Volunteering or sponsoring skills: how to choose?

According to an Admical-CSA report, 74% of the biggest French groups have set up a skills sponsorship program. This impressive figure hides a reality: companies cannot only offer work to their employees; they also have to find a new way to mobilize them.

A wide range of programs exists: so how to find one? A short overview of existing solutions in France:

Skills sponsorship

It is based on the provision of skills to an NPO via voluntary employees involved in their working time. This is the easiest way to set up as it is regulated by the French legislation. On the other hand, it demands a strong commitment from the company because it allows its employees to leave their positions to fulfill their mission. According to an ESSEC report, 55% of respondents chose skills sponsorship, which explains why 70% of missions are less than 5 days (and more than 50% to 2 days). Sponsorship, yes, but do not overdo it either, even if the working time granted to NPOs is tax deductible up to 60%!

The remaining “non-working time” solutions are chosen by 22% of companies. The remaining 23% mix sponsorship and volunteering often depending on the duration of the missions: the longer the missions, the more companies use volunteering.

Solidarity leave®

It is a trademark registered by Planète Urgence, a non-profit organization who joined the SOS Group in February 2017. Planète Urgence connects the employees of companies with NPOs that it has selected for long-term missions (2 to 4 weeks). Planète Urgence trains on 3 days (2 days in the face-off and 1 day at a distance) the future volunteers. Most of this formula: the company remunerates the NPO directly in the form of tax-deductible donations and has nothing more to do next. The least: it has no hand on the choice of NPOs, selected by Planet Emergency, nor on the missions.

International solidarity leave

International Solidarity Leave (CSI) is a French system only. It allows an employee to participate in a mutual assistance mission abroad. The duration of the leave may not exceed 6 months (continuous or cumulative leave). This leave, taken at the employee’s request, suspends the employment contract and is not remunerated. In this case, the employee is the sole decision-maker. This solution does not bring much to the company in terms of commitment and image.

Skills volunteering

This concept refers to an employee’s voluntary commitment to a humanitarian or social mission. The volunteer employee has no account to return to his employer on the content of his mission. He must find an NPO that needs him, accepts him outside his working time and offers him a minimal framework to engage.

The NPOs now aspire to the development of this concept of “pro bono” which allows them to recruit professional skills to support their projects.

The funding is not compulsory for the employer, but it offers many advantages, which are the same as in the case of the sponsorship.

Most companies or Foundations that implement a Skills Volunteer Program choose to pay all or part of the employee’s travel expenses (if any). The Foundations of Schneider Electric, SNCF, EDF and Orange are in the forefront in this field, with hundreds of volunteer employees working with associations in missions close to the foundations of these foundations.

For employees, the benefits of a Volunteer or Competence Program in their company are varied and numerous:

The benefits are shared, making these programs win-win programs. It should be noted that 48% of the skills requested by the associations are personal and not professional: translations, photography, setting up websites, etc.

However, unlike sponsorship, volunteer skills are not governed by any particular legislation, which raises many questions: who manages the employee’s agreement with the NPO? What are the costs reimbursed, for what amount and in the case of an international program which geographical entity pays? Is the budget centralized or not? What about insurance because the mission is outside working hours? Should trade unions agree? Can several employees leave on the same mission? Etc.

A lot of brakes to the implementation of this type of program, despite the many advantages.

Other constraints may be even more important, whatever the form chosen: lack of management support, lack of time for employees, social climate of the company and mistrust of it.

Support from senior management, but also from middle management, communications and human resources departments, is essential for the implementation of such programs. Benefits must be clearly expressed and communicated internally in order to enhance the value of volunteer employees. Beyond that, the testimony of the employees can inspire other vocations and make the program live in time: a major stake too often minimized by companies.

Pascale Strubel

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French Version

Previous articles:

Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing: philanthropy 2.0?

Why create a Corporate Foundation?

Mobilizing employees: a key issue!

Is crowdsourcing the new “business Eldorado”?

Articles to come:

What kind of sponsorship for a company?

Corporate values, why?