Employer-Supported Volunteering, how to check power when engaging with charities

Reflecting on a review of the City of London Corporation’s Employer-Supported Volunteering programme – LEAP

  • Published: 29 August 2023

New research by The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP), investigates how effectively Employer-Supported Volunteering (ESV) programmes can work with Volunteer-Involving Organisations.

For this research, TSIP looked specifically at by-and-for’ groups and their relationship to ESV programmes in their data collection. Many organisations that work with vulnerable or at-risk Londoners need volunteers to be present and willing to genuinely engage. However, Volunteer-Involving Organisations (VIOs) noted that they often hesitate in engaging with ESV programmes because, as one respondent put it, it can feel tokenistic at times’.

LEAP is launched

In 2020, the City Corporation launched LEAP, where employees are offered 14 hours of paid leave, to give time and skills to organisations seeking support from volunteers. LEAP focuses on understanding what volunteer support would be truly valued by organisations and then seeks to match these needs with the skills and interests of employees.

Drawing on survey responses and online round table discussion with VIOs, the research found that the relational and flexible approach evident within LEAP is appreciated by VIOs and provides a rewarding and positive experience for employees.

Another concern expressed by organisations is that the administrative burden and risk is placed on VIOs, which further amplifies the power imbalance between corporate and charitable sectors.

Practical engagement

TSIP suggested two practical ways of tackling this. Corporate team volunteering sessions could be planned and block-booked in advance, which would enable organisations to know what volunteer support they have coming across the year and then use it to maximum benefit.

Corporates could also set up an agreement with organisations helping to ensure accountability and that the time of the organisation feels valued. Such agreements would create durable relationships where VIOs can reach out and ask for help and Corporates feel like their employees will participate in opportunities that are well run. These are simple development areas that can be built into LEAP in the medium term.

Financial support

Finally, it is crucial that VIOs should receive payment for facilitating corporate volunteering days. TSIP noted that ESVs could ‘…make a significant financial contribution to volunteer involving organisations through donations. This contribution not only honours the planning and costs associated with properly hosting employee volunteers, but also acts as an important source of unrestricted income for operational costs or otherwise.

Particularly for smaller charities, this can be really valuable in terms of allowing them to partner with ESVs.’ LEAP ensures the budget is made available to VIOs who require donations to support team volunteering days, and champions the reasons why with internal stakeholders.

All in all, some great learning for the City Corporation in making LEAP as successful as possible, for everyone involved. Do you engage corporate volunteers in your organisations? How do these findings resonate with you? We would love to hear from you via our social channels.

January 2024 update: the LEAP Programme is temporarily on hold, pending recruitment.

View and download the full report

Read the full report into Employer Supported Volunteering at the City of London Corporation

City of London Corporation LEAP evaluation 2023