Employer-led volunteering is less satisfying, NCVO report finds

A study from the umbrella body concludes people who organise their own volunteering opportunities tend to have better experiences than those who take part in employer-supported activities

Volunteers at a food bank (Getty Images)
Volunteers at a food bank (Getty Images)

People who organise their own volunteering tend to have a more positive experience than those who take part in opportunities arranged by their employers, according to a study from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Time Well Spent: Employer Supported Volunteering, which is based partly on a survey of 10,000 members of the public, says that 56 per cent of those who set up their own volunteering opportunities said they were "very satisfied" with the experience, compared with 39 per cent who took part in employer-supported volunteering.

The NCVO said the research suggested that the quality of the experience tended to be less of a priority in ESV than in other forms of volunteering. 

Organisations should consider how they could give workplace volunteers a more positive experience, according to the NCVO. 

The most common volunteering activity carried out by volunteers through ESV was organising or helping to run an activity or event (30 per cent), with raising money or taking part in a sponsored event second (25 per cent).

The study, which also included qualitative research with charities, employers and brokers, found that making a difference remained a key motivator for organisations involved in ESV.

But ESV is often seen as a route to accessing additional funding for charities and as a way to enhance productivity and reputation for employers offering volunteering opportunities.

The NCVO said the mismatch of priorities and expectations from these differing motivations could "create tensions and negative perceptions from the different groups".

But where there was a focus on shared values and purpose, it could lead to a range of benefits for all involved, the umbrella body found.

A common theme among participants who contributed to the qualitative research was that ESV was not perceived as a high priority within their organisations.

One contributor, who was not named, told researchers: "The problem is that it is never clear where ESV really sits. Whilst it is essentially volunteering, this is often the least well-resourced section of a charity… it takes a motivated staff team manager to recognise the possible value of ESV."

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at the NCVO, said volunteering supported by employers was worth getting right, but that was not always what was happening.

"The message from our research is clear: employer-supported volunteering needs to start with why people want to volunteer, involve each of the different groups to work together in making the experience of getting involved a good one, and remember the reasons we are all doing this at the end of the day: to make a difference to the causes we all care about," he said.

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