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A Quick Guide to Skills-Based Volunteering: Definition & Benefits

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Whether you’re creating your first employee volunteer program or already have an established system, finding new ways to give back is always important. 

Businesses are tasked with navigating the vast world of volunteer and impact opportunities to choose those that bring the most value to their teams. That often means combining field volunteering (in-person, physical project work) with some kind of long-term initiative, like having an employee sit on a committee or board.

Regardless of your strategy, there’s another way that your employees can support your CSR goals and engage in meaningful work: through skills-based volunteering.

Table of Contents:

What is Skills-Based Volunteering?
   Skills-Based Volunteerism Examples
Key Benefits of Skills-Based Volunteering
Skills-Based Volunteering Best Practices

What is Skills-Based Volunteering

Skills-based volunteering (SBV) is just what it sounds like: a form of volunteerism focused on leveraging personal skills and expertise to support nonprofit organizations. In many cases, skills-based volunteering is offered pro bono as part of a larger corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign.

Instead of completing general tasks or donating funds to nonprofit partners, employees can offer their talents and complete skills-based tasks that nonprofits may struggle to manage independently. 

In this way, professional skills serve as a valuable asset that companies can offer to nonprofits as part of their CSR initiatives. 

Skills-Based Volunteerism Examples

If you can think of a skillset, it’s likely that you can apply it to a volunteer setting. To keep it simple though, we can divide most examples of skilled volunteering into the following categories:

  • Micro-Volunteering. This describes SBV that takes place in short time frames and covers minute tasks, like writing social media posts or translating a web page. 
  • Open-Ended SBV. These programs make volunteer services, like legal advice or consulting, available to certain nonprofits on an ongoing basis.
  • Loaned-Employee SBV. An employee volunteer may take an approved, paid leave of absence to commit to supporting a nonprofit full-time.
  • Team Projects. Volunteer teams built around certain skills are given specific responsibilities and deliverables to offer nonprofits. 
  • Mentoring. Coaching and mentoring community members and nonprofit teams allows employees to lend their expertise where it’s needed most.

Key Benefits of Skills-Based Volunteering

All of this may sound great, but what’s the business case for skills-based volunteering? Why is it worth investing time and effort into optimizing an SBV program? 

The answer is clear: skills-based volunteerism enhances CSR initiatives in unique ways. It also directly benefits employees and, by extension, the companies that support them. Let’s explore some of the main benefits of SBV in detail.

Valuable Employee Development

When employees volunteer their skills and talents, they naturally get more experience putting them to use. SBV can serve as a genuine professional and skill development opportunity that also helps employees feel engaged in their work. 

Employee engagement is a great enough benefit on its own – engaged and happy employees tend to be more productive, stay with their companies longer, and do better work. But there’s evidence to suggest that the actual act of volunteering can be personally beneficial as well. 

For instance, one 2020 study found that adults who volunteer often (100+ hours a year) are more physically active, face a reduced risk of mortality, and have better psychosocial outcomes than those who don’t. 

Skills-based volunteering enables employees to regularly contribute to causes they care about without disrupting their work schedules. That means employees can volunteer more often and for longer, thus increasing their chances of reaping these sorts of benefits.

Stronger Workplace Culture

Everyone wants to work somewhere that makes them proud. When employees are free to make a difference in a way that makes them feel valuable (i.e., by leveraging their unique skills), they’re more likely to feel included in something bigger than themselves.

More people working toward common corporate social responsibility goals means a more unified, enriched culture for your company. 

Amplified Impacts

Donating time and money to a nonprofit organization is a great way to make an impact. But if you want to leave a long-term mark on your community, skills-based volunteering is the way to go. 

SBV, especially when offered pro bono, lets your employees play a more significant role in the initiatives and teams they’re a part of. It’s also particularly impactful in today’s climate due to the ongoing nonprofit workforce shortage. 

As recently as spring 2023, about 74.6% of nonprofits had job vacancies, and more than half (51.7%) have more vacancies now compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, nonprofit organizations need skilled workers just as much as they may need financial support. 

Plus, when your employees can step up to fill in the gaps, they ensure that nonprofits have the bandwidth and ability to make other contributions (like corporate grants) more impactful. And even when corporate giving budgets shrink, skills-based volunteerism offers businesses a reliable way to continue to give back.

Building Your Reputation

The more you can do to support the causes that align with your organizational goals, the better. 

Getting employees involved in long-term, hands-on tasks and forming ongoing partnerships is a fantastic way to show the world what your business is all about. 

SBV is often more public-facing than many other forms of volunteerism and corporate giving, so it stands to improve your reputation even more than other areas of your CSR initiatives.

Skills-Based Volunteering Best Practices

As you begin to implement SBV into your corporate social impact regimen, make sure you keep these best practices in mind to ensure you’re successful. 

  • Reflect on Skills: Brainstorm the skills and talents your workforce can offer before you start creating an SBV gameplan. Perhaps you have a lot of IT specialists and web developers on your team; what are some ways that these employees and their skills can give back? 
  • Define Clear Expectations: Make sure you have a detailed and clear vision of what you want to achieve through your SBV program. Are you hoping to improve employee engagement? Is forming meaningful partnerships your priority? These sorts of details will likely shape the volunteering opportunities you pursue.
  • Be Open to Learning: Since employees are at the heart of skills-based volunteerism, expect to learn from and listen to them. Don’t forget to prioritize continuously improving your system and putting the things employees learn to use at your business.
  • Use the Right Resources: As is true with any new initiative, you’ll want to be certain that everyone on your team is on the same page about goals, methodologies, and ideal outcomes. Identify a user-friendly platform that will allow you to find nonprofits, design volunteer opportunities, and track employee performance to keep things simple.

Groundswell’s corporate volunteering platform is designed to help you manage CSR initiatives without all the headaches. Our platform is optimized for mobile use so that your employees can easily log volunteer hours, find new opportunities, and monitor their impact with just a few taps. 

Schedule a demo to see how Groundswell can help you manage a skills-based volunteering program tailored to your business goals.

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