70,000 Gamesmakers - volunteering champions or missed opportunity?

Autumn has now taken a grip - its dark when we get up and dark when we get home. So what’s happened to the Olympic feel good factor?

At the moment we’re all talking about who will take over the stadium? Which athletes will get funding towards Rio in 2016? And who will get the BBC Sports Personality award? My money’s on Brandy Simmweir.

But with our volunteering focus here at TimeBank, we’re wondering just how employers supported their Gamesmakers. What help did they get while training and volunteering? Have they been able to share their stories back at work? Will the experience help in their careers?

After all, the 70,000 volunteers who have been universally praised and admired should be a central part of the Games legacy. They are 70,000 volunteering champions who have been recruited, trained and managed at considerable expense. If they each inspire 15 friends and colleagues to volunteer that would be over a million volunteers to add to the legacy of the Games.    

This is exciting stuff and we wanted to move quickly. With the help of our own Gamesmaker Becky, we used social media to issue a survey that starts to address these important questions. Here’s a summary of our results so far:-

  • Firstly, a relatively small number of Gamesmakers work in the private sector (28%). In many ways this is understandable as teachers, students, retirees and people out of work would find it easier to take 2 weeks away in August. 40% were public sector employees while 28% were not working.
  • Most working Gamesmakers had to take annual or unpaid leave for the duration of their volunteering – several employers offered 1 or 2 days paid leave in addition to annual leave entitlement. 6% were able to volunteer entirely in work time and there were many ingenious examples of how hours were juggled and partners stepped in to help.
  • Although the most significant benefit was in learning about their own personal qualities, over 50% learnt new skills such as effective communication and team-working and a third of the volunteers will think differently about next steps in their career as a direct result of being a Gamesmaker.
  • Two-thirds believed their experience will be helpful in their current role and an almost identical number say it will define the next steps in their career.
  • Encouragingly, nearly two-thirds have been asked about the experience since returning to work with many presenting to colleagues and reporting in blogs and in house magazines – there was even a personal thank you from a CEO.
  • However, among those in employment, nearly half have no opportunity at all to continue volunteering with support from their employer and less than 20% will be allowed any allocation of work time for volunteering.   
  • Despite this over 90% would be willing to champion volunteering among their colleagues.

This is a snapshot, yet it chimes with much of what we hear in repeated surveys of employee volunteers and conversations with corporate responsibility practitioners. Even when doing tasks that do not relate directly to work, volunteers develop valuable and transferable skills in communication, empathy and adaptability. They come together to form powerful and lasting teams that sustain themselves organically (and through Facebook!) Yet still we find that this incredible energy that has been funded for a once-in-a-lifetime event is in danger of not realising its true legacy.

There are employers out there that are providing the mechanism, encouragement and investment to help their new volunteering champions to spread the word. However, it does appear from our survey that it was difficult for private sector employees to get involved in the first place and it has been difficult so far for them to carry this enthusiasm back into their working lives.

Any companies looking for support to develop their employee volunteering programme and for volunteering opportunities that make a real difference, should contact us and we’d be happy to advise on next steps.