private (large), private (small/medium) and public – remain, but there are five new prize categories, including

most successful private, public, community partnership scheme (open to nomination by a community group, not just a company), and

employee development, to recognise the skills and training benefits of employee involvement.

The entries will be judged against 8 criteria, including the extent to which the company has matched the employees’ efforts. Closing date for nominations is September 24. Contact Diane Worley, BITC, on 071 629 1600

The first meeting of a new support network for major companies with employee involvement programmes was held on May 25, hosted by Tim Coleman, Personnel Director of Grand Metropolitan Community Services. 45 participants discussed practical ways to evaluate their activities. Speakers at the meeting stressed the benefits to both company and community from involvement. The Employees in the Community Network is coordinated by The Volunteer Centre UK with guidance from BITC and ARC and is open to any interested employer. The £250 subscription fee covers meetings, seminars, visits and resource materials such as a quarterly magazine and handbook for action. Contact Claire Smith on 0442 873311

Action Resource Centre, the leading secondment and business skills brokerage agency, achieved an increase of more than one third in its placements during the year to March 1993, compared to the previous year, measured in the number of equivalent days offered to community groups. The biggest growth was in the number of employee volunteers and in short term secondments, called Development Assignments. Contact David Hemsworth, ARC, on 071 383 2200

Employers should encourage employees nearing retirement to get involved in voluntary community work, according to the final report of the Carnegie Inquiry Into the Third Age, published in April after three years work. In a comprehensive study of the position of people aged 50-74 in society, the conclusions cover a wide range of issues including health, income, leisure and learning. Volunteering is recommended as one way successfully to make the transition from work into the third age. Larger companies are urged to set up agencies to put retiring or retired staff in touch with opportunities. Contact Keith McDowall Associates on 071 607 7190

A comprehensive guide to voluntary and paid work in the charity sector has been published by the Directory of Social Change, with support from Whitbread and the Home Office’s VSU. It contains entries from over 500 major national voluntary organisations, many with local branches. Directory of Volunteering and Employment Opportunities, edited by Jan Brownfoot and Frances Wilks; published by Directory of Social Change (071 284 4364) price £7.95, ISBN 1 873860 18 8, 288pp

Apex Trust’s Employee Volunteer Prison Involvement programme, launched earlier this year with support from Touche Ross, is expanding to meet the growing need for ex-offenders to rejoin the labour market. The programme takes professionals into prisons to advise prisoners. On May 25, twelve personnel managers from companies including British Gas and BT attended a seminar at Pentonville Prison to meet prisoners and learn from the experience of Touche Ross training staff, who have already run courses. Further seminars are planned with the aim of involving 20 volunteers during the first year of the initiative. Contact Sandra Crouch, Apex Trust, on 071 481 4831

The largest ever survey of the advice needs of charities has revealed that fundraising is the biggest single category of need among national voluntary organisations. Conducted by NCVO and published on May 20, the survey included nearly 1,000 national organisations, 200 local development agencies, such as volunteer bureaux, and 450 local groups across England. Voluntary organisations – their size and advice needs makes recommendations to funders, advice providers and voluntary groups themselves, including the need for better training of volunteers. Available from NCVO Publications 071 713 6161 price £6.25 ISBN 0 7199 1396 9 A4 78pp

The TSB in Birmingham has joined forces with the City Council and Birmingham Evening Mail to find individuals or groups in the City making a valuable voluntary contribution to he community. Publicised though local branches and open to staff, the Super Citizens scheme offers £5,000 to winning projects. Contact


In their first three years, the Employee Awards were sponsored by Whitbread, who, together with companies like Allied Dunbar, have led the movement to promote employee volunteering. Now Grand Met is taking up the mantle, having recently appointed a full-time member of its community relations staff with a remit to encourage employee involvement across the group in the UK. And as NCVO’s mapping exercise (reported above) shows, there is no shortage of suitable opportunities for involvement by skilled staff.

Of course, many staff already volunteer of their own volition, and some companies – see Glaxo profile below – are reluctant to pressurise them into doing more. But there is also an organisational problem. The community affairs function in many companies is often found in the group HQ, located in central London, with few staff. The bulk of employees are located in operating subsidiaries under hard-pressed line management who have other things on their minds. How far has employee community involvement really got into the mainstream? This year’s entries to the Awards will provide a clue. In previous years, the take-up was patchy.

However community affairs professionals should take heart – using the workplace as a volunteer recruiting ground is legitimate, and effective, if done in the right way. With the increasing isolation of the “nuclear family”, the decline of traditional volunteer recruiting grounds like the churches and the breakdown of local communities, fewer and fewer people ever get asked to volunteer. The evidence of companies like Whitbread is that, if given the opportunity through the workplace, people will freely get involved, to the great benefit of themselves, their communities, and the company.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 10 – June, 1993