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Pilotlight seeks businesses for programme supporting environmental charities with skilled volunteers

A mixed race middle-aged woman stands in an office, with her hand on her hip

Pilotlight is looking for businesses to join a new practical pro bono programme that will match environmental charities with skilled volunteers to drive climate action.

It wants to support 6,000 environmental charities and the one in five social enterprises that focus on climate action and sustainability, and is asking businesses to join and support their employees in helping these charities. The programme will share skills across sectors and promote collective learning to encourage, spread and grow positive action for sustainability.

According to Pilotlight, there are around 16,000 charities and social enterprises in the UK working for a sustainable future. However, its recent survey of nearly 300 environmental charities found that 63% are actively looking for professional support from skilled volunteers. The skills gap is greatest for smaller charities, with 50% having no business plan for the year, and one third with no way to measure their impact.


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The research found too that while being strong on vision, environmental charities are lacking some of the key management tools for effective planning and benchmarking. Almost one third (30%) have no Key Performance Indicators that they monitor, only just over half (56%) have an agreed business plan with goals for the year, and one in three (34%) have a theory of change to translate their vision into the work they do.

In terms of the professional skills that environmental charities are looking for in the medium term, marketing and fundraising is the most common support needed (84%), followed by evaluation (76%), diversity, equity and inclusion (69%), strategic planning (67%), and information systems (65%).

100,000 skilled “climate volunteers” needed

Pilotlight found that lack of time and resources is preventing charities from upskilling existing employees and volunteers, with about 40% of respondents spend 1% or less on training and development, and one in ten (10%) is spending no money at all.

It estimates that 100,000 skilled “climate volunteers” are needed to accelerate environmental action in the UK. Looking at who volunteers, it found that those who volunteer with the support of their employer are twice as likely to be people of the global majority as the population at large (23%), while virtual volunteering is growing with NCVO research finding that 31% of those who volunteered in the last year did some of it online or over the phone.

Ed Mayo, CEO of Pilotlight, said:

“Charities are a catalyst for action and are full of innovations for turning climate ambitions into reality. But as our research shows, they lack the capacity, skills and resources to do so. We have found there is a clear appetite and call for skilled climate volunteers to close the skills gap. Now is the time to explore how businesses and charities can learn from each other, to generate greater impact faster.”

Pilotlight believes pro bono skilled volunteering is a two-way exchange where businesses can also learn from charities, and environmental organisations who took part in Pilotlight’s research reported key strengths in engagement and outreach (70%) and general leadership (40%).

Commenting on the programme, Matt Sparkes, Sustainability Director at Linklaters LLP, said:

“This is a simple and compelling idea, that businesses like ours who want to take action on climate change can enable staff to flex their workplace skills in order to help environmental charities and social enterprises. We can all learn and benefit from skilled volunteering of this kind.”