Myth Busting: Volunteering - Raise Your Hands | Supporting Small Charities

Myth Busting: Volunteering

Myth Busting: Volunteering

5 myths harming your company volunteering programme.

And how you can do it better.

You have been tasked with charity volunteering for your company.

There’s a policy: 2 days per year to spend out of the office with a charity. It’s your job to hunt down great opportunities for your colleagues.

You are excited.

Your team will have a day out, supporting an organisation doing important work. They’ll come away fulfilled and motivated for the day job. You feel great about unleashing the goodwill in your company.

A win-win for everyone.

Just a few months later, you are feeling a little glum. Weirdly, lots of the charities you speak to don’t jump at your offer of help. Despite initial enthusiasm in the team, the take up for volunteering is low, and the project stalls.

Your experience isn’t uncommon.

Below we shed some light on the reality of corporate charity volunteering and bust some common myths.

At Raise Your Hands, we’re in the business of supporting charities that have a real impact. So for us, the more people who can find fulfilling experiences that genuinely help, the better.

Myth 1:  Most charities have an endless supply of walls that need painting

Let’s start with the trickiest one. (Bear with us, the news gets better 🙂)

It might work for a company to have a group of staff go into a charity for one day, then head home.

The reality: most charities don’t need this kind of help.

What if the shoe was on the other foot? A team turns up at your offices for one day only.

You might have one wall that could do with a lick of paint. You may (or may not) have a warehouse where the visitors could lug boxes for a couple of hours. But they’d need training, there would be paperwork. For the most part, it would be more effort than it’s worth.

That’s not to say these kinds of opportunities don’t exist.

On the Raise Your Hands platform, an incredible charity called Dandelion Time runs days where volunteers can come and help out on their farm, getting their hands dirty for a day. But these opportunities can be rare, so it’s worth keeping the following in mind:

Considerations and takeaways:

→ Team volunteering days out do exist but they are the exception rather than the rule

→ You’ll immediately be limited in the causes that you can support

→ It’s competitive – lots of others will be looking for the same thing

→ Any volunteering will eat into the charity’s resources, leading to Myth 2….

Myth 2: Giving volunteer time is as valuable as money

Charities have to be run as tight ships where every minute of staff time costs donors’ money. Managing volunteers eats into this time.

That means it’s reasonable and common for charities to ask for a donation alongside a company’s volunteering time.

This might feel counterintuitive but the reality is that’s the only way it makes financial sense.

Considerations and takeaways:

→ If you’re looking for one day for your team out of the office, expect to donate to go with it, and cover the cost of the day out

→ Financial donations will have a real-world impact, it’s not just a transaction. It’s worth recognising and celebrating this

→ For more substantial donations, some charities will offer bespoke team-building days, which can be a highly rewarding experience

→ Differentiate your social impact and your team-building goals. In an ideal world, these two areas would overlap neatly but that isn’t always the case. (RYH offer not-for-profit team building and social events – take a look here)

Myth 3: Staff can’t afford more than one day out of the office

Many companies offer one to two days a year to staff for volunteering. Unfortunately, this isn’t a natural fit with effective social impact. (If this is you, don’t worry, all is not lost!).

Staff can add real value to a charity and have a lasting impact on how they run.

The key is support over a longer period. It doesn’t need to be a big time commitment – little and often is fine – you just need to start looking beyond single days out of the office.

One of the main benefits of employee engagement is giving staff a sense of purpose and satisfaction beyond their day-to-day. Longer-term placements invariably improve these benefits.

The outcome for your company may be invaluable, too. Instead of a group photo holding paint brushes (remember those walls from Myth 1?) wouldn’t a detailed case study with measurable outputs be a great thing to show your board, or to help entice the best graduates?

Considerations and takeaways:

→ Is your company’s volunteering policy fit for purpose? Could single days out of the office be spread over a month, working remotely?

→ Given the right opportunity, many employees will match volunteering time with some of their own free time. A well-structured volunteering policy would incorporate this

→ Longer term commitment will amplify the benefits as well as maximising impact

→ It might make sense to work with an umbrella organisation like Raise Your Hands that works across a wide range of charities, with a variety of volunteering opportunities

Myth 4: Charities are slow and inefficient. Corporations do it better!

A quick one.

Be wary of assuming that corporations have something to teach charities. Charities are full of bright, dynamic, highly skilled people with years of experience (often from other sectors). We’re not all just wishy-washy do-gooders 🙂

If charities do seem cautious, it’s because they’re highly accountable to donors and have to watch every penny spent.

Instead, the key question is: what can a company offer that a charity can’t do better?

Considerations and takeaways:

→ Start with an open and frank discussion with your charity partner. Find out their needs and be honest about your objectives

→ Due to tight budgets, charities will have gaps in their resources and skills. The most effective partnerships are those that identify the gaps, match skills and build capacity.

Myth 5: Enthusiasm and goodwill amongst staff will mean huge uptake

While staff will have genuinely good intentions, the reality is that the day job can get in the way. Don’t be disheartened if turnout isn’t as high as expected.

As with all well-designed social impact programmes, getting staff and stakeholders engaged at all levels is key.

We often find that in each company partner, there are key members of staff who are fantastic at rallying colleagues and putting energy behind your social impact work. We call them ‘Super Enthusers’! Identifying these individuals early can reap dividends.

Likewise, the involvement of senior management is probably the single most powerful indicator of the success of a social impact programme that we’ve come across.

Considerations and takeaways:

→ Think about how to engage new staff early on and advertise opportunities across your organisation to maximise current staff uptake

→ Identify Super Enthusers in your organisation early
You will need at least one person at the senior management level trumpeting the cause and allocating resources – not just giving lip service

→ Building volunteering into personal development objectives could increase uptake

→ Be realistic – you’ll never get everyone in the company involved, so set a realistic target – and make sure you factor in that there will be a certain amount of cancellations

→ Are there other ways you can motivate staff? Friendly competition between teams, for example, can stoke the fire!

To discuss a broad range of volunteering opportunities, or to get advice on how best to engage your staff with your social impact programmes, read about our Dot Impact programme and get in touch.

Myth Busting: Volunteering

This is a resource for companies posted on 26 February 2024.