How You Can Give Back To Local Charities From The Comfort of Your Desk

Published on:
by Oliver Farmiloe, Matchable
Image of baby orangutang on left and man sitting at desk on laptop on right, with Matchable logo connecting both sides

The post-pandemic world of conscious consumerism has led to mounting pressure from the public for businesses to operate responsibly and sustainably. With the rise in remote workers, and a generation of GEN-Z talent searching for employers that align with their values, businesses are focusing more than ever on finding how to give back to their local communities virtually in ways that work for this new workforce, w means that flexible, on-demand volunteerism is in more demand than ever in today’s job market!

Within the last decade there has been a seismic shift in the global perception of corporate social responsibility and ESG, and how business aligns with purpose. So much so that now, a growing number of organisations are no longer solely governed by financial gain, but also by their impact on the planet and the community.

Luckily, in today's world, technology has made it easier than ever to make a difference, even from the comfort of your desk with skills-based, remote-first volunteerism.

In this article, we will explore what virtual volunteering is, common misconceptions, and why it actually creates far more impact than traditional volunteering. We will also discuss how you can get involved on a local level and how this all ties into your ESG goals!

What is Virtual Volunteering?

Virtual volunteering, also known as remote volunteering, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a form of volunteering that allows individuals to contribute their skills and expertise to organisations in need without ever having to leave their home or office.

The days of fence painting or planting trees simply for a photo op and good PR are gone. Charities and nonprofits, that are often underfunded, are realising that they can get far more value (and using far less resources) by focusing on volunteers with specific skill sets that can help them to increase their reach, efficiency, and advance their cause digitally.

This remote approach to volunteering lets volunteers to give back on their own schedule, and allows charities to access a global pool of unpaid talent previously untapped.

In fact, research from the Time Well Spent 2023 report shows that 31% of those who volunteered in the last 12 months did at least some of it online or over the phone.

They also note that this increase did not negatively impact volunteer satisfaction!

Examples of Remote Volunteering

Image of woman sitting on floor with laptop, with Matchable hearts

Through virtual volunteering, not only can you lend your support to big name global charities, but you can also facilitate partnerships with much smaller, younger, and less bloated charitable organisations that would value your expertise even more.

We’ve highlighted just a few examples of projects available on our platform for the impact they can create for local charities and the causes they serve:

  • Provide high-level financial support for an organisation tackling climate change and deforestation through the blockchain and NFTs.

This is one of the most innovative volunteering projects available on the Matchable platform. This impact startup uses NFTs to monetise reforestation, adding value to it and encouraging people to participate in it, thereby helping to tackle climate change and achieve a sustainable planet. Each reforestation project is supported by a community of tree growers, satellite data providers, tech developers and others, alongside NFT holders.

These actors all receive NFTs for their services. They’re looking for corporate partners to enable them to scale, raise awareness about their community, and thereby help integrate sustainability goals into a new financial system.

  • Test and give feedback on the website for an impact startup that is transforming the ocean with an eco-burial service turning ashes into artificial coral reef structures.

This innovative memorial and eco-burial business is working to regenerate marine biodiversity, and they need your help! They do this by building artificial reef structures with a unique formula containing human ashes and crushed oyster shells, two elements that nourish and enhance marine growth.

The reef structures help to increase marine biodiversity, filter water, prevent coastal erosion, and capture CO2. with just a few hours of your time, you could help to ensure the continual development of their website, and further their cause.

  • Provide content + marketing support to an organisation enabling young families to live more sustainably.

Borro are on a mission to empower parents to be more sustainable by renting out organic, ethically-made baby clothes for a fraction of the price of buying them new. We matched them with employees at Deutsche Bank and Dentsu to provide some content + marketing support. You can read all about their impact here.

Common Misconceptions

Are misconceptions about online volunteering preventing your business from tapping into a valuable resource? We’ve decided to debunk some of the common myths around remote volunteering opportunities below…

Virtual volunteering creates less impact than in-person help:

This is categorically false. In fact, research has shown that on average skills-based remote volunteerism creates as much as 150x more impact value for charities than traditional in-person volunteer days. There are platforms online dedicated to helping businesses like yours source innovative, high-impact volunteering projects like the examples given above, and that help match your employees with the perfect project for their skills and availability.

For example, on the Matchable corporate volunteering platform, an average of £1,920 worth of impact value is created by employees engaging in their remote volunteering projects.

People who volunteer online don't volunteer face-to-face:

If you’re keen to encourage your team to get out and about and help local organisations in real life in addition to more skilled, high-impact online projects, then don’t fret, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Research from the Virtual Volunteering Project shows that the majority of individuals who volunteer online also take the time to volunteer locally for an organisation in their town/city.

Online Volunteering is Only For Helping Organisations In Different Countries:

False. The majority of people who choose to support an organisation online will do so for an organisation that they’ve supported on-site before, or intend to in the future.

Naturally, employees are drawn to causes that are close to their heart and their own communities. So it follows that they will also be drawn to online projects that are also supporting causes they can relate to/understand. Volunteers are keen to know how and where they are having a positive impact through their voluntary work. In 2023, you will have no problem finding thousands of online volunteer projects available in your country or city.

However, the ability to support wider global causes, or countries that your business is tied to, is another secondary benefit of choosing to do your corporate volunteering online. Geographical location is no longer an impediment to organising team volunteering days.

Traditional Volunteering is Ineffective

Image of volunteers filling paper bags with supplies

We’ve already covered how traditional forms of in-person volunteering can create as much as 150x less impact than skilled online volunteering, but that isn’t the only downside to sticking with in-person volunteering.

The Physical Barriers Need To Be Addressed

The obvious practical aspects of in-person volunteering can’t be ignored. Even if you ignore the logistical nightmare of organising a volunteering day for multi-city, or even multi-national teams, there is still the issue of accessibility.

Sure, a day out in a local community garden, or helping out in nearby greenspaces this summer sounds like an idyllic solution to your volunteering plans, but in reality you’re potentially excluding a portion of your team who aren’t able to take part in that sort of activity.

Whether they’re less physically able to make it out and about, unable to afford long journeys on public transport, or struggle with social anxiety, by limiting your company to in-person volunteering activities, you’re restricting who can participate.

Diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) is a hot topic at the moment, and inclusive companies that prioritise accommodating diverse teams create a welcoming culture that allows their employees to thrive.

Volunteering Isn’t Free For The Charities

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to corporate volunteering, or just volunteering in general, is that it should be free. After all, why would you pay to offer your time voluntarily to help an organisation, right? 

Wrong.

There are substantial costs involved for non-profits/charities to organise and manage volunteers in person. For example, they will need to pay someone for the time spent supervising your employees for the day.

Much like if an influencer tries paying with 'exposure', charities can't pay the bills with donated time and they need their spaces and employees to keep having a positive impact on the world.

If you're serious as a business about giving back and doing ‘business for good’, then you need to accept that volunteering at scale is not going to be completely free. In comparison, online volunteering costs the charities far less to facilitate, there are far less barriers to securing volunteers, and the companies no longer have to pay for organising travel and food, etc., for their teams on the day.

Learning, or Just Going Through The Motions?

According to the Time Well Spent 2023 report, one of the most common barriers to those considering volunteering was the opportunities not matching their skills, interests or experience.

While traditional volunteering projects may facilitate time for team building, and socialising, they typically lack any meaningful learning and development opportunities when compared to the applications of online volunteering programmes.

Not only do local charities have a capacity when taking on volunteers on-site (which puts a cap on the level of impact they can create), but over the last few years charities have come to see that they can get far more value from volunteering without barriers or capacity online. The sky really is the limit when you can access millions of skilled volunteers at the click of a mouse! Remote, skills-based volunteerism like that available on platforms like Matchable allow for much more challenging, rewarding, and educational experiences when compared to the largely physical labour of old-fashioned employee volunteering.

Maybe a junior in your marketing team would appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to create a first full-fledged marketing campaign for a charity? Or, perhaps your team would enjoy the change in pace that would come from half a day advising a marine conservation charity on their finances? The options are endless with online volunteering projects, and they often provide opportunities for your team to add new experiences to their CVs and flex their skills in completely new industries.

Local Efforts, Worldwide Impact

Employee volunteering addresses the ever-increasing need for businesses to interact positively with their local community, and to tackle pressing social and environmental issues that are close to home.

But regardless of your location, and how local your immediate impact, with online volunteering you can positively impact a variety of sectors, and global causes regardless of the industry in which you reside.

For example, if your organisation is committed to supporting one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, then you could find a charity that is also helping to achieve that goal globally through their efforts.

How You Can Get Involved

So, where do you start? Here are the initial steps to take agency yourselves and actively give back in your local community:

  1. Set out your key volunteering policy objectives. What is it you want to achieve through your volunteering? Setting specific goals will help to motivate your team, and give you something to work towards. This will also help inform how many hours you want to donate to charities over the year.

  2. Establish what causes align with your purpose as a business. Are there particular issues or organisations you wish to support more than others? If you have existing relationships with specific local charities, then the first step would be setting up a chat with them to discuss how you can best assist them. Listen to what they need, and see how your team can support them.

  3. Determine who in your team is interested in engaging with a corporate volunteering programme. This will help you to gauge volunteer numbers, which will later inform decisions around the sort of project you want to, and can, help.

  4. Engage a third party volunteering expert or software platform. This will simplify the entire process of matching employees to charities, and take the stress of organising events and tracking their impact off of your plate. There are many solutions out there which, for a small fee, can seriously amplify your impact as a business by removing any of the impediments your team may face when  trying to organise volunteering at scale.

Takeaway

There are various ways in which you can do good and give back as a business, from corporate giving and fundraising, to sustainability pledges and carbon offsetting. But when it comes to creating the biggest possible impact as a remote team, nothing comes close to skilled online volunteering.

The flexibility that volunteering virtually provides allows for all employees, regardless of location, physical ability, or availability to take part and help local charities in need, unlike traditional corporate volunteering days where the travel and costs involved can create significant barriers for certain team members. If you’re keen to learn more about the effect employee volunteering can have on staff turnover, the wellbeing of your team, and employee satisfaction, this blog has compiled some of the most interesting and surprising corporate volunteering statistics from recent studies.

Matchable Volunteering is an award-winning CSR platform matching employees to innovative skilled volunteering projects remotely.

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