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Business volunteering will be the “new normal”, so let’s get it right

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Can you remember a time when austerity didn’t pervade the Western consciousness? This new(ish) regime brings about the need for new ways of thinking and ever creative ways of making resources stretch. 

As public sector cuts deepen in the UK and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) announcing that charities face a funding gap of about £4.6bn by 2018, the private sector needs to beef up its role in protecting the most vulnerable. 

While Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can’t entirely make up for policy shortcomings and a strapped public purse, businesses and charities need to work together much more effectively if we are to get through the tough times and build resilient communities.

Most FTSE 100 firms and even SMEs have well-thought out CSR strategies, but are they focusing their resources on the areas of most need? And despite wanting to be altruistic, are businesses getting value from their volunteering endeavours?

From my experience working in this field, more businesses think of themselves as being part of the local community rather than distant observers in glass-fronted skyscrapers. Employees increasingly want to get involved in hands-on volunteering that uses their business skills rather than softer activities such as painting fences or planting trees.

Bringing together the corporate world and the volunteer world is a challenge however; they have different modus operandi, different set of stakeholders, and sometimes different ideas of success. 

For a start, both are not monolithic entities; businesses have differing skills to offer charities and charities have different needs that sometimes go beyond their front-line activity. What some charities might really need is help with their HR policies, rather than a CEO offering to help read with local children.

Read more about businesses giving back:

The UK government has already shown a commitment to further facilitate corporate volunteering by pledging to pass a law that requires employees to receive three paid days off work to volunteer. 

The private sector can add a huge amount of value to the voluntary sector in terms of skills and expertise, but there is still a mismatch between where businesses are choosing to volunteer and where their help is needed. 

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