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The Value Of Volunteer Brokers Unveiled

Monday, March 19, 2012

Employee volunteering, a little-studied area of the volunteering sector, is the subject of a new research paper by Dr Louise Lee, a senior lecturer from Massey University’s School of Management. Titled Navigating the Volunteering Space, the report lifts the lid on the role brokers play in employee volunteering programmes.

According to Dr Lee, reconciling the interests of employers, employees, and non-profit organisations can present considerable challenges, and brokers have an important, but often hidden, role to play in making volunteering collaborations work.

Dr Lee used Time and Talents for Westminster, an award-winning brokerage service run by UK charity Volunteer Centre Westminster as a case study, and she says the results of her interviews show just how complex and dynamic the task of being a broker is.

“I really wanted to understand and reveal what programmes like Time and Talents do, because they play an important role in nurturing innovation in employee volunteering, which is only likely to grow as the UK government implements its ‘Big Society’ agenda,” says Dr Lee.

“I was surprised at the level of complexity in the work they do. One thing was very clear – brokers do a lot more than just match the skills of employee volunteers with the needs of community organisations.”

While employee volunteering is in its infancy in New Zealand, Time and Talents is a flagship programme for Volunteer Centre Westminster, and Dr Lee believes New Zealand employers and charities have much to learn from this exemplar broker programme.

“My research examines what brokers actually do in connecting people and contributing ideas, knowledge and tools,” Dr Lee says. “Brokers can also encourage best practice and they have an important role to play in terms of innovation because they can help to push the boundaries of what employee volunteering encompasses.”

Gareth Owen, chief executive of Volunteer Centre Westminster, says Dr Lee’s study will help organisations like his to explain the true depth and diversity of what they do to existing and prospective employer clients.

“This is really important, as there are various misconceptions about the role of a broker in this arena, most notably regarding the wider value for money that our service brings to employers,” he says. “Dr Lee’s research also adds enormous credibility to our particular project, Time and Talents.

“Having been chosen as the subject of such esteemed academic research in this field is a great honour and privilege. We hope that similar models can be developed in New Zealand to enable employee skills to be channeled into helping to address local community need.”

Employee volunteering is a term used to describe all forms of volunteering carried out by employees with the support and encouragement of their employer. For a growing number of organisations (both businesses and government), employee volunteering forms part of a corporate social responsibility strategy, and brokers can be used to source volunteering opportunities, manage relationships, and evaluate outcomes. Employee volunteering is one of the fastest growing areas of philanthropic activity for businesses in the United Kingdom, Western Europe and the United States.

Navigating the volunteering space: Understanding the role of brokers in employee volunteering partnerships can be downloaded from the Time and Talents for Westminster website at:


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