Most volunteers probably don't give up their time to make their employer happy, but many organisations are becoming more aware of the importance of volunteering, as part of their corporate responsibility, and for the benefits it brings to employees.
We have already talked about the benefits to society, and the benefits to the individual from volunteering, but our experience, and our economist volunteers, tell us that professional volunteering can benefit them in the workplace. Not only is there the warm glow of helping others, but our volunteers get to test out and develop their skills, try out new approaches and work on problems that their day jobs don't usually offer.
Michael Kell, NAO:
“Working with charities through PBE has had a really positive impact on the team here. Not only do they get the opportunity to work on some really interesting projects but they also develop their skills because they get the chance to step up and take the lead.”
Andrea Lee, Department of Health:
“Volunteering with a charity through PBE was enjoyable because it was so different to working at my desk in Whitehall. At work I’m often dealing with very big numbers and billions of pounds, so understanding how a small charity operates (...) was very different and a real eye opener. I think it’s fair to say that for all the team working on this project the experience has renewed our passion and interest in economics. I got to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the data, which as a manager I don’t always have the time to do.”
Fod Barnes, Oxera:
“It was good for staff (…) to take them outside of the normal client base, and having them deal with limited data and make the best of what’s available. It was really useful to get away from pure academic thinking.”
So, while we believe volunteering should remain voluntary there are good reasons for employers to encourage their staff to get involved in skills-based volunteering.