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A record number of UK companies are encouraging their staff to help community organisations.

Charities and groups that run on a shoestring benefit immensely from the world of work expertise, and the man hours, that are given to them under corporate social responsibility programmes run by large companies.

But on the other side of the fence, what’s in it for the bosses?

Employers say it builds morale and team spirit, makes employees feel happier at work and proud of the company they work for.

Nowadays, a great CSR programme is as much a ‘must have’ as a decent holiday allowance when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.

A survey of 2,500 companies, carried out this summer for Grant Thornton, showed that more businesses are running CSR programmes not just to feel better about themselves, but because it delivers genuine business benefits.

Respondents reported that giving staff paid time off to work in the community makes real business sense.

The Burton Street Foundation, the Hillsborough-based disabilities trust, benefits from over 150 hours every week which are given freely by volunteers on CSR programmes.

Operations director Clare Mappin says her organisation couldn’t survive without them. “We’re seeing more people working at Burton Street by using community days their employers fund,” says Clare.

Volunteering is a ‘win, win’ situation, she believes. “We depend on volunteers for the running of Burton Street Foundation, but we know that companies that send staff to us benefit, too. It’s definitely a win, win relationship.

“From volunteering in our café to helping in sessions for our clients and maintaining the buildings, it’s about being involved – it’s direct and real.

“Companies such as Sainsbury’s and Amey send staff to us to help with whatever we need doing. Volunteers tell us how enriched they feel after they’ve worked here and we know they take that feeling of satisfaction and worth back to their workplace.”

There is another huge benefit for Burton Street, though. The charity exists to help people with disabilities find work and often CSR volunteers help them build relationships with the corporate world.

Clare says: “When people volunteer here they work alongside our clients and see what they can do, rather than what they can’t do. This is crucial to us getting more people with disabilities in the workplace.”

To encourage more Sheffield businesses to develop CSR programmes for their employees, the Burton Street foundation is staging a free workshop featuring giants such as Marks & Spencer, BHP chartered accountants and Kier construction.

These major employers will be letting local companies into the secret s of how their corporate social responsibility programmes benefit them, their employees and a host of charities, at the 8-10am breakfast workshop, which is being staged on Tuesday, December 9.

Guest speakers will include Kathryn Vernon from Marks & Spencer, Dan Maher from Kier, Prof Alistair Bruce from Nottingham University.

Tanya Addy, marketing and communications manager at BHP chartered accountants, will also address the event. “Over recent years we have tried a number of different approaches to fundraising – something which is important to our CSR strategy,” says Tanya. “I never fail to be amazed at how creative and committed my colleagues are when it comes to helping good causes. It’s now a fundamental part of what BHP does. We all benefit from working together on non-work projects and it gives us a great sense of satisfaction to know that we are helping others.”

To reserve a place at the event, being staged at the charity’s premises at 57 Burton St, Sheffield S6 2HH, email, call 0788 1953700 or go to

Matt Russ, a support engineer, spent a number of work days outdoors this summer, happily trimming hedges in the name of charity.

“This summer a team from my employers, customer experience management provider SDL, worked alongside people from Sheffield’s St Wilfrid’s Centre, the charity that helps homeless and vulnerable people. We were fixing up St Wilfrid’s allotment on Heeley Common,” said Matt.

“When I was trimming hedges I was working alongside colleagues who I usually only see in the context of my job, so it was great to work with them in a different way. It develops team spirit, which pays dividends in the office in terms of relationships and productivity.

“The management at SDL believe that how we operate as a business really matters. They encourage employees to get involved in charitable activities by giving us five volunteer days each year. We also have our own charity, The SDL Foundation, which helps disadvantaged communities,” says Matt.

“They understand that helping others less fortunate than ourselves helps us personally and helps with team building and morale.

“On top of our volunteer days we fundraise by selling things on eBay, running 
raffles, holding events and running a tuck shop. I’m pleased to say we smashed our target of £10,000 to help fund St Wilfrid’s new residential unit.”

Every one of infrastructure support service provider Amey’s 21,000 staff nationwide are entitled to a paid ‘community day’ enabling them to choose a local good cause to help out during a day away from work.

Sheffield-based disabilities trust, Burton Street Foundation, is currently enjoying the benefits of this policy.

Graduate environmentalist Jessica Wing grew up in the Hope Valley and is based at Amey’s Distington House office on Sheffield’s Atlas Way.

On her recent community day out she helped redecorate at Burton Street .“I did some volunteering when I was at Leeds University and when I joined Amey a year ago I was pleased to learn about the community day that everyone has,” said Jessica.

“We have a list of good causes we can work with and I chose Burton Street because they have an excellent reputation for helping people with learning disabilities.

“So I organised a group of us to help transform Burton Street’s new factory where they’ll be installing workshops.

“We did painting, gardening and general repair work. It was great fun to do something different and worthwhile with my colleagues.”