Five tips for making staff volunteering easy

To mark the first day of Volunteers' Week 2018, we're sharing a few tips we've picked up for nurturing a thriving volunteering community in your organisation

We’ve been celebrating Volunteers’ Week at RSA for many years now. Our staff really value the focus that Volunteers’ Week gives to doing something special for local communities.

This year we’re going a step further by making June 2018 our first ever Community Action Month. From fundraising for hospices, to supporting local social entrepreneurs, to donating time to share career advice and support to jobseekers, giving something back will be a resounding message in all our offices for the next thirty days.

To mark the launch, we thought it might be helpful to share a few ideas we’ve picked up over the years for nurturing a thriving volunteering community in your organisation. (If you’d like to know more or want to share a few tips of your own, email me at corporate.responsibility@gcc.rsagroup.com).

1. Making the time

At RSA we’re fortunate to be offered two days of paid leave each year to volunteer. But for some businesses there isn’t the financial or physical resource to put in place a similar policy. However, a day out in the community can still be possible if you combine volunteering with existing company away-days or team-building activities.

Lots of community enterprises including hospices, care homes and charity shops will be happy to arrange for your team to volunteer for a full or half day – a great opportunity for you to network, learn new skills as a team, and work together to get the job done.

2. Maximise your skills

If you’re able to support employees to get out into the local community, encourage them to play to their strengths. Not everyone is green-fingered, or able to lift and sort boxes, but your staff have honed business skills that are just as valuable to the community.

For example, your communications team could support a local business by offering branding, social media or PR advice. Your finance people could research and run a workshop with a community centre about free tools that could help them manage their funds more effectively.

At RSA, our underwriters run evening classes on making sure you have the right insurance for your business, as part of our long-running relationship with the School for Social Entrepreneurs.

3. Volunteer online

In these digital times, opportunities for staff to give their time online are increasing at pace. New online initiatives let you mentor children overseas, help map a disaster zone or even help advance cancer research by solving online puzzles that help scientists understand how cancer cells work.

You can also use online resources to source volunteering opportunities. Databases like do-it.org match up skills with volunteering opportunities that are posted by volunteer centres, charities and voluntary groups, enabling 200,000 people every month to donate their time and build their skills.

4. Fundraising

If your staff have limited capacity you can always look for ways to fundraise in the workplace. Volunteering on site can be a huge help to some community projects, but if you can't get out of the office events like bake-sales, sponsored runs and casual-dress Fridays can help raise the money they need.

Another option, which we have for staff here at RSA is a Give As You Earn scheme that lets staff donate money directly from their salary to their favourite charity in a tax-efficient way. And because it comes out of their pre-tax salary, it costs less to give more.

5. Matching funds raised

Another way to stimulate employee fundraising is to match the money raised by staff. RSA offers matched funding for staff fundraising activities up to £500 for groups of three or more employees who work together to raise funds for a registered charity.

Of course, every business’s capactity to match funds will be different, but even a small proportion will go a long way to spur employees on in their fundraising efforts!

Sharing your experience

At RSA it has been great to see the commitment to community at all levels of the organisation and I feel incredibly privileged to work for a business that has empowered its staff to take time to engage with the local community.

But anyone can volunteer, and any business can offer staff the opportunity to support their local community, even if they can’t commit money or physical resource. So if you’d like to share your experiences of setting up a volunteering programme in your business, or if you’ve got any questions, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at corporate.responsibility@gcc.rsagroup.com.