Employee Volunteering: Does it Make a Difference?

October 5, 2015

Does employee volunteering really make a difference, or is it mainly a way for companies to appear to care and have a ‘purpose beyond profit’? I believe it definitely does make a difference, but how much depends on whether or not volunteers actually enjoy it. This brings the importance of the much discussed ‘skills-based volunteering’ centre-stage.

Employee volunteering has been a critical part of SportInspired since the start. Over 8 years we have had over 13,000 employee volunteers involved in helping deliver 172 SportInspired Games programmes. In the middle of each programme is a multi-sport festival where up to 200 volunteers will help inspire local kids to try new sports. One of my favourite parts is our final ‘Thank You’ at the end of the day to the volunteers when I always tell them:

1. “If you think you’ve made a difference, you have; if you’re not sure if you’ve made a difference, you have; and if you think you haven’t made a difference, believe me when I tell you that you have”.

2. “If you enjoyed today, then please, please, please consider volunteering again, with your company or in your local community. At SportInspired we passionately believe, that if you find the right type of volunteering, you always get back more than you put in.”

Volunteering provides a useful challenge for employees
There is an increasing assumption that focusing on using the ‘core business skills’ of a volunteer is the only sensible way to maximise the value to all stakeholders. However, choosing volunteering the individual genuinely enjoys creates more powerful outcomes for all involved, including their employer. So how do we make sure this happens?

For some, using their specialist work skills to benefit others gives them immense satisfaction and therefore enjoyment. But for others, they would rather do anything other than using the work skills they have to use day in and day out. We see managers at our Games, who just want to be managed, junior staff who thrive in holding senior leading roles, and we see professionals from all walks and levels seriously challenged by how to relate to, lead, support and inspire 250 kids trying new sports.

It is that constant challenge which provides the greatest use of the volunteers’ skills, and it is their enjoyment of the day which ultimately determines the difference they make to the community, to themselves, and ultimately to their employer too. It is also what determines whether they will choose to volunteer again.

Richard Raynes MD, SportInspired

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