Employee volunteering

Employee volunteering is one way in which businesses can fulfil their social responsibility

Typography

Companies which engage in employee volunteering actively support and encourage their employees to volunteer their services to a local community organisation.

Employee volunteering involves the contribution of time, talent, energy, skills and resources by the company’s workforce for community benefit.

Benefits for corporations

  • Improved community perception and related marketing opportunities
  • Creation of culture of caring, empathy and community awareness
  • Improved communication as people from different sites, departments and levels of seniority work together on social community initiatives
  • Support and approval of local community by the demonstration of good social policy practice
  • Improved relationships with local customers who are aware of the organisation’s interest in the community
  • Demonstrated ‘corporate citizenship activities’
  • Networking and word of mouth opportunities through community links
  • Improved moral and motivation
  • Bridging the gap between company and community
  • Lower staff turnover
  • Better company relations
  • Positive effect on productivity
  • Greater job satisfaction for employees
  • Increase in employee knowledge, skills and abilities
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased personal and professional growth in employees.

Benefits of employee volunteering for nonprofits

  • New talent and energy interacting in the community
  • New resource access complementing community needs
  • Fresh perspective of company operations and company community involvement
  • Low cost solution to addressing community issues and needs
  • Direct targeting of community needs
  • More open and inclusive involvement and interaction
  • Building trust and reciprocity amongst stakeholders
  • Improving community health and development.

Steps to engaging with communities

Developing meaningful socially responsible partnerships can be hard work.

Organisations want to be socially responsible, and want to support their communities, but it can sometimes be a time consuming and complicated process.

A dynamic and viable volunteering program is responsive to community needs and wants and emphasises matching employee volunteers to volunteer opportunities (both roles and projects) with community organisations.

To make this process happen we need to:

  • Understand that the relationship between the community and corporate organisation is reciprocal and take into account the desired outcomes of both entities accordingly
  • Remember that employee volunteers have their own community interests and passions, therefore demand a variety of roles and opportunities, not just top driven team projects
  • Link the volunteer opportunity to the nonprofit’s broader mission, highlighting the significance of the contribution, encourages ownership and increases satisfaction in the experience
  • Acknowledge that volunteers, corporate organisations and nonprofits have high expectations of a employee volunteering program. For this reason, there needs to be strong direction, agreement, effective and efficient communication channels and support from all parties at all levels.

Establishing an employee volunteering program

1. Gauge the level of interest of your staff & the sorts of roles they might be interested in doing

Apart from making your employees feel good about working for your business, there are two other important objectives:

  • Team building
  • Developing skills and experience (for example, leadership, communication, project management)

Volunteering should always be a question of choice but the success of your program will ultimately depend on how much your employees embrace the opportunity. A survey of ORIMA’s staff revealed that while 75% were interested in volunteering through work, most preferred to do volunteering projects which were once-off and unrelated to their professional skills.

2. Determine which causes or organisations you want to support

Do you have a preference for supporting smaller organisations or are you looking for a strategic fit with your business? (for example, an arts supply store might support a community arts group, or a toy store might support a children’s charity). Helping not-for-profits reminds them that someone cares about what they do.

Carl from Mortgage Choice has seen a need in his local community for better transport options for people with a disability and is hoping to focus on supporting this cause in the future. His advice for other small business owners is to make some time for volunteering, seek out groups to support through volunteer resource centres and the local council, and lastly find one you are passionate about.

3. Consider what your objectives are & what sort of volunteering will help you achieve them

Through your volunteering program, are you aiming to:

  • Make a substantial contribution to changing issues in your community?
  • Network and gain exposure within the community?
  • Build team cohesion?
  • Develop employee skills or give younger staff opportunities to gain experience?

Carl prefers sponsoring his chosen nonprofits rather than donating money, as it enables active involvement and delivers opportunity for promotions. In exchange for sponsorship from nonprofits Carl seeks the opportunity to give presentations at events, signage and recognition through newsletters and websites.

4. Set targets & determine when low periods in the business are likely to be

ORIMA’s Director, Liz, is careful not to make time-pressured staff feel burdened by volunteer work; therefore, it’s important that the program is flexible and enables staff to contribute in their areas of interest and capability.

Matt and Tony from Creative Junction are selective about how they give their time to nonprofits, by identifying which causes they wish to support, and predetermining how much support they can give. Matt in particular regards his contribution not as an expense. His focus is on meeting his goals in supporting charities, and he measures the value of his support through how many hours he is able to donate. By tracking his contribution he is able to feel a sense of achievement from his efforts and time.

5. Communicate with the nonprofit from the outset

Adopt an open approach to communication with the nonprofit partner. Discuss what their needs are and how you could best support them. Help them define exactly what their needs are. Can you supplement the support with in kind donations, financial assistance or the use of office equipment and meeting room space?

Find out what they might be able to offer you in return. This could include providing lunch for your staff after they have undertaken the volunteering activity, sending out a media release, giving you exposure on their website, or having your signage at their events.

Good communication is a fundamental ingredient for a sustainable volunteering partnership and will help you discuss and clarify any differing expectations.

6. Make a realistic assessment of each other’s capacity

Try to determine this at the beginning. For example, if they’re looking for a new business plan will they have the time to regularly meet with you, and contribute to its development? How achievable are the actions laid out in the plan?

7. Manage any risks

Check with your insurer that workers’ compensation can be extended to your employees while they are volunteering. If your staff are volunteering during work hours and the volunteering has been encouraged and promoted through the business it is generally considered an extension of their employment.

Check that the nonprofit has adequate insurance and follows appropriate health and safety procedures.

For more information visit Volunteering Australia’s website.

8. Clarify with the organisation the length of the project, the expected outcomes & what amounts of time you can reasonably contribute

If there is a discrepancy between the length of the project and the length of volunteer time available, work with them to break the assignment down into stages and develop processes for handover.

Perhaps there will be opportunities to transfer the volunteer’s knowledge and expertise to staff within the organisation which will help build their self-sufficiency.

9. Recognise efforts & evaluate the success of the partnership

Upon the completion of the volunteering project, thank the staff who volunteered and the nonprofit for the opportunity to partner with them. Evaluate the program by seeking their feedback on how they perceived the success of the program.

10. Exiting a partnership

If you’ve been involved in a complex project with a nonprofit but are no longer able to continue supporting the organisation, make sure they are equipped to continue the work.

Ensure you have transferred to them the knowledge they need to maintain the project. Advise them on what you think the next steps should be (for example, if you have been helping them with a business plan, how do you suggest they go about implementing it?)


Support from Volunteering Queensland

As the peak body for volunteering in Queensland, we’re committed to assisting both business and nonprofits to work effectively together through employee volunteering.

Search current employee volunteering opportunities across the state or contact our Helpdesk on (07) 3002 7600 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Photo: IKEA corporate volunteers helping at Logan's Volunteer Community Games