Volunteering employees

June 01, 1994


The last two years have seen a modest improvement in the impact and relevance volunteering, but there is still a long way to go before it achieves its full potential. So says Volunteering Matters, published on June 1 at the start of Volunteers Week. Produced by The Volunteer Centre UK, the report highlights recent progress, including the growth of employee volunteering: 6% of employees now work in an organisation with an employee volunteering programme and many voluntary bodies now have company volunteers as trustees. Also highlighted is the growing recognition of mentoring and tutoring programmes and the increase in ‘third age’ volunteering, although older people are still under-represented in the sector as a whole. However the report points out that black volunteers remain largely excluded from mainstream volunteering, doing unpaid work mostly within their own communities. Contact Elizabeth Hoodless, CSV, on 071 278 6601


The first phase of Volbase, the IBM employee volunteering matching service, began in April. Samantha Hellawell, Head of Communications at NCVO, has been seconded to IBM for two years to oversee the development programme. The five-year initiative aims to:

increase the number of IBM employees and retirees involved in volunteering

develop voluntary organisations’ ability to run matching services through the use of information technology

encourage volunteering in general by inviting other companies to use the programme.

All IBM locations have been invited to bid to run a Volbase pilot, and six will be chosen shortly. They will work in partnership with local volunteer agencies to set up and manage the two year development phase. IBM will install equipment and software to run the matching service and will fund a part-time local co-ordinator to manage a recruitment drive among IBM staff and volunteers. Following an evaluation at the end of year two, each project will receive funding for the next three years and by the end of the fifth year they will run independently, with IBM as a corporate subscriber. This project is IBM’s contribution to the government’s Make a Difference campaign. Contact Samantha Hellawell, IBM, on 071 202 3046


Coopers & Lybrand hosted The Future of Volunteering Conference on April 19, with support from the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Directory of Social Change. Elizabeth Hoodless, Executive Director of CSV, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Condon and David Blunkett MP were among those addressing the conference, which aimed to ascertain why British institutions are slow to involve volunteers compared to those in North America. Contact Elizabeth Hoodless, CSV, on 071 278 6601


A survey carried out by Gallup for CSV (Community Service Volunteers) into the attitudes of young people to volunteering shows 64% of Britain’s 16-24 year-olds think the Government should introduce a scheme for all young people to do voluntary community service when they leave school. It found that 58% of young people would be willing to provide six months service, although 61% did not think that such a scheme should be compulsory.

Meanwhile a Henley Centre report into the introduction of voluntary citizen service for young people estimates that costs associated with youth crime could be cut by 10%. This would save over £13.5 billion in the first five years of a government-backed programme involving 250,000 18-21 year-olds. The report, prepared for CSV and published at the end of May, argues that two-thirds of the total cost of implementing the programme would be offset by savings in crime reduction and employment gains. Contact Elizabeth Hoodless, CSV, on 071 278 6601


An IPPR study for the Labour Party’s Commission on Social Justice, entitled Citizens’ Service and published on May 31, also argues that volunteer work should be a serious option for all school leavers. It points out that at any one time, one million adults aged between 16 and 24 are not in unemployment, training or studying and that volunteering would give them a greater stake in the community.

The report suggests that a Citizens’ Service scheme would provide education for citizenship, bridging the gap between education, work and training, giving practical skills and a sense of responsibility. It proposes that the new service be built largely on existing volunteering services, with 50,000 places available in the first year rising to 150,000 after five years. Like the Henley Centre report, it argues that the benefits of the scheme would include improved employment prospects and reduced crime rates, with every £100 invested yielding a 25% saving. Contact Irene Faluyi on 071 379 9400


A strategy paper from the Scottish Office on encouraging volunteering underlines its support for volunteering as an activity in its own right. Drawn up in consultation with several voluntary organisations last year, it proposes consultation with voluntary organisations on significant policy developments and ensuring that ministers and government departments are kept informed of developments involving the sector. The consultation period ended on May 23. Contact Stuart Mitchell, Scottish Office, on 031 244 5550


Representatives from Allied Dunbar, IBM UK, Body Shop and McDonald’s addressed 25 leading Swedish organisations at a seminar on volunteering on April 26 in Stockholm. Volunteering is still in its infancy in Sweden and the seminar, organised by the Swedish Red Cross, aimed to highlight the benefits of a volunteering programme to companies and the community. Contact John Bickell, Allied Dunbar, on 0793 514514


As Community Affairs Briefing went to press, the 1994 Volunteers Week was getting underway. With funding from the Home Office’s VSU and with contributions from companies like GEC, ICL and United Biscuits, thousands of information packs have been issued and a national freephone information line will provide a list of volunteering opportunities to callers. Last year, 13,000 people phoned in.

The Volunteer Centre UK, organisers of the Week (and of the separate ‘Challenge’ event for employee volunteers, due in September) has over 1,000 companies on its books with employee volunteering schemes, covering 6% of the national workforce. The crucial assumption behind all this activity is that more people would volunteer, if given the chance. Surveys show that nearly 70% of adults are not really involved in volunteering, so there should be tremendous scope. But simply setting up employee volunteering schemes alone won’t be enough – companies need to look at the barriers within their own organisations too. The Volunteer Centre UK cites middle management attitudes as a particular block. Another may be lack of knowledge about specific opportunities – IBM’s Volbase initiative should prove effective in overcoming that hurdle.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 16 – June, 1994