Give & gain

By Tessa Kipping 17 May 2013

Today a record 12,008 employee volunteers will take part in BITC’s Give & Gain Day. These individuals will give company time to make a difference in their communities via local charity partners. The aim is to get more people to volunteering for the first time, hoping that this experience will make them volunteers for life. Exposing business employees to charities in this way can only be a good thing. And as we’ve already seen in our Money for Good UK report, volunteers tend to donate more than non-volunteers.

Give & Gain Day is a growing initiative, with business volunteers taking part from over 300 companies and across 25 countries this year. Volunteering is now firmly on the corporate map, with similar initiatives gaining increasing support on a daily basis.

Here at NPC we work with a large range of corporate funders, trust and foundations, individual donors and charities themselves. We champion effective partnerships that provide valuable resources to charities when they need it most. In our When the going gets tough report we learnt of the risks charities are facing; of course, the uncertainty around public funding continues today. So a flow of resource from the business to the charity world is more important than ever and we welcome initiatives like Give & Gain Day to spread a culture of volunteerism.

However, things  could always be done better. The business benefits of employee volunteering are well-known and documented; it can improve staff morale and retention, whilst increasing good will towards the company. The social impact of employee volunteering is a less explored—we’ve mostly found only piecemeal data that relies on case studies and counting rather than robust measures.  We can see that employee volunteering is doing good, but how and to whom, and under what circumstances? If this is indeed a valuable resource for the charity sector, how should it used, can it be targeted to areas of the most need, and how should impact be measured?

NPC wants charities to use employee volunteering when it helps to fulfil their missions, supports them to improve their outcomes, and enables their staff and clients to develop. We’ve all heard tales of highly experienced lawyers painting walls and raking leaves, of charities spending scarce resources organising team building days that provide greater benefit to the employees rather than the beneficiaries. Furthermore, there are cases where companies bill the costs of volunteering based on senior staff salaries, massively overinflating the costs of painting a wall. This presents in kind donation figures that are wildly misleading when set against the actual value it delivered to the charity-.

Robust measurement and evaluation is used to improve programmes, heighten social impact and better channel resources. That is why we at NPC want to have a look at what firms do, what types of employee volunteering work best for who, the potential for EV to develop charities’ capacity, and the implicit social value of this. In short, how to channel this great and growing resource into employee volunteering programmes in a way that really works for all and can produce measurable results for the charity sector.

BITC’s Give & Gain Day highlights the great potential that business can bring to the table. At NPC, of course, we want to measure this and use the evidence to improve and target its impact. Whilst we can, and always will, push funders to do better—to measure thoroughly and take impact seriously—we can only congratulate the 12,000+ men and women today who are taking part in BITC’s Give & Gain day to ensure charities across the UK, and further afield, are supported.