The Corporate Responsibility (CR) community has an insatiable appetite for skills volunteering. But can it deliver Learning and Development (L&D) benefits? I think it can. But only if L&D collaborates with the CR team. And there are things it can deliver, and things it cannot.  And that is predominantly down to the clear distinction between knowledge and skill. In general, knowledge needs to come from the L&D team.  Volunteering is a great vehicle for the application of the knowledge in a relatively safe environment to practice the knowledge to develop the skill.  Of course, this still needs someone competent on hand to keep the learner on the right track.  Most charities cannot provide that.

It is a myth that organising a volunteering event is a great opportunity to develop leadership. It is an accepted good opportunity to practice planning, organisation and problem solving skills.  And it requires leadership on the day.  But a successful volunteering event must be well run to make good use of everyone’s time, it must be well led by someone who already has that skill. Giving the task to someone ill equipped is folly!  But there are great examples of how volunteering can help a learner develop a skill, make a difference in the community and bring benefit to the business.  A win-win-win.  These are just some of the ways we believe it can be achieved.

Charities provide a good vehicle to help potential managers and leaders develop their understanding of strategic, tactical and operational planning.  Helping a third sector organisation to develop their strategic plan can be extremely rewarding and will normally provide a couple of hours a month for about four to eight committed volunteers. But it needs to be supervised by someone who can transfer the knowledge and ensure the final product is of value to the charity and worthy of the company’s brand.

Coaching and mentoring is my favourite skill that can be developed in the community.  There is often confusion between the two terms and to make an impact the volunteer needs to be clear which skill he or she is trying to apply.  Mentoring is ‘do this, and you’ll achieve that’.  Coaching is ‘so what do you want to achieve’ and ‘what is stopping you from achieving it’.  Done well, coaching and mentoring is the one skill set that can truly transform the life chances of those caught in a rut, or consumed by fear and a lack of self worth and ambition.  It’s my dream to take our community coaching project to that next level and if you want to be part of that dream then get in touch.

EVCiC delivers Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) accredited Leadership, Management and Coaching and Mentoring in Management programmes. See our website to download a brochure, or call us for further information.