Building a volunteering programme that’s practical and purposeful

Leaders around the globe are presented with an opportunity to transform the economic system. And professional volunteering, using your expertise in service of good causes, is a practical way for corporate workers of all levels to support this transformation. It’s a way for professionals to invest their time and skills to assist charities and social enterprises in the communities in which their companies operate.


And it’s not only the charities that benefit. The professionals who are doing this purpose-led work tell me they become more rounded individuals. Being exposed to a wider variety of people while being presented with a different set of challenges allows them to grow as humans and as workers. It’s a win-win, because those who use their skills for causes beyond their day job are more likely to progress in their career.  


A recent report by the National Council for Volunteering Organisations shows people’s likelihood to volunteer declined from 80 per cent in 2018 to 77 per cent in 2022. Equally concerning, volunteering satisfaction is lower too. At Schroders, we’re working to change this by emphasising the benefits of volunteering. We do so by offering a range of activities and events to open a window into our purpose-led work.



Putting the social in business


Our charity partner, the Social Business Trust, works with 11 social enterprises. SBT match business expertise with good causes to help social enterprises grow and therefore support more people in education, employment, and health and wellbeing.


Schroders hosted an SBT photo exhibition in June 2023, drawing attention to the people being supported by social enterprises and charities that SBT and Schroders work with


With SBT, we’ve hosted sessions where potential Schroders volunteers learn more about how their skills can be used beyond their day job. Staff come along individually or as part of their teams. During these introductory sessions, SBT benefits from the knowledge of our people as they solve real-world challenges that are faced by the social enterprises SBT works with.


One of the challenges recently presented was how to expand the operations of Health & Independent Living Service so their meals on wheels offering could benefit more people across the country. All the while, working out how to generate increased revenue for the charity and shore up its operating model. Volunteers also explored how Leap, a charity that helps young people navigate conflict, could improve the business-side of its operations by selling its services to a wider range of organisations.  



Volunteering for more selfish reasons is okay – there’s many reasons for giving


We emphasise that volunteering can offer you ways to gain executive level experience with charities and social enterprises we work with. It can allow volunteers to hone their skills in a new environment, opening them up to new ways of thinking outside the regular pressures of their normal jobs.


Recently, a team within Schroders’ business Cazenove Capital, which looks after our clients’ wealth, volunteered for SBT. They advised the CEO of social enterprise DFN Project SEARCH, an organisation supported by SBT which helps young people with autism and learning disabilities into work. The volunteering team advised DFN on how it could improve the pitches they are making to potential corporate partners.


Volunteering enables you to use your skills at a higher strategic level than what you might currently be exposed to. It also gives you a sense of personal achievement. In short, there are many reasons why people give, with often overlapping and complimentary motives that can lead to good results for all parties. 



Championing the champions


Each department at Schroders has a dedicated person to champion the cause of professional volunteering. The champions promote volunteering via word of mouth to their colleagues. They also serve as useful information gatherers, finding out what barriers might be preventing more people from getting involved.


Members of Schroders’ corporate responsibility team making their volunteering pledges


Every second month I host coffee mornings to talk to our champions and potential volunteers about how we can make giving more accessible. It was here that I spoke with a Schroders’ trader who was interested in volunteering. We had a quick and useful conversation about how much time he could give and when would be best for him to volunteer. This put minds at ease and allowed us to manage expectations from the start. It led to him mentoring a leader from the social enterprise sector where his vast expertise could be tapped in an informal setting during one to one catch ups. 


It’s simple yet important to learn these things from the start, to grease the wheels of volunteering, making it easy and ultimately worthwhile for both parties. I always ensure our volunteers have an introductory call with SBT first to work out the expectations and scope of any joint projects that are about to ensue. Getting people on the same page from the start is crucial – it also means the right skills can be matched to the right project or organisation.



Practical and purposeful


By ensuring volunteering is practical – connecting the dots between people’s time and the social impact they are having – it becomes easier to embed notions of purpose into the firm. That is, focusing on the practical use of expertise to help organisations who are supporting young people into jobs, supporting the elderly with food and medical care, or improving UK’s childcare system, to name some of the causes we support.  


For me, it’s about finding the causes that matter to my colleagues and working out how their hard-won knowledge can be deployed in service to these causes. It’s also about finding out what roles my colleagues are looking for in the charity or social enterprise sector that can help boost their careers so they can progress in their careers.


Volunteering helps define organisational culture and, in turn, empowers the business to rise to the needs of society. Let’s grasp this moment and play our role in transforming the economy so it works for more and more people.



By Claudia Buffini, 27th July 2023

Claudia is Corporate Responsibility Advisor to the Chief of Staff at Schroders, a partner of SBT

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If you work at Schroders or for any of SBT’s corporate partners and are interested in volunteering, get in touch with us at

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