The Future of Volunteering-Corporate Engagement
Monday, 17th October 2005 at 1:10 pm
Managing and responding to the growing interest in corporate volunteering remains a difficult yet key issue in the NFP sector according to experts at the International Philanthropy Australia Conference.
Pro Bono Australia hosted a conference session called Volunteering: the good, the bad and the future. Founder Karen Mahlab invited Steven Duns, the CEO for the Centre of Volunteering NSW, Michael Perusco, the CEO of Sacred Heart Mission in Melbourne and Trish Toohey, the head of Group Community Relations with ANZ to join her in the discussion.
Stephen Duns told the conference that there are many benefits for workers wanting to volunteer not the least being improved ’employability’ but the issues of managing and responding to their expectations are still need to be resolved.
He says the bad volunteering occurs for a number of reasons: skilled people are given unskilled volunteer work – as if they are obliged to leave there skills at the door, there is red tape and inflexibility within organisations to deal with the expectations of volunteers and the unit costs of handling volunteers is very high.
He says in some cases 65% of costs go towards managing unpaid staff but they get zero attention.
His organisation, the Centre for Volunteering NSW gets two to three calls a fortnight from corporate volunteer teams with unrealistic expectations about finding a project they can all do together on one specific day!
He says the sustainability of volunteering is under threat because :
– Volunteering is not on the policy agenda
– Volunteering policy positions need greater clarity and to be solution focused
– Policy makers need to be informed about the impact on volunteering
– New forms of engagement are required to attract people to volunteering
– The voluntary sector is struggling to deal with the structural change and increasing ‘professionalism’ of volunteering
– The role of the corporate sector in community development is increasing but with little experience and few skills in the area
Michael Perusco told the conference that Sacred Heart Mission has 300 regular volunteers and 150 paid staff with a high unit cost to keep the volunteer program going.
Perusco says the challenge with corporate volunteers is to find appropriate and rewarding work.
He says corporate volunteers can be used successfully to allow groups of regular volunteers step out of the system to take part in training or development programs.
This requires some lateral thinking and organisational skills.
He says this method is already being used successfully at the Mission with volunteers from law firm Ernst and Young.
Trish Toohey from ANZ told the conference that bank staff are given 8 hours paid leave to volunteer.
As a result she says staff are more satisfied and engaged in their regular work.
She says the challenge for ANZ is to better align the interests of the workers with the projects they may want to be involved in.
She says the bank is looking at an awards/recognition system to further enhance their volunteer program.
Toohey says ANZ’s commitment however goes beyond just hours but understanding where and what the causes are.
Karen Mahlab reviewed the Think Tank survey into Volunteering carried out by Pro Bono Australia earlier this year.
Suitable training for volunteers as well as managing their expectations were the key issues to emerge from the survey.
Some 93 Think Tank members from six states completed the survey – 75 % are employed within the Not for Profit sector, 18% within the business sector and 7% from the government sector.
Of all the participants, 20% were volunteers.
More than 50% of participants felt that better training and supervision of volunteers in their organisations including addressing their job expectations, and job descriptions and skills were needed.
Many pointed to more effective program structures to positively engage and retain volunteers.