Organisations that rely on the work of volunteers are being urged to lead by example and encourage their own staff to take up volunteering.
To highlight the issue, the England Volunteering Development Council, led by Volunteering England and the UK Workforce Hub, has launched It's Time to Give Time.
The campaign is a call to the voluntary sector to practise what it preaches and put in place policies and procedures that allow its own staff to engage in employer-supported volunteering.
It has been launched as part of the Year of the Volunteer 2005, and calls for voluntary organisations to sign a pledge that they will have such a policy in place by the end of the year.
The NCVO, the British Red Cross and the RSPB are among eight organisations that have already signed up.
Cathy McBain, the employer-supported volunteering project leader at Volunteering England, said: "Although the voluntary sector is keen to promote employer-supported volunteering in the corporate sector, it often fails to put in place procedures for its own workforce to volunteer, often due to a lack of resources or conflicting priorities." A poll of 20 large charities revealed that only two had employee volunteering policies in place. The organisers are hoping that at least 100 top voluntary sector organisations will sign up to the campaign by December.
McBain said: "If they help to lead the way, then others will follow suit, we hope. But we encourage any organisation, large or small, to pledge its support to the scheme and to its staff."
News of the campaign is being spread throughout the sector on the Volunteering England website, emails using the networks of those organisations involved, word of mouth and a press campaign aimed at relevant publications. Organisations can add their names to the list by logging on to www.volunteering.org.uk/givetime.
Research has shown that staff involved in employer-supported volunteering feel more positive about their employers and say their motivation and likelihood of staying at the organisation are increased.
McBain added: "Research also shows that the voluntary sector workforce has skills shortages in areas such as forward planning and negotiation.
"Releasing staff will not only benefit the community and practise what they ask of other sector employers, but it can also help to bring such skills back into their organisation."