What is Skills-Based Volunteering?

Apr 14, 2015 5:45 PM ET

Skills-based volunteering occurs when organizations capitalize on professional skills, talents, and individual education to assist a community partner meet an objective through various volunteering activities (Volunteer Canada, 2015).

Skills-based volunteering is similar to traditional volunteering as it provides a non-profit with a free service, it engages employees, and contributes to a unique corporate culture. It differs, however, as skills-based volunteering use unique professional skills to assist a non-profit. Examples of traditional volunteering may include tasks such as setting up tents for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer (The Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer, Facebook, 2013).

Many LBG Canada participants have begun to employ skills-based volunteering programs. For example, in 2012 AstraZeneca Canada partnered with Endeavour, an organization that pairs non-profits with organizations to access professional consulting services, to create a skills-based volunteer program. The partnerships connected AstraZeneca with the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, which worked with the client to develop a strategic plan over a six-month period.

Studies are increasingly showing that employees prefer short-term volunteer opportunities and being involved in developing volunteer opportunities (Manulife, 2013). Skills-based volunteering may be the solution as it provides flexibility and gives employees the opportunity to work on a project which has a timeline and an end date. Employees also benefit by acquiring additional skills, gaining valuable work experience, and developing professional networks (Wong, 2014).

An organization that employs skills-based volunteering can enhance its corporate reputation through assisting non-profits to complete tasks that they may not otherwise have the expertise to complete themselves. In addition, skills-based volunteering can increase collaboration within business units, as employees will work together on company time to complete the project. This kind of collaboration can increase the innovative thought process and contribute to “use their skills in new and challenging environments” (Wong, 2014).  

AstraZeneca Canada has the following advice for organizations looking to launch a skills-based volunteer program:

  1. Have support from leadership
  2. Integrate skills-based volunteering with human resources
  3. Integrate skills-based volunteering with corporate responsibility
  4. Leverage the expertise of a non-profit intermediary

AstraZeneca Canada supports employee volunteering for the following reasons:

  1. Attracting and retaining new talent
  2. Building leadership capabilities in employees
  3. Building corporate pride and loyalty

The article, Corporate volunteers can be a burden for nonprofits (Pfeiffer, 2015), highlights skills-based volunteering as a necessity for non-profit organizations. Many non-profit organizations do not have the abilities to host large amounts of corporate volunteers for a single day. Instead, they are seeking assistance with “accounting, technology, and other administrative projects” (Pfeiffer, 2015). This benefits the non-profit by providing them with a professional service that they might not otherwise be able to afford and benefits the corporation through professional development and networking opportunities.

Overall, there is a growing trend towards implementing a skills-based volunteering as it not only meets the community investment needs of corporations, engages employees, and enhances corporate culture, but also provides a service valued by the non-profit.

In order to assist in the success of a skills-based volunteering program, it is important to begin with a strong program foundation and ensure it has the support of management and acceptance of employees. For more information on how to begin creating an employee volunteer program too suite the unique needs of your company, please see tomorrow’s blog post.