Employer Sponsored Volunteering (ESV)
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Hull
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
The impact of the Hull University Business School`s (HUBS) research on
ESV emerged out of a project with Yorkshire Bank and Irwin Mitchell
Solicitors (August 2010-July 2011) and a separate project with the
Co-operative Group and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
(FCFCG) (February 2012 - January 2013). These led to wider impacts on:
1) Corporate ESV policies of the case study companies.
2) Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation (HEYCF) approaches to ESV
and engagement with business.
3) Securing new funding from the ESRC Knowledge Exchange Opportunities
Grants Scheme in partnership with HEYCF.
Research projects on Employees' Experiences of ESV Schemes took place in
two phases. The first, with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and the Yorkshire
Bank (August 2010-July 2011), transferred with Dr Joanne Cook when she
moved to HUBS, (January 2011). The second project examined the `Together
We Can' ESV collaboration between the Co-operative Group and the FCFCG
(February 2012-January 2013). The key researcher is Dr Cook (in
collaboration with Dr Jon Burchell, University of Sheffield) and is funded
by a Knowledge Transfer grant from Sheffield (£10,000) and two further
internal grants from both universities of £7,000 in total. It has used
quantitative and qualitative methods, underpinned by action research
principles of working in partnership to develop research findings and
impacts of relevance to the employer organisation (as well as academics).
The second phase project emerged from disseminating the findings of the
first and from meetings of the Employee Volunteering Network (EVN). The
research scope was extended by examining the experiences of the FCFCG as
third sector partners. Conducted within each organisation, the research
involved a staff survey (100 responses), 2 focus groups, key informant
interviews (3 in each) and one-to-one interviews (10 in each). A third
phase research project, `Brokering Employer Sponsored Volunteering
Strategies' (April 2013-March 2014), is being funded by the ESRC (£46,500)
and involves Dr Cook (PI) and Dr Burchell (CI). This project emerged out
of the others and the EVN workshop findings on the challenges of
employers/third sector partnerships and gaps in brokerage. While this
project is still underway, early impacts are reported.
ESV project findings from research with four organisations:
1) Employee motivations: personal drivers were key motivations for
volunteering with organisational reward or community reputation as
important secondary drivers.
2) Volunteering: this was perceived as an important resource for
overcoming what employees saw as a level of alienation, monotony or
narrowness within their working lives.
3) Barriers to ESV: the pressure of workloads and limited time were
important, as was encouragement, with Volunteering Champions playing an
4) Employees' perceptions of corporate motivations: presenting the `human
face' of business — linking to both corporate and employee identity.
Perceived benefits are linked to the business case — skills development,
generating new business and building trust. However, employees
distinguished between CSR strategy and volunteering, which was more
5) Corporate support for ESV is uneven: workload pressures are the
biggest deterring factor - the role of the line manager is fundamental, as
are attitudes of colleagues. Integrating ESV into appraisals was not
desirable as it changed the voluntary nature.
6) Skills and development: defusing workplace stress (by offering time
away from work), building team links and communication skills through
operating outside of comfort zones.
7) The third sector motivations for engagement: while financial reasons
are a key factor, a range of more nuanced incentives existed: i) finding
new funding revenues, ii) taking their issues to a broader audience, iii)
the high impact of large scale, one-day projects, iv) accessing new
8) While valuable, one-day projects meet only part of their ESV needs,
real impact will come from the development of long-term partnerships that
are supported by employees.
9) Challenges of business engagement for third sector organisations: loss
of decision-making autonomy is a risk. Employers had to utilise strategies
to reduce this - by retaining autonomy over the project; vetting the
businesses; and declining partnerships which compromised their values. One
key aspect is the importance of a multi-streamed approach to funding and
not being reliant on one type of funding stream.
10) Infrastructural gaps: these were revealed in the third sector, where
policy and processes have either not evolved as fast as ESV initiatives or
organisations lack the resources to adequately vet their potential
corporate partners. This is an area where brokerage organisations could
support the third sector.
References to the research
The relationships between the research, impacts and publications are
non-linear. Below are a range of articles and dissemination reports from
Dr Cook's research on CSR and ESV. These report both on impacts of the
projects and the theorisation of the emerging relationships. All the
research discussed above has been built on the accumulation of knowledge
in this field over the past 10 years.
Burchell, J. and Cook, J. (2013), `CSR, Co-optation and Resistance - the
Emergence of New Agonistic Relations Between Business and Civil Society'.
Journal of Business Ethics, 115 (4); 741-754. (ABS 3*).
Burchell, J. and Cook, J. (2012), `Sleeping With the Enemy? Strategic
Transformations in Business-NGO Relationships Through Stakeholder
Dialogue'. Journal of Business Ethics. (ABS 3*)
Burchell, J. and Cook, J. (2011), 'Banging on open doors? Stakeholder
dialogue and the challenge of business engagement for UK NGOs. Environmental
Politics 20 (6).
Burchell, J. and Cook, J. (2011), Employer Sponsored Volunteering Schemes
from the Employees Perspective. Report for users in partnership with Irwin
Mitchell Solicitors & Yorkshire Bank.
Burchell, J. and Cook, J. and Roy, T. (2013), Research Evaluation of the
Cooperative `Together We Can' Volunteering Initiative.
All publications can be provided to the HEI on request. A grant was
awarded from the ESRC Knowledge Exchange Opportunities scheme for £46,500
(plus 50% match funding from HEYCF).
Details of the impact
These three projects have resulted in findings which have impacted on the
practices and policies of the participating organisations detailed in the
testimonies below. In addition to these, the research has resulted in the
formation of the EVN, which has taken the research findings to over 170
organisations in the Yorkshire & Humber region. The EVN emerged out of
the dissemination workshop from the 2010/11 ESV project (facilitated by
Cook and Burchell) and has continued to bring together business, public
and third sector organisations, funded by small grants from the two
Universities, alongside corporate sponsorship from Irwin Mitchell and KCOM
Group. Subsequent workshops have focused on bringing organisations
together to develop strategies for developing ESV collaborations that
offer real benefits to employers and the third sector. The network
therefore constitutes an outcome from the original research project and
also a new pathway for impact for the research. Importantly, the network
findings formed the basis for the ESRC project and are also a key part of
its pathway to impact.
Below are testimonials from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, Yorkshire Bank,
the Co-operative Group, and HEYCF, which summarise the organisational
impact. Core impacts relate to (i) shaping and informing corporate ESV
policies, and (ii) shaping and informing the policies and strategies of
third sector organisations involved in brokering ESV partnerships.
From Irwin Mitchell Solicitors:
"For Irwin Mitchell, the research conducted with HUBS was critical to the
development of the firm's social responsibility strategy in a number of
1) Volunteering as part of appraisals: while the business had long
thought that it would be a positive step to set targets/objectives around
staff engaging in ESV, the research highlighted that many staff did not
see it as such. As a result of the research, the policy has now been
revised on two levels: first, legal associates are required to do a
minimum number of hours volunteering to qualify; and second, for
non-associate employees the appraisals have been revised to give them the
space to discuss their ESV activities, but it is not a formal part of the
assessment. The research also highlighted (much as Irwin Mitchell expected
but had never been able to confirm) that one of the potential barriers to
ESV was the attitudes of line and senior managers. The revisions to the
appraisal policy will reinforce the positive message at a senior level
that ESV is valued by the firm as something in which they should
2) Another key policy outcome from the research with HUBS is that Irwin
Mitchell needed to develop its approach to communicating about
volunteering opportunities. Consequently, the firm introduced a central
`Volunteer Hub' on the intranet which enables all offices to post their
volunteering opportunities. This is supported by a regular programme of
communication to drive more traffic to the site. The result is that far
more employees are now taking up the volunteering programme in the
regional offices" (Communications Manager).
From Yorkshire Bank:
"The research by HUBS provided the Yorkshire Bank with evidence to
demonstrate the importance of ESV, and the findings have been used to
promote volunteering and its positive impact. The findings have:
1) Helped employee communications benefit from the evidence taken from
the report. The bank has used the findings to help promote opportunities
in need of support and to demonstrate the impact of ESV.
2) Been used to demonstrate the business case for ESV to the Bank's
directors, strengthening the case for ESV to remain part of the bank's
Community Investment Strategy.
3) Been used to share best practice with organisations at Business in the
Community forums and with individual companies.
4) Been used to demonstrate the impact of ESV, which has contributed to
successful award applications, both for individuals and volunteer teams.
5) Been shared with the bank's Media Team to shape communications and
demonstrate the importance and impact of ESV" (Community Affairs Manager).
From Co-operative Bank:
"The `Together We Can' project involved developing a series of nine
environmental challenge volunteering days in the Co-operative Group's
North region in partnership with FCFCG. This was the first time the group
had brought together members and staff for this kind of volunteering
event; therefore, it was keen to undertake some detailed and independent
research to evaluate the impact and enhance our understanding to inform
future project design. The support of HUBS was very much appreciated in
this respect and the findings provided a range of valuable insights into:
- the differing motivations of staff and members for volunteering, and
the differing motivations among our employees
- the experience of the community host organisations and the issues to
consider to ensure that partnering with the Co-operative is a positive
experience for them
- the challenges faced by staff in our different businesses in terms of
availability for volunteering activities of this nature, i.e. one-day
- the level of understanding of the Group's volunteering policy in
different parts of the business, among employees in general and among
These research findings are built into the Membership Team's development
of future projects, which involve member volunteering, staff volunteering
or working in partnership with community organisations. The research
findings on `Together We Can' have also been utilised by the Social Goals
team and will help to inform ESV throughout the business". (Co-operative
and Membership Manager - North Region)
"The project with the Co-operative Group and the research with the
Universities of Hull and Sheffield has been important internally in terms
of developing our approach to both partnering with business, and our
decision to now undertake a feasibility study around the Federation
developing a specific brokerage capacity. During this feasibility study we
have been utilising the research findings - firstly to understand how to
pitch business/third sector partnerships so they meet the needs of the
business. The second area we have utilised is how to effectively support
our member organisations in their engagement with business; one key point
is that the research has evidenced the infrastructural support that our
members will need to engage, and also the importance of the Federation
providing a level of organisational vetting to help our members to engage
with businesses that share our values on the environment. Finally, the
research has helped us to realise that our role as brokers could form an
important new income source for the organisation. Without this research
none of these developments would have been possible". (Northern Regional
From Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation (HEYCF)
"This has been a fantastic collaboration which has enabled us to develop
new relationships and further our business. It has been an absolute
pleasure to work with both the Universities of Hull and Sheffield and
hopefully this will just be the start of a very positive relationship.'
(Chief Executive HEYCF).
"Working collaboratively with the Universities of Hull and Sheffield has
been hugely beneficial in developing a commercialised approach to ESV, and
our CSR brokerage. HEYCF had a good understanding of brokering ESV to
employers. Our knowledge of the requirements and concerns of employers,
and our relationships with them, were far less developed. The research has
significantly supported us in addressing this gap, providing access to
high-quality, well-structured, qualitative intelligence on employer
drivers and requirements. It has been highly instrumental in `opening
doors' to new relationships with businesses, which had previously been
hard to engage. The structured, research-led interviews in phase 1 have,
in several cases, led the businesses themselves to initiate
evaluations/refinements of their approaches to community engagement. This
has resulted in HEYCF being commissioned to undertake pieces of work on
community engagement and ESV for some of the city's largest employers. The
research has shown that the choice of broker is far more influenced by
confidence in personal connections and recommendations than `traditional'
marketing activity. This will undoubtedly prevent us expending time and
resource on marketing activity which is likely to add little or no value.
The collaboration has given HEYCF added confidence to address
ideologically uncomfortable questions around brokerage - particularly,
whether there is a `role' for smaller, grassroots organisations which
present serious quality assurance challenges. This in turn has led to
exploring how HEYCF might work with more traditional Voluntary Community
Services (VCS) infrastructure organisations to tackle these issues.
Finally, our experiences and findings (and employers' views), are
currently feeding into the development of a pioneering new IT platform for
volunteer brokerage, which is being developed by the North Bank Forum for
Voluntary Organisations" (CSR Engagement Officer, HEYCF).
Sources to corroborate the impact
All of the below are happy to be contacted to corroborate the impact:
1) Communications Manager, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
2) Corporate Affairs, Yorkshire Bank
3) Co-operative & Membership Manager, Co-operative Bank
4) Northern Regional Coordinator, FCFCG
5) CSR Engagement Officer, HEYCF