Like many things in life, when it comes to employee volunteering, one size does not fit all.

In recent years, we have seen a much-welcomed growth in skills-based volunteering opportunities for both teams and individuals. However, the policy discourse on this trend seems to downplay the usefulness of practical or “hands-on” volunteering opportunities, and we’re not convinced that this is right.

At Volunteering Matters we have nearly 25 years of experience in employee volunteering, and we have noticed that many cash-strapped charities need both skills-based and practical volunteering to achieve their goals. For example, a charity may need volunteers to maintain a garden that they use as a social space for older, isolated service users, whilst also needing head office support (i.e. skills-based volunteers) to help improve their fundraising strategy. ‘All hands on deck’ seems to be the culture for many of our clients: in a tight financial climate, and with limited resources, charities will take all the help they can get!

Our clients tell us that their employees enjoy both skills-based and practical volunteering activities. Our ‘Good Leaders’ programme is an example of our successful skill-based volunteer work: the programme involves matching experts in stakeholder engagement, marketing, fundraising, corporate coaching, financial planning and other business skills with charities that will hugely benefit from this support. In terms of practical volunteering, we recently arranged a gardening and painting day at a community centre in north London for our PricewaterhouseCooper volunteers. The volunteers varnished wood, painted rails and cleared out overgrown areas. The volunteers and the community centre benefitted enormously on so many levels: we mustn’t assume that the only way to carry out an excellent volunteer project is to use the volunteers’ specific professional skills.

We deliver a bespoke service to our clients. We work hard to ensure we understand what type of volunteering project the client wants to work on, whether that be reading in schools, offering business consultancy advice to a start-up charity or serving tea in a care home. We try to match our clients with a cause or charity that they are genuinely passionate about. We also work with our clients to ensure that we understand what they are best at, to ensure that the quality of the volunteering project is the best it can be, as we know from experience that this will lead to happy volunteers and happy beneficiaries.