Directors at accountancy firm Chapman Robinson and Moore (CRM) have committed to giving every staff member three hours per month to become regular volunteers at a charity of their choice.

CRM had been considering ways to share their staff’s time, talent and skills with the community for some time when Commercial Director Mike Foster attended Reciprocate’s employee volunteering symposium in April. Ideas and discussions coming from the event have helped CRM crystallise their thinking so far and make a firm commitment to employee volunteering.

Mike says: “The event helped us see a new angle on employee volunteering: the fact that sharing professional skills with charities is a fantastic way for staff to gain unique personal and professional development. This fits really well with the firm’s shift in strategy, from supplying purely compliance-based services to our clients, to helping them with overall business improvement.

“If our staff can help charities become better managed, adopt improved strategies and boost their business model, this has a genuine mutual benefit. It will mean charities can become more effective in addressing social problems, and at the same time our staff can develop skills and experience that they can bring back to the workplace.”

This reflects much of the focus of the symposium, where sponsor Mark Beard noted that “there comes a time in life when leadership training courses and the like deliver an ever-diminishing return, and the best way to learn is to get out there and gain a variety of different personal experiences.”

CRM have also brought much of the other learning from the event back to influence their volunteering policy. For example, many companies provide a single day per year for volunteering and expect this to be taken in one block. This means that much employee volunteering takes the form of team days, typically involving some sort of manual labour. However, shorter, more regular sharing of professional skills, such as mentoring charity staff, or sitting on a trustee board, task-and-finish group or organising committee, is also highly valued by charities. CRM has therefore developed a more thoughtful policy, which gives employees three hours each month – time to prepare for and attend regular meetings, for example. This also equates to a much more generous nearly five days per year.

In response to feedback from the symposium, CRM has agreed that staff can claim evening or weekend support as lieu hours, reflecting a desire for flexibility amongst staff when considering whether to volunteer.

Reciprocate Associate Grant Hayward is now assisting CRM in articulating the policy, and the firm will work with Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action to start matching staff with volunteering opportunities in local charities.

Download the Reciprocate best-practice handbook on employee volunteering

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