Capacity Building Volunteering: A New Approach to Building Your Staff’s Skills

Lord Mayor Dragon Awards 2014

Stepping out of your office training room and into a real life situation can often be nerve-wracking for employees. However, volunteering with a charity, and perhaps outside of your comfort zone, can be an extremely valuable and rewarding way of gaining new skills. Capacity building is a type of volunteering in which employee volunteers support community organisations to up-skill their staff and make their organisations more robust, thus enabling them to focus on delivering the best outcomes for their service users.

Activities can include:

  • Peer to peer mentoring schemes that support charity or social enterprise management to develop business plans and generate new business models and funding streams
  • Delivering training to charity staff to develop their skills and increase their impact
  • Improving back office functions, e.g. HR, finance, marketing, IT and legal
  • Supporting with business development and innovation to improve products/services for beneficiaries
  • Identifying commercial opportunities

Research carried out by the City of London[1]  has found that capacity building volunteering is an extremely effective way of building both soft and technical/professional skills, and can be an effective alternative to classroom-based learning.  Where only 19% of volunteers who had taken part across all types of volunteering agreed they developed technical/professional skills, this figure rose to 33% amongst volunteers who had volunteered as school governors, an example of capacity building volunteering.

Furthermore, 71% of school governors agreed they had developed team working skills, 67% had developed negotiation and influencing skills and 55% had developed problem solving skills.

At the same time, London’s community organisations are crying out for back office support from businesses. With charity funding in very short supply, almost every penny is funnelled straight to beneficiary services, rather than, say, training staff. Yet ensuring that staff members are business savvy is becoming crucial for charities to be able to survive.

If your business is interested in engaging in capacity building volunteering, City Action provides free, tailored brokerage support in finding roles that can help your employees develop their skills.

If your business already engages in this area, you can apply in the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards’ newly launched category ‘Strengthening the Third Sector’. Apply now to demonstrate your community engagement achievements with suppliers, clients and competitors and say thank you to your employee volunteers. The deadline for applications is 23 May 2013.

Two free of charge applicant workshops will be held in April 2014 to support applicants in writing their applications. The first will be a workshop for businesses and public bodies will be on the 23 April and  the second will be a workshop for community organisation and social enterprises on 7 May. See for more information.