Earlier this year, I was invited to contribute a chapter comparing different approaches to employee volunteering (EV) across the globe for a ‘CSR and corporate volunteering’ textbook, due to be published by Springer Publishing Company in December 2016.

I work in the EV team at Volunteering Matters, a national charity that delivers high impact EV projects for a broad range of corporate clients across the UK.  This work has taught me that while approaches to volunteering, and infrastructures for voluntary engagement, can differ – there are some common factors that unite EV programmes across the globe.

So here are my top five facts about EV:

1) EV has shot up the business world’s agenda over the past 5-10 years. This is the case even in countries and regions that had only a weak concept of volunteering (if any), or where the idea of volunteering was tainted by memories of its links to political regimes. The reason often lies with international companies that, when setting up offices in new locales, often bring their own corporate social responsibility (CSR) and EV programmes with them and introduce them to a new context. They also often bring an infrastructure for EV with them, which leads me to…

2) EV programmes thrive when there is an existing infrastructure. The infrastructure should enable companies, their staff and community organisations to engage with each other in a structured and meaningful way. This could be in the form of partnerships, processes and/or funding available through public or private sector initiatives. Most often, however, EV programmes are most successful when a broker is involved.  Volunteer managers with a specialism in matching volunteers’ skills to local community needs, and providing appropriate support for both sides, add significant value.

3) Increasingly, international organisations such as the UN and the EU are also convinced by the power of EV programmes and their transformational potential. One such example is Impact 2030, a global private sector initiative set up to support the United Nations in achieving its ambitious Sustainable Development Goals through joint volunteer commitments.

4) There are pockets of limited provision combined with high levels of needs. With all the existing infrastructures in place, and a lot of goodwill and ambition across different regions, one challenge that spans the entire globe is the mismatch between where companies are located and where the most persistent community needs are. This often leads to an imbalance between urban areas, which are usually well-served by EV programmes, and rural areas or smaller towns where there are few employers large enough to commit their staff resources to such programmes. While many companies also became involved in disaster relief outside the metropolitan areas, e.g. in Japan after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the general imbalance will need some more creative and innovative tools. This could be in the form of web-based capacity-building programmes such as e-mentoring programmes.

5) New recruits are seeking socially responsible employers. Last but not least, there is a growing trend of younger employees (who have often volunteered throughout their time in higher and further education) choosing their employer on the basis of how responsible the company is. While many other factors come into this, there is growing evidence in the literature from around the globe that playing an active role in their local communities, and giving something back, is becoming an increasingly significant factor for young people when choosing their careers and employers.

Overall, it seems the future is bright for EV around the globe. With its benefits for communities, employees and employers better researched, evidenced and understood, and increasing numbers of employers committing to EV programmes and engaging in global dialogues and sharing of knowledge and experience. We are looking forward to continuing to be a part of this journey!

Dr. Angela Schlenkhoff-Hus is a Development Manager for Employee Volunteering at Volunteering Matters