Unleashing Impact: Focused Support in Corporate Volunteering Programmes

By Amanda Bowman   |   9 August 2023

Last week we shared the first of five posts exploring the insights of how to maximise the impact of virtual and hybrid skills-based volunteering programmes based on our recently launched Best of Both Worlds report. Building on last week’s post, where we introduced the concept of “Right Partner, Right Project,” we now turn to how Corporate Volunteering Programme Managers can provide guidance, resources, and ongoing assistance to truly elevate participants’ experiences. This second instalment underscores the essence of effective support and its implications on the outcomes of skills-based corporate volunteering initiatives.

The Scaling Challenge: From Desire to Impact

As organisations increasingly seek to expand their corporate volunteering efforts, there’s a compelling urge to scale up programmes for a wider reach and greater community impact. While online platforms may offer the promise of streamlining such scaling efforts, the intricate nature of skills-based volunteering may well require a more nuanced approach. Our interviews with Programme Managers uncovered a vital truth – the balance between self-service platform-use and personalised support from Programme Managers can significantly influence the impact of skills-based volunteering programmes.

The Power of Focused Support: Three Key Areas

Our research has clearly shown that providing focused support makes a big difference to the outcomes that you can expect from these kind of skills-based volunteering opportunities. There are three areas that fall under “Focus Support”. The first concerns providing Guidelines to help people navigate their way through the programme. The second is about providing appropriate Company Support to individuals during their experience. And the third area is about providing Ongoing Support to the participant after their work with the partner has formally come to an end, when they are finalising the project and returning back to full-time work. These all really make a big difference to outcomes.

1.     Guidelines for Navigating the Experience:
Providing clear guidelines equips employees with the necessary tools to navigate their skills-based volunteering journey. Not only does this enhance overall engagement, but it also ensures that participants become effective and valuable resources for their partners. The research findings reveal that participants who were given guidelines were more than twice as likely to align their efforts with their company’s broader objectives and priorities.

2.     Striking the Right Balance of Company Support:

Finding the sweet spot between ample company support and fostering individual initiative is a delicate art. While excessive support may stifle creativity and growth, insufficient guidance can lead to missed learning opportunities. Our survey asked participants to gauge the appropriateness of the support they received. The results are striking – a staggering 78% of participants reported heightened self-confidence when they received the right level of company support, in contrast to only 38% among those who felt unsupported.

3.     Ongoing Support Beyond Project Completion:

The journey doesn’t end when the volunteering project with the partner concludes. To fully leverage the learning gained and translate it into positive business impact, sustained support is essential. This extends to post-project reflection, applying newfound insights to daily work, communication about the experience, and networking with fellow participants. The lasting benefits of such support can be seen graphically in the image below:

Focused Support for Greater Impact

Within our Ten Impact Drivers for corporate skills-based volunteering, the significance of focused support cannot be overstated. Corporate Volunteering Programme Managers can shape meaningful experiences by offering clear guidelines, the right level of company support, and ongoing post-project assistance. When support is focused and tailored, the ripple effect is felt not only by participants but by the communities they serve and the partners they work with.

So far in our exploration of these Drivers, we’ve shown how the cultivation of impactful outcomes demands a strategic fusion of genuine partnerships, skillful matchmaking, and unwavering support. Look out for the next post where we’ll continue to share how to build excellence into your corporate skills-based volunteering programmes.