The UK government is gearing up for another call on companies to help promote volunteering. While the business case is clear, the public sector should be investing resources too.
The UK government is promising continued investment in the voluntary and community sector, including a new campaign to take forward the ‘corporate challenge’, as one of the outcomes of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Announced on July 12 by Paul Boateng, the chief secretary to the Treasury, support is planned for a business-led national campaign to increase corporate community involvement as part of the 2005 UK Year of the Volunteer. Originally launched in July 2003, the ‘corporate challenge’ aims to increase employee volunteering, promote payroll giving and enhance corporate charitable activity. The initiative is being led by over 50 ‘corporate champions’. Contact Treasury on 020 7270 4558, ( http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk)
The youth of today
On May 17 the Government launched a new body looking at ways of promoting volunteering among young people. The Russell Commission will work in partnership with voluntary groups and businesses to develop new ways of increasing the numbers of youth volunteers. Ian Russell, CE of Scottish Power, heads the Commission and is supported by an independent advisory group of young people and representatives from the voluntary, business and media sectors. The Commission’s proposals will inform the government’s National Youth Volunteering Strategy. Contact Anna Quayle, Russell Commission on 020 7035 5147, ( http://www.russellcommission.org)
Vodafone Ireland has introduced a new Employee Volunteering Policy that offers its staff time in lieu for their volunteering efforts. The policy, launched on June 17, forms part of Vodafone Ireland’s drive to reward employees for supporting the company’s CSR goals. The company marked the launch of the policy with a Volunteering Information Day where employees had the opportunity to meet representative from a range of organisations seeking volunteers. Contact Anne-Marie Moran, Vodafone Ireland on 00 353 87 931 0200 ( http://www.vodafone.ie)
On a mission
Sixty Royal Bank of Scotland and Natwest corporate and commercial bankers took part in a Prince’s Trust challenge to carry out community work in five London-based projects, it was announced on July 22. The employee involvement formed part of a team building and training exercise for potential leaders. The five teams of bankers were assigned DIY and decorating jobs at Prince’s Trust xl clubs across London. The clubs are a Prince’s Trust initiative to support 14-16 year olds at risk of truancy, exclusion or under-achievement. Contact Sarah Barclay, RBOS on 0131 523 5659 ( http://www.rbos.co.uk)
Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Accenture and Logica were among the companies whose employees took part in the 4th annual Microsoft Challengers Trophy, raising over £420,000 for the NSPCC’s FULL STOP campaign to end cruelty to children, it was announced on June 14. Meanwhile, Sodexho has contributed £250,000 to Kids Out, the company’s charity of the year. The funds will pay for fun days out, respite care and special equipment for disadvantaged children. Contact Microsoft on 0870 207 7377, ( http://www.microsoft.co.uk); Sodexho on 020 7815 0610, ( http://www.sodexho.co.uk)
Drumming up support
Original Black Entertainment, a satellite TV station, has partnered with TimeBank, the UK volunteering charity, to produce Unsung Heroes, a television series to encourage black and ethnic minority communities to volunteer, it was announced on August 2. Contact Louise Clifton, TimeBank on 020 7401 5428 ( http://www.timebank.org.uk)
Giving made easy
GiveNow.org has become the first website in the UK to enable donors to give both time and money to charities of their choice. Launched on June 28, the new volunteering section was built in partnership with do-it.org.uk, which hosts the largest database of volunteering opportunities in the UK. Contact Wendy Green, Charities Aid Foundation 01732 520 120 ( http://www.cafonline.org)
Keeps you young!
IBM is to expand its flagship volunteering programme, On Demand Community, to its 165,000 retired former employees around the world. The move, announced on July 1, recognises that as many as half of the company’s retirees are actively volunteering in their local communities. The initiative operates through a web-based system that enables volunteers to download technology solutions that can then be used by IBM volunteers in schools and local community organisations. The site also offers online training, tutorials and support to help IBM retirees develop their skills as volunteers. Contact Mark Wakefield, IBM, on 020 7202 3000, ( http://www.ibm.com)
Whitbread,PricewaterhouseCoopers, EDF Energy, Pfizer and Powergen were among companies participating in this year’s Volunteers’ Week, which took place from June 1-7. Contact Rebecca Sherbird, Volunteers’ Week on 020 7520 8932, ( http://www.volunteering.org.uk)
Those with long memories will know that there’s nothing new in governments being interested in promoting volunteering. When Douglas Hurd was Mrs Thatcher’s home secretary in the late 1980s, he promoted ‘active citizenship’ and offered funding for volunteer bureaux. While in opposition in the mid 1990s, David Blunkett developed ideas for a national youth volunteering scheme, later to become Millennium Volunteers. First as education secretary and now as home secretary, he continues to promote citizenship. The Treasury’s keen interest is understandable: studies claim an economic return of some £12 billion on the public sector’s £400m pa total spending on volunteering organisations and infrastructure. The prize is cheaper, and arguably better, public services. Individual companies too see a real and measurable return on their investment in employee volunteering, whether team building, skills development or reputation as a good corporate citizen. The problem is that volunteering is meant to be, well, voluntary. The old military injunction “you, you and you, volunteer now” doesn’t work so well in civvy street. The only way to get increased activity is to publicise opportunities and make it as easy as possible to get involved. Unfortunately early hopes of using new technology have not resulted in an army of extra helpers. The BBC-backed on-line TimeBank scheme, for example, has helped 50,000 people volunteer since 2000; a welcome addition but hardly a revolution. One problem is that the main mechanism for actually getting involved locally, namely volunteer bureaux, is still patchy and of variable quality. Companies can help by using the workplace as a recruiting ground; IBM’s On Demand is just one of growing number of intranet-based schemes. But the case for public investment in a comprehensive local network, not just individual initiatives, is compelling.