June 01, 2016

Karen Green: On the importance of volunteering and business

Karen Green

Karen Green


Today marks the start of Volunteers’ Week in the UK, an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the country. 

Britain has a proud heritage of volunteering and supporting others.  I was fascinated to learn recently that volunteering in the UK can be traced as far back as medieval times, where estimates suggest that 500 or more voluntary hospitals were established in England during the 12th and 13th centuries.  

This commitment to helping others continues strongly today with data from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) revealing that the UK has one of the highest rates of volunteering in the world.  Volunteering continues to be an important financial contributor to our society too. Indeed, recent statistics state that over 21 million people volunteer in the UK at least once a year, contributing an estimated £23.9 billion to Britain’s economy.

I often think about what more can businesses do to help address the many problems which society continues to face.  Businesses have a huge opportunity to be powerful advocates and instruments of societal change.  And for businesses to have a real impact, I think it’s much more than raising money.  It’s about building meaningful partnerships.  Working closely with a charity or community partner to get a deep understanding of their business and their objectives; exploring where they could benefit from some support, guidance or investment.

Volunteering is one of the ways businesses can help and it comes in many guises.  It could involve investing time in cleaning riverbanks to help improve the environment in which we live and work, to spending time in the kitchens feeding the homeless or sorting through charitable donations to sell in local shops to raise much needed funds. 

It can also mean sharing valuable skills and knowledge to help charities and other non-profit organisations achieve their goals.  This links back to my last blog post which explored the skills crisis facing small charities and how businesses can help by using their experience, resources and workforce to help.

As the volunteering movement continues to evolve, many companies including BNY Mellon are placing an increased emphasis on skills-based volunteering with many integrating this into Personal Development Plans and Talent Maps.

In a survey carried out by Business in the Community, 70% of employee volunteers reported that volunteering helped them to develop their management, communication, influencing, decision-making and leadership skills.

BNY Mellon has a packed programme planned for Volunteers Week with employees across the country volunteering their time to read with primary school children, run business days for young people not in education, employment or training, run employability skills workshops, serve breakfast to the homeless and assist in the redistribution of food to those most in need.  

To learn more about Volunteers Week, you can follow @NCVOvolunteers on Twitter, or check out the hashtag #volunteersweek.