Employee Volunteering has become increasingly important in the Corporate Social Responsibility activities of many companies. But it is not always easy for these companies and their employees to find appropriate volunteering opportunities. Similarly, charities can find it difficult locating the right volunteers to suit their organisations.
The social networking platform LinkedIn might have found the solution to these challenges with the launch of their Volunteer Marketplace website.
What is the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace?
The LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace is a portal for connecting professionals who wish to volunteer their skills with charities who might require those skills. Charities are able to post their latest volunteer opportunities to nonprofit.linkedin.com where professionals can them peruse them.
What’s the problem that the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace is looking to solve? It is seeking to connect professional talent – who might not otherwise know where to volunteer – with willing charities; as Sharon McCooey, senior director of LinkedIn Ireland, said at the launch of the project “there are thousands of charities and volunteers across Ireland, but often it is difficult for them to find one another”.
How to navigate the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace
It is relatively easy for charities to start searching for talented professionals on the Volunteer Marketplace. First, they need to set up a LinkedIn ‘Company Page’ for their organisation. Any non-profit worth their salt should already have one of these created. LinkedIn ‘Company Pages’ are an excellent way of posting your latest news and updates – and communicating your social mission – to a more professional, civic-minded audience than you might find on Facebook or Twitter.
Next, using the advanced search function on LinkedIn, charities and non-profit organisations are able to look for suitable volunteers in a similar way to how HR managers search for appropriate candidates on the platform. In the section titled ‘non-profit interests’, the organisation indicates whether they are looking for a board member or a skilled volunteer.
They will then be presented with a list of LinkedIn members who have expressed an interest in volunteering their skills to help a charity or non-profit organisation. From the subsequent search results, the charity can then narrow down the results by job title, geographic location, the industry the volunteer works in, their level of experience, etc. As well as searching for volunteers, for a small fee charities can also post listings of the volunteer opportunities their organisations might currently have. The system allows for a degree of flexibility in that volunteers can offer their skills for as long or as short a time as they like.
LinkedIn has joined with a number of voluntary sector organisations to increase the amount of volunteer roles available on the portal. In Ireland, LinkedIn have partnered with Volunteer Ireland, the development agency who run over 20 volunteer centres in Ireland, and with Boardmatch Ireland, the national corporate governance body for Irish charities. In the UK, LinkedIn are working with equivalent organisations such as the Do-it Trust and Reach Volunteering to ensure any volunteer opportunities posted on their sites also get posted on the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace.
LinkedIn maintains it has 347 million members worldwide, 1.2 million of whom are in Ireland with a further 17 million in the UK. According to figures released by Volunteer Ireland, over 24,000 Irish professionals have already expressed some interest in volunteering on their LinkedIn profiles, so the service has huge potential to direct volunteers towards over-stretched and under-funded Irish charities.
Having tested the portal to see how user-friendly and responsive it might be, the Volunteer Marketplace seems to be easier for a charity recruiter to navigate than for a volunteer to use. For a prospective volunteer, the site does not yet allow you to filter the volunteer opportunities by your town or county (as far as the location options go, you can only select roles in ‘Ireland’). The volunteer opportunities results page could also give more prominence to the charities who have posted the positions, perhaps by posting the charity logo alongside each listing.
Similarly, LinkedIn should provide more options within the ‘Industry’ drop-down menu for a volunteer to select. For example, the portal would be more user-friendly if volunteers could select the specific charity sector where they are seeking volunteer opportunities, whether that is with charities offering services related to children, mental health, animals, the environment, etc. Nevertheless, it is still early days for the Volunteer Marketplace, so it would be hoped that LinkedIn iron out these flaws as more charities begin posting their openings.
The potential of the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace for Companies and Charities
Leaving aside these teething problems, the Volunteer Marketplace could prove to be a fantastic resource for charities to get assistance in areas – from PR and digital marketing to strategy development and IT – where their regular staff might not yet be adept.
But, there are also huge benefits for companies and professionals who get involved. Volunteering allows staff members to develop new skills while working with a charity, or to apply their existing skills in aid of a social cause. They make new contacts, gain experience and acquire new expertise from volunteering which they can bring back to their employer. Progressive companies are well aware of these advantages, and LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace provides the employees of these companies with opportunities where they can share their skills with the wider community.
The LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace might also offer a solution for small and medium-sized enterprises who want to get more involved in CSR or Community Development. Many SMEs do not have the resources or capacity to set up their own Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, so projects like the Volunteer Marketplace could allow their staff to develop their skills by getting involved with a charity or community project.
Even large corporations have difficulties finding suitable opportunities in skills-based volunteering, and portals like the Volunteer Marketplace could be just the place for corporations and charities to find each other.
Have you or your organisation used the LinkedIn Volunteer Marketplace yet? What was your experience of it? Let us know in the comments below.