How your employees can add value through volunteering

The Covid-19 pandemic has inspired many to donate their time and skills to Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs).

As Covid-19 continues to pose challenges, many organisations and employees are looking for effective ways to help those who are serving society. One way of doing this is through an employee volunteering programme (EVP).

The Harvard Business Review says that research has shown that EVPs improve employee satisfaction, foster employee engagement, and boost retention. For instance, the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) found that 93 percent of employees who volunteer through their company report being happy with their employer, and 54 percent of those who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged at work.

Corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy Trialogue says that three-quarters of the large companies surveyed in their 2020 Trialogue Business in Society Handbook had EVPs. In a Trialogue case study on volunteering during the pandemic, Mandisa Kalako-Williams, former president of the South African Red Cross Society (SARCS), said that at the onset of the pandemic SARCS volunteers were the first responders or go-to people in their communities.

Kalako-Williams recommended that companies gain more insight into the mandates and principles of the organisations they support through volunteering. She said the NPO sector is in dire need of the skills of accountants, auditors, HR managers, marketers and public relations practitioners. “These skills reside in almost all companies and can add a tremendous amount of value to their chosen NPOs.”

Types of capacity-building support 

Trialogue reports that most companies with an EVP provided NPOs with some form of capacity building, such as workshops, training and mentorship programmes. The most sought-after skills by NPOs were fundraising, marketing and finance.

Trialogue says capacity building initiatives that organisations can offer include:

  • Workshops and training: These are opportunities to improve the skills of NPO staff on topics including governance, management, finance, marketing, fundraising, human resources, and monitoring and evaluation, usually in limited-duration training sessions or workshops. Some companies arrange workshops for their NPO partners on a regular basis while others allow the NPOs to identify and choose the training most relevant to their needs.
  • Academic programmes: Companies can provide opportunities for NPO employees to upskill themselves through academic courses and leadership studies, which are typically longer than training/workshop courses and result in formal qualifications.
  • Mentorship programmes: These are interventions that create opportunities to improve skills in the partner organisations with an expert mentor or through peer mentorship programmes. Companies can provide mentors from within their organisation or can fund external mentorship programmes.
  • Conferences, seminars, webinars, forums: Funders can provide access to industry events and networks, either through arranging the events or meetings themselves or by funding such access.
  • Flexible funding for capacity building: NPOs favour unrestricted or flexible funding as it has largely helped them to conduct their programme work without interruption. Flexible funding means not being prescriptive about the use of funds and allowing NPO partners to determine how they can put them to use most effectively.
  • Pro bono support: Companies or institutions can facilitate the process of professionals providing services such as auditing, marketing, legal, income tax and IT support for NPOs.
  • Secondment of staff: Companies can make their staff in key areas available to NPOs as part of their CSI contributions and volunteer programmes. Secondments usually span a longer period than pro bono support, typically continuous months or years.
  • Other: Additional types of support can include human capital management support, joining the board of an NPO, extending loans and offering donations. In addition to retention, human capital management support can be offered as a capacity building tool to assist organisations to manage the career progression, performance, and development of staff members.