Voluntary sector needs more commercial skills to weather the tough economic climate

Charity Chief and Minister call for more employees to volunteer and share their skills

Launch of the Professionals volunteering initiative – from left to right: Kate Van der Plank, Head of UK Community Investment at National Grid;  Lucy de Groot, Chief Executive at CSV; Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society; and Mike Westcott, Global HR Director at National Grid.New research has revealed that a significant skills gap exists within the voluntary sector and that there is a real need for commercial expertise to help charitable organisations to weather the tough economic climate.

The study, conducted by national volunteering and learning charity, Community Service Volunteers (CSV), amongst 50 UK charities shows that nearly half have a need for skilled volunteers and that the key professional skills required are in business development (66%), marketing (61%) and accounting and finance (44%).

Almost 80% of organisations wanted to make their existing services more efficient and robust through using volunteers with professional skills.

Above: At the launch of the Professionals volunteering initiative – from left to right: Kate Van der Plank, Head of UK Community Investment at National Grid, Lucy de Groot, Chief Executive at CSV, Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society,  and Mike Westcott, Global HR Director at National Grid.

Today Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, launched the roll out of a major volunteering partnership between CSV and National Grid to plug the skills gap.

The two organisations have teamed up to implement The Professionals programme, which has been backed by a grant of £705,603 from the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund and aims to inspire professionals and recent retirees to invest their valuable skills for the benefit of communities across the country.

Over the next 12 months the innovative programme aims to get 9,000 professionals and recent retirees involved with more than 400 local community groups that require specific help.

Skills that could be given might include anything from providing advice on recruitment and employment issues, support with IT and social networking, marketing and fundraising to designing a website.

Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd said: “I have seen what a difference someone with business experience can make to a small local charity. It is always striking how much they too get out of the experience personally.

"This campaign is a chance to inspire more people to use their talent and knowledge to put something really positive back into their community.”

Lucy de Groot, Chief Executive at CSV, commented: “Our findings reinforce what we are hearing back from charities. It is clear that in the period of austerity we are all going through charities need more volunteers with commercial skills.

"They also need to make better use of the professional skills of existing volunteers to ensure their organisations are more business-like to achieve greater charitable impact.

“We are delighted that National Grid had stepped up to this challenge. Through CSV’s new Professionals programme we engage with corporate employers like National Grid, to enable more of their employees and recent retirees to volunteer, matching their skills with the needs of the charities, so their valuable time and expertise can make a real difference.

"In these tough times, this sharing of skills across sectors is a vital contribution to local community groups who are often desperate for specialist support. Skills giving includes anything from providing advice on  finance,  recruitment and employment issues, support with social networking and  website design to marketing and fundraising.”

Mike Westcott, Global HR Director at National Grid, added: “Employers and employees have much to gain from getting involved in volunteering and providing vital skills to charitable organisations.

"That’s why as an organisation National Grid actively promotes volunteering amongst its staff as part of its Bringing Energy to Life UK-wide community investment programme and we are aiming to have 1 in 5 of our employees involved in community activities by the end of next year.

“For our employees, volunteering is an excellent way to expand their network, inspire other people, build self-esteem and confidence, and to share their skills and knowledge in areas where they can make such a positive difference. This in turn supports their career development, which also benefits our business as we retain their growing talent.

“We are therefore delighted to be partnering CSV in the launch of the Professionals programme and expect a significant number of our staff to bring their wide range of skills to bear positively on the voluntary sector.”

The CSV study provides a number of recommendations, including the important role that businesses have to play in raising awareness of volunteering opportunities to staff, including those about to retire and making volunteering opportunities flexible to suit professional lifestyles.

Read the report here: www.csv.org.uk/resources/professional-skills-gap-voluntary-sector.

Find out more about National Grid's Community Relations: www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Community/CommRelations

National Grid is the first corporate organisation of its size to partner with CSV The Professionals.

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Notes for Editor

1.    CSV (Community Service Volunteers) creates opportunities for people to take an active part in the life of their communities through volunteering, training and community action. Every year CSV helps transform the lives of over 1 million people. Last year 150,000 people gave their time as volunteers through CSV. The charity worked with 5,000 learners of all ages. www.csv.org.uk

2.    National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE:NGG) is an electricity and gas company that connects consumers to energy sources through its networks. The company is at the heart of one of the greatest challenges facing our society - to create new, sustainable energy solutions for the future and developing an energy system that underpins economic prosperity in the 21st century.  National Grid holds a vital position at the centre of the energy system and we ‘join everything up’.  In Britain, we run the gas and electricity systems that our society is built on, delivering gas and electricity across the country.  In the North Eastern US, we connect more than seven million gas and electric customers to vital energy sources, essential for our modern lifestyles.

3.    The Social Action Fund is managed by The Social Investment Business, on behalf of the Cabinet Office and will fund social action projects in England from civil society organisations, public sector bodies and businesses with a track record of delivering social action programmes. The Social Action Fund is part of a broader programme of support for social action that was announced in the Giving White Paper and takes its place alongside two other funding streams - Innovation in Giving Fund and Challenge Prizes.

For further press information, please contact:

Chris Lawrance, JBP Public  Relations        0117 9073414
Gillian West, Press Officer, National Grid    01926 655373
Jeremy Olver, Press Officer, Cabinet Office     020 7276 2234
Francesca Toma, Press Officer, CSV        020 7643 1418