Published just this week are the findings of a collaborative research project involving the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Following the current Government’s commitment to make three days of volunteering per year compulsory for the employees of large private sector firms and public bodies, the research was focused on how this collaboration may work out.
The researchers note that percentages of organizations with active ESV schemes area approximately:
- 70% of FTSE 100 companies
- 23% of private sector organisations
- 20% of employees of medium
- 14% of employees of small businesses; and
- 33% of public sector organisations
There are some interesting observations to make on these numbers. While Government focuses on larger organizations, in fact, the vast majority of businesses in the UK are small, even family run businesses. It is these sorts of companies who actually may have quite a few interests in common with small local voluntary organizations (VOs) so this may partially explain the take-up observed here and certainly seems like a relationship worthy of further attention and exploration.
We were particularly interested to note from the report the potential mismatch of approaches and cultures between corporate firms and voluntary organizations (and again that may differ for SMEs). In this report the concern is raised that corporate firms may be treating these collaborations as team building exercises or simply trying to fulfil Government expectations, which does not then provide very helpful collaborations. Can compulsory volunteering compare adequately with individual engagement and commitment to a cause? More specifically, VOs may be keen on developing longer term relationships with volunteers from industry but this may be difficult to bring about in the current set up. Although there is no mention at all of social media in this report, we wonder whether these kinds of communications may keep connections alive over the longer term in a relatively economical fashion. However the research also notes that corporate firms may not always be keen to make their associations with VOs public – a complicating factor for exploring social media for longer-term collaborations.
Additionally, voluntary organizations may be keen to exploit the professional skills of volunteers (a factor we have noted before in relation to retired volunteers) but this may not be the help on offer. Offering to provide professional help in the exploitation of social media for relationship building and engaging volunteers may be a helpful step forwards. What is clearly of importance is that these sort of employer-sponsored volunteers also need managing and support, from both sides.
Sad to say we missed this event which took place in London today.
Looking through the conference programme, we note a number of very important issues being discussed in relation to the use of technology in charity work. Topical matters here include security threats, how to engage on-line donors and how to take advantage of mobile and social technologies to spread the word and keep your charity connected. However, there is also a strong theme on how to lead and manage technological change in TSOs. In some ways this seems to lag behind what a lot of (commercial) organizations will already have experienced and learnt from. Can TSOs learn from the corporate world or are their situations too different? Will this broader theme mean more attention paid to volunteers’ experience of TSO’s technology adoption, rather than the more traditional focus on on-line donation?
What seems especially exciting to us are the specific case studies from a variety of well-known charities willing to discuss their own experiences, including the National Trust, the British Red Cross Comic Relief and the RNLI. A particularly tantalising glimpse of the conference content is a tweet from the conference floor “Can you trust volunteers with your Twitter login?” Just the sort of issue VolEx is interested in exploring.
Anyone reading this blog who was at the conference, do let us know your thoughts.
Looking out for this event in 2016 already!
Right at the beginning of this year, in this blog, we drew attention to a very useful book, the Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook by Jayne Cravens and Susa J. Ellis. Just recently Jayne Cravens has shared her experiences from leading a week long series of seminars and workshops at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD). These events were oriented to the use of online media in leadership development, community development and engagement.
Jayne covered a huge range of subjects in her sessions, including using social media to recruit diverse volunteers, press relations, leading in a virtual world and capacity building. Of particular interest to our focus were her recommendations on using social media and on-line tools to lead and support teamwork. Here she advocates for example:
- moving from the more traditional one-way communication from volunteer managers to volunteers to exploiting social media for more interactive communication
- volunteer leaders having a more active presence on-line, including demonstrating they are listening to others on-line by answering queries and criticisms
- particular forms on on-line management of volunteer teams, including being responsive and encouraging people to use on-line tools
Jayne has blogged about her experience at http://coyotecommunications.com/coyoteblog/2015/11/03/duvall/
and this includes lots of information about what she discussed at the workshop. She can also be found at Jayne Cravens.
We have recently come across some very interesting work by Steffi Siegert of Stockholm Business School who has spent the last couple of years completing a detailed analysis of the Facebook posts of employees working for NGOs (paper presented at the European Group for Organization Studies, Athens, July 2015). While these are not quite the same as volunteering, there are some really interesting observations in these data about how these very committed and engaged employees exploit Facebook and their own personal social networks to further the aims of their NGOs.
Siegert reports instances of NGOs asking their employees directly to spread a link or use their personal connections to mobilise on behalf of the NGO. But more common than this was the individual’s indirect support of their organization through their personal FB pages, ranging from simply liking their organization’s FB page to explicitly praising colleagues for their work on their personal pages (and in the process providing links to the NGO). Boundaries between personal and work lives are clearly very blurred here – to the extent that it may not be possible to make distinctions.
Volunteers may be similarly dedicated to their work and their TSO and we are interested to see if Siegert’s findings are upheld in this somewhat different context: do volunteers exploit their on-line social presence to promote the work of their voluntary organizations? Do voluntary organizations expect them to do this? Would we call this exploitation or mutual benefit? Is this all necessarily advantageous to the organization? Is this something all volunteers are happy to do, or do some draw a line? And why and where is that line drawn?