Time to give more help to volunteers

CCB

 

Posted in: Analysis/Comment, Employees, Speaking Out

Time to give more help to volunteers

October 01, 1999

Business volunteering scheme launched

A new Business in the Community scheme to encourage more employees to volunteer was formally launched on September 23. Based on the successful US model ‘City Cares’, which last year mobilised 150,000 volunteers in New York alone, Cares InCorporated puts voluntary organisations in touch with helpers using local Web sites and e-mail hotlinks so volunteers can respond swiftly to requests for support. Companies taking part also transmit local calendars of volunteering opportunities to their employees via company intranet sites. The scheme aims to supplement companies’ existing employee involvement programmes, with flexibility so volunteers do not faced open-ended time commitments.

Already operational in ten pathfinder areas, the formal national launch was marked by a Week of Action involving over 150 companies and 5,000 employee volunteers. Seven founder companies – Bain & Co, Barclays Bank, General Electric, HSBC, Marks & Spencer, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Zurich Financial Services – provided start-up funding along with the Home Office. The aim now is to expand and create 100,000 new volunteering opportunities by 2002. Contact Graham Bann, BITC, on 0171 224 1600 (http://www.bitc.org.uk)

New volunteering charity seeks company support

The Home Office has promised nearly £2 million over the next three years to a new charity, ONE20, which is promoting voluntary activity. The aim is to inspire people to give two hours of their time – 120 minutes – each week to their communities. The charity is now seeking matching support from private companies, to help with its media campaign, the distribution of a guide to every UK household and identification of opportunities at local level.

The Home Office has also awarded £4.5 million over three years for local projects to get volunteers more involved in five areas – Brighton & Hove, Camden in London, Halton & Warrington in the north west, Luton and North Tyneside. Contact Gavin Partington or Craig Breheny, ONE20, on 0171 404 5959 or Home Office Enquiries 0171 273 4000 (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk)

Avoid soft targets and popular causes

New programmes of employer-supported volunteering must resist any temptation to focus on ‘soft targets’ such as established national voluntary organisations or popular causes, and instead should target communities most in need, a new report on community self-help recommends. Published on September 16 by the Home Office’s Active Community Unit, the findings come from one of the 18 policy action teams established by the Social Exclusion Unit. The report provides a 33-point action plan to empower people in poor neighbourhoods, with a call for leading CCI players to influence other companies, not least through their supply chains. Contact Chris Perry, Home Office, on 0171 217 8164 (http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk)

Ten years of professional help

The ten year old Professional Firms Group has provided more than £15 million worth of support to local community projects, it was announced on September 20. With 750 members among accountants, solicitors, surveyors and other practices, help includes feasibility studies, structural surveys, marketing and business plans, legal and accountancy advice and property evaluations. Contact Alyson Corrie, PFG, on 0171 224 1600 (http://www.bitc.org.uk)

DHL issues summer challenge

International express carrier, DHL , held a ‘Summer Challenge’ programme throughout August, during which all staff members were asked to volunteer a day’s work to a charity project in the local community where they work. Among projects undertaken was clearing wasteland in Birmingham in preparation for the planting of a Millennium wood. Contact Karren Piesley or Justina Hurley, DHL, on 0181 818 8049 (http://www.dhl.co.uk)

Volunteering at heart of Scottish policy

The new Scottish Executive says it is placing voluntary issues at the centre of the policy-making process, with an announcement in August that it is to set up a Voluntary Issues Unit. The Unit will provide the third sector with a platform for their views to be built into the government’s approach to policy formulation. Also in August, £250,000 was promised to volunteering agencies identified by the advisory ‘giving age’ working group. Contact Scottish Executive Enquiries on 0345 741741 (http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/)

Comment

Who remembers the Make a Difference initiative? Launched to much applause by John Major in 1994, it was meant to put in place a functioning volunteering infrastructure across the UK giving effect to his big idea – the ‘active citizen’. Fast-forward five years, and we have Tony Blair’s ‘giving age’. Lo and behold, a few more millions for a new national initiative, but only enough money for five local schemes.

Early next year, ONE20 plans much razzmatazz to interest more people in giving their time. Yet in most towns and cities, an interested but uninvolved volunteer still cannot easily and quickly find an effective use for his or her skills and enthusiasm. Opinion surveys repeatedly show more would volunteer given the opportunity – the spirit is willing, but the mechanisms are weak. The sad thing is the government has again put enough money on the table to cause a stir but not to solve the organisational deficiencies.

That makes Cares InCorporated particularly welcome. With considerable effort, the private sector has got ten local schemes up and running, offering flexible points of entry for employee volunteers. The best contribution individual companies can now make is to work in partnership at local level, supporting volunteer bureaux, councils for voluntary service and indeed their own employee enthusiasts to spread the word about opportunities in their area.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 48 – October, 1999

COMMENT:

The UK government is backing another big national push to get more people to volunteer, while the private sector tries to fund the local infrastructure which makes this possible.

Who remembers the Make a Difference initiative? Launched to much applause by John Major in 1994, it was meant to put in place a functioning volunteering infrastructure across the UK giving effect to his big idea – the ‘active citizen’. Fast-forward five years, and we have Tony Blair’s ‘giving age’. Lo and behold, a few more millions for a new national initiative, but only enough money for five local schemes.

Early next year, ONE20 plans much razzmatazz to interest more people in giving their time. Yet in most towns and cities, an interested but uninvolved volunteer still cannot easily and quickly find an effective use for his or her skills and enthusiasm. Opinion surveys repeatedly show more would volunteer given the opportunity – the spirit is willing, but the mechanisms are weak. The sad thing is the government has again put enough money on the table to cause a stir but not to solve the organisational deficiencies.

That makes Cares InCorporated particularly welcome. With considerable effort, the private sector has got ten local schemes up and running, offering flexible points of entry for employee volunteers. The best contribution individual companies can now make is to work in partnership at local level, supporting volunteer bureaux, councils for voluntary service and indeed their own employee enthusiasts to spread the word about opportunities in their area.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 48 – October, 1999

COMMENTS