Future Directions in Employee Volunteering
12 December 2001 at 12:12 pm
The past two decades have seen an increasing growth in volunteering opportunities through the work place, known as Employee Volunteering or Employee Community Involvement.
Louise Redmond from Positive Outcomes says that traditionally people have become involved in social issues through personal contact in their own communities or through groups such as religious organisations. But traditional links in society are changing and social cohesion is breaking down.
She says many people look to their workplace for ways to become involved in community, rather than their geographic community, or membership of other organisations. Redmond was speaking at a recent forum on employee volunteering hosted by the NSW Premier’s Department, the State Chamber of Commerce and Volunteering NSW.
She says employee community involvement is closely tied in with the drive towards corporate social responsibility, and while not all CSR strategies include employee volunteering many do it because it is what the staff want! Redmond says staff want to see their companies ‘making a difference’ – and sometimes they want to be part of that directly.
She says the biggest change in the future for getting value from employee volunteering lies in how well the Not for Profit sector is able to harness and access the resources that are potentially available. One example is the City Cares/Cares Incorporated style of organisation where a number of Not for Profits come together to provide volunteering opportunities for corporate partners and interested companies.
She told the forum that the challenges for the future are how to build and maintain structures that will genuinely foster an environment where business, Government and the Not for Profit sector can work together to benefit themselves and each other. Yvonne Stewart, volunteer co-ordinator for The Benevolent Society told the forum that it is important to structure employee volunteering within a formal partnership framework. She says both parties can benefit, but they need to acknowledge that employee volunteering requires time and resources on both sides and for the NFP there will also be a direct cost attached. Stewart says more and more, employers are seeking to ‘own’ a particular program or activity, to gain maximum exposure and strategic benefit.
NFP’s whose existing programs are not suited to this may be tempted to develop new programs to meet the employer’s needs, particularly if they are likely to receive financial support as part of the partnership. She says this approach can work, but should be adopted with caution. Corporate employee volunteer programs will have to be tailored to a certain extent to each different corporate partner, but must be deliverable by the NFP.
Stewart says even if a corporate partner decides not to develop a formal employee volunteer program, it is still important to engage their support to encourage employees to volunteer on an individual basis. Information can be distributed via internal newsletters, web sites and bulletin boards and information sessions hosted at the workplace.