Corporate volunteering provides your company with the opportunity to develop staff skills, build teams and bolster your reputation within your local community.
This information will give you the necessary tools to develop your corporate volunteering program.
Getting your Corporate Volunteering Program started
While companies will adopt different programs according to their business objectives, four key principles lay the foundation of sound volunteering programs:
- Internal support;
- Staff choice and involvement;
- Risk management; and
- Meaningful relationships nurtured with not for profit partners.
Consult with your staff
The success of any corporate volunteering program depends on the level of staff participation in any given volunteering activity. Consultation with staff in the initial planning phases can help you frame the program in a way that is attractive to them. When they are part of the decision-making process they are more likely to support it. A program will also hold appeal if it incorporates a degree of flexibility in terms of what types of activities staff can be involved in, when they can volunteer, and who they can volunteer for.
Understand what motivates staff to be involved
Staff will be attracted to volunteering because of the perceived worthiness of the activity, but also because of the opportunity it presents for developing skills, building confidence, the fun aspects of working with colleagues, being out of the office and undertaking a challenge outside of their usual routine. These factors lay the foundation of a successful program.
Things to consider
- Skill-based or non-skill based opportunities – for example: not all accountants want to be the treasurer for the local sporting group, or IT specialists working on a computer
- Time commitment – What is a realistic amount of time staff have available to volunteer? Does this include training time required?
- How far are staff prepared to travel? Research suggests staff prefer activities to be close to home and that take place in the morning so they don’t get stuck at work.
- Weekday or weekend? This may have implications for the company’s insurance coverage.
- Indoor or outdoor? This may depend on the time of year
- Ongoing or once-off time commitment?
- Are there any causes or activities that are of interest?
- Are there any causes or activities that staff specifically do not want to participate in?
Your staff may have expressed an interest in volunteering for a particular cause, or you may have existing partnerships with community organisations. A well-run corporate volunteering program will nurture mutually beneficial relationships with a variety of not for profit organisations or a number of select community partners.
What to consider when partnering with a Volunteer Involving Organisation
- Consider the length of time and commitment your company is prepared to make.
- How will you find organisations? Web-based resources such as www.govolunteer.com.au can help you determine which organisations are seeking assistance in your area (even if they are not advertising for teams).
- Do your staff already volunteer with particular groups which they can recommend?
- Read your local suburban newspaper – stories are always being run about local organisation’s needing assistance.
Once you have narrowed your choice down to a couple of targeted organisations, you can do some research on each to determine whether you will be a good fit.
- What is their capacity/ need for accepting help from a group of volunteers? While most organisations are small, some organisations are large businesses or enterprises in their own right. Your company’s IT skills may not be needed in a large organisation that already has its own paid IT support staff. Similarly, a small organisation may find it difficult to coordinate or manage a large group of volunteers, because it will mean stepping away from other important duties.
- Visit their website. Determine their size and capacity by looking at number of staff and dollar turnover.
- Read their annual report. It will help to give you an understanding of what their aims and objectives are and where you skills may be of assistance
Build the relationship
Make direct contact with the organisation, preferably the person that manages or coordinates the volunteer program. Tell them that you have a team of people keen to help their organisation.
- Make it real – visit them to discuss in person, demonstrating you are serious.
- Make it easy – go to them at a time they nominate. Everyone is busy, but often managers of volunteers work only part-time with managing volunteers only part of their responsibilities.
- Help them to think outside the square – if they say that nothing is available or certain times don’t suit this may be the case, but try to explore whether there might be something that your team could do if someone in the team takes responsibility for organising it.
- Ensure honest and open communication – Ensure there are no false expectations. Encourage the organisation to do the same. If the main reason the organisation is looking to involve volunteers due to a potential for sponsorship and you know that there is no possibility of this, make it clear. It will avoid misunderstanding and difficulties down the track.
- Are there in-kind resources needed to ensure successful completion of the volunteer activities?
- Ensure the volunteer project has a mutual benefit – If the organisation doesn’t value the work being done, the volunteers certainly won’t and are unlikely to undertake volunteering again.
Nurture the Relationship
- Maintain contact with the organisation in the lead up to the project.
- Stay in touch after the project is complete
- Celebrate the completion
- Share the achievement publicly using your social media, website and press releases.
Recognise the relationship
Just as it is important for the organisation to recognise the efforts of your volunteers, it is important that you recognise their efforts in making the day productive and enjoyable for your colleagues. If both parties are satisfied with the outcome, offer a repeat visit with the same or new team of volunteers.
Give the program a brand and identity and spell out what your company is contributing.
- Let new staff know about the scheme as part of their induction into the company.
- Offer support to staff and appoint an internal contact person.
- Have a clear process for involvement.
- Encourage higher levels of management to demonstrate their endorsement of the program by participating in volunteering activities themselves.
Staff choice and internal promotions
- Do not mandate involvement volunteering is an act of freewill.
- Make opportunities attractive and varied.
- Use company champions to promote the benefits of volunteering.
- Profile staff who have volunteered in your internal communications.
- Ask a representative from a community organisation to speak to your staff (remember that half of all volunteers become involved because they were asked).
- Promote opportunities through a range of channels such as cards in the tea room, notes in payslips, posters and fliers.
- Consider structuring the program so that family and friends of staff can become involved. Conservation work, fundraising events and festivals are good examples of inclusive activities.
- Internal awards schemes and award ceremonies. Survey your staff about how they might expect to be acknowledged for volunteering. You may find that they have a preference to not be recognised in a public fashion or feel that the focus should be on the not-for-profit organisations.
- Make your recognition program strong and visible.
- Let volunteers know how they are making a difference.
- Give staff the opportunity to nominate the not-for-profit organisation they volunteer for to receive a financial reward.
- Include articles in newsletters, on the intranet, in emails.
- Distribute a personal thank you letter from the CEO to all volunteers.
- Organise a special day of celebrations during National or International Volunteers Week.
- Promote your staff contributions externally through the website and company publications such as annual reports.
- Best Practices in Workplace Staff Volunteering Programs, The Points of Light Foundation with Sue Vineyard, Editor. The Points of Light Foundation, 1996.
For more information please State/Territory peak body.