An initial positive, well-structured volunteering experience could be the key trigger to unlocking a person’s philanthropic potential and lead to strategic, better informed major donations of money and pro bono skill sharing.
The finding is one of many triggers and barriers to life-long philanthropy among senior business people revealed in a new study called ‘Philanthropic Journeys’, from Pilotlight, a charity that engages professionals to use their skills to grow small charities and make them investment ready.
Report author Dr Beth Breeze of the Centre for Philanthropy at Kent University, who also co-authored Richer Lives: Why Rich People Give, says: “Supported interventions, in the form of structured, time-limited and appropriate volunteer placements can –and do- have the capacity to help senior business people overcome barriers, especially those related to lack of time, so that they can begin and accelerate their philanthropic journeys.”
The right initial volunteering experience can generate significant future benefits – including a doubling of intention to volunteer, a 12% rise (from 29% to 41%) in willingness to make significant donations of £1000 or more and a three fold increase in desire to serve as a trustee of a charity, the report reveals.
The findings are based on an online survey of 227 senior business people and in-depth interviews with 10 people, all of whom had engaged in structured volunteering experiences with Pilotlight.
It highlights four main barriers facing senior business people wishing to involved: a lack of confidence that their skills are useful to charities; lack of time and awareness of appropriate opportunities to get involved and concern that charities are badly managed.
At the launch of the research, senior business people offered their experiences of volunteering with Pilotlight, along with the charity leaders they had partnered who told how the support they had received had transformed their organisations.
Volunteers from organisations including Barclays, Bank of America, Lloyds and RBS spoke of how the experience had allowed them to meet and work with inspiring people and organisations, gain new skills, extended their networks and had informed their own business strategies. In many cases they had also made new friends.
While charities spoke of gaining confidence in their organisations, their teams and themselves, enjoying more fruitful relations with their trustees, as well as increasing their funds through better focussed strategies.
Richard “Beef” Frankland, of Prospex, an Islington charity that helps disadvantaged young people fulfil their potential says Pilotlighter Andy Dunlop, Unilever’s UK Pensions Communications Manager had saved his life: “I probably wouldn’t be standing here today if it hadn’t been for Andy as things were so busy and the stress was causing me chest pains and I had been told to rest in case I had a heart attack.”
The charity, he says, is reinvigorated and they have been able to raise £40k more than the previous year.
Debbie Phillips of Barclays says the Pilotlight programme is “phenomenally popular” among their executives and they have been inundated with requests from staff. She said every one of their executive board has volunteered and that senior leaders in companies “need to give volunteering license” within companies if they wish to encourage more of it.
This is one of eight recommendations offered by the ‘Philanthropic Journeys’ report: “Employers need to support workplace giving of time and money by having an embedded culture of giving that is led and encouraged by business leaders. Employers should also recognise that they gain in terms of skills coming back to the workplace. When benefits are understood to be mutual, it leads to more sustainable relationships between companies and charities.”
Download Philanthropic Journeys for free.