There’s an interesting article in today’s Guardian:

looking at the likelihood of people who have started volunteering as part of a CSR/ESV scheme continuing now the economic outlook is on the gloomy side. They reckon people will continue to volunteer on the grounds that; “There’s a recognition among employees that times are tough for lots of people so the idea is ‘Let’s see how I as an individual can help'”.

Is that people’s experience, or is CSR falling by the wayside?

Comments (2)

Earlier this year, before the credit crunch, i wrote this piece, regarding ESV and its future, worth re-visiting i feel.
In respect of the question posed “What is a volunteer”, I’d like to widen the debate further. Speaking as both as a long standing volunteer in my own right, and as a volunteer manager, I personally see it like this. In a nutshell, volunteering is any activity that is undertaken without any expectation of money and/or monies worth in relation to volunteering activities undertaken, over and above legitimate expenses. In order to help contextualise this; true volunteering would in my opinion NOT include “volunteering” such as ESV (employer supported volunteering), importantly where such ESV meant that a person would still be receiving their normal daily wage whilst undertaking “work” for an organisation as a “volunteer”. I am aware that there is somewhat of an undercurrent, even a paradigm shift towards ESV in certain quarters. However, whilst there may be a current desire to focus in on and use ESV volunteers, especially, although not exclusively, in relation to “changing rooms” type opportunities; I am somewhat concerned that there is actually a sector need for ESV “volunteers” as is being suggested by some, for example through training programs etc; typically in relation to alleged ever diminishing numbers of people wishing to volunteer; which I feel is probably more to do with what opportunities organisations are offering, allied to the re-enforcement of positive relative benefits to individual volunteers, rather than scaremongering about a near future, often almost apocalyptic vision of a volunteer famine, and who’s only salvation will be ESV, and the involvement of big business and their employees. The fact is that the population of UK Plc is growing not shrinking; we have an ever increasing pool of people who are new to these shores, our culture and possibly new to the concept of volunteering; as such we should be, being more creative in recruiting such people, which not only increases volunteer numbers but also helps in respect of integration, social cohesion, and sense of belonging. Equally, age should no longer be a restriction in respect of volunteering; we all have as managers a fantastic opportunity to tap into the baby boomers, their skills and knowledge as many approach retirement and are considering their future options. Let’s never lose site of the many loyal and independent volunteers, many of whom will never have had any contact with big business and ESV programs, and who have brought us this far, and for many of us to the positions we hold today. We should never forget that people for what ever reason, be that altruistic or not, traditionally volunteer in their own right, for their own reasons and under their own steam; and in the main those new to volunteering just need signposting appropriately from the many good and valuable volunteer centres across the country. I wonder when the credit crunch begins to bite within business, how soon will it be that such businesses say to ESV volunteers, unfortunately given the current climate, the reality is that we need you here working for us, or I’m sorry but we can no longer afford for you to volunteer on our time; as such will there be any thought given to the organisations who have become involved with ESV volunteers? Going back to, “What is a volunteer?” Personally, I volunteer because I want to, because it’s different from my day job, because I am involved with a different group of people, with a different outlook on life, but fundamentally I volunteer because I get something out of it and enjoy it, is this altruistic? Is my willingness to volunteer with what could be seen as altruistic leanings a result of bad volunteer management from the organisations I work with, absolutely not! I do not, and would not “volunteer” as I do if the volunteering was part of some prescribed personal/professional development plan driven by business in order to be seen to be doing something for “the community” and to tick a moral box.
First Submitted by nshaw on Thu, 21/08/2008

Although I fully acknowledge the continuing debate around whether or not such support can truly be called volunteering and, as importantly, the common imbalance of power between company and charity, it seems a shame that these could stop a voluntary organisation from benefitting from time, resources and expertise that they might otherwise have to pay for, or do without. Increasingly companies are offering skilled staff for longer term roles that can help organisations on a more strategic level. If your charity could benefit from this – isn’t it worth at least considering someone from the corporate sector? Semantics shouldn’t stop you.

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