ELBA Forum Event: ‘Sharing corporate skills with charities: are we giving them what they really need?’

 In News

On Thursday April 14 we held a CSR practitioners forum at Linklaters’ headquarters in London, Silk Street. Guests attending the event included CSR professionals from Credit Suisse, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, XL Catlin and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.

The event provided a great opportunity for CSR practitioners to build a deeper understanding and take ownership of the opportunities and challenges faced in delivering impact through skills-based volunteering.

Jan Levy from Three Hands opened up the forum by sharing findings from the Three Hands research on the need for employee volunteering. Jan’s provocative piece included a case against employee volunteering which was a real eye opener for CSR professionals. He later discussed the need for employee volunteering and recommendations on how companies can meet the needs of charities. You can access the report by Three Hands here.

Ian Parkes, CEO at ELBA mentions “The most worrying finding from the Three Hands research is that 42% of the sample sometimes feel obliged to accept an offer of volunteering – even if it is not really what they need at that moment in time. That doesn’t sound like a good use of anyone’s time or goodwill. We need to get the match right for our business partners and community organisations. Our corporate partners face a tricky juggling act. It’s all about matching the right volunteers to the right opportunity with the right organisation (and at the right time and in the right place) and preparing really carefully.”

Claire Helman, Chief Executive from Aston Mansfield, shared an honest opinion of her experience with skills-based volunteers. Just like many charities, her charity has too often accepted unneeded volunteer help from corporates. The research by Three Hands highlights that the 51% of charities who feel obliged to take on volunteers, do this in a bid to strengthen, or avoid severing, their relationship with the company or to avoid damaging their reputaton if they deny the request.

James Cooper from Accenture shared valuable insight on some creative strategies being developed at Accenture which aim to meet both the needs of charities and the demands of companies.

The discussion portion of the afternoon saw CSR practitioners coming together to discuss the barriers that companies face in giving charities what they really need, and solutions for overcoming these.

A few key ‘take-aways’ from the discussion were:

  • CSR teams should educate senior management and seek some form of sponsorship or backing from them eg. Having mid managers as CSR Champions
  • Change how volunteer opportunities are promoted – focus on what skills employees can gain or develop
  • Have open and honest conversations with charities to make sure your input is meeting their need
  • Openly recognise great volunteers internally

Corporate partners took a lot away from the forum. One attendee stated “I already know that good partnerships are built on dialogue, openness and trust. However I did take away that I need to perhaps build a bit more time in to meeting the potential partners during our charity of the year nomination process. That was useful.”

The forum ended with a great networking event and was truly an effective space for CSR professional to share their experience, problem solve and develop strategies that can be applied ‘back in the office’. We’re happy to say the event was a huge success and we look forward to our holding our next forum event!

Special thanks to our guest panellists Jan Levy, Claire Mansfield, James Cooper, and Liz Cope.

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