Corporate Volunteering Revealed - New Survey
23 March 2006 at 12:03 pm
Volunteering Australia with Australia Cares (under the auspices of Melbourne Cares) has released its much awaited survey on corporate volunteering – pointing to challenges for both business and the Not for Profit sector.
Overall the survey findings reveal that corporate volunteering is regarded as a positive and worthwhile endeavour for a company and its staff as well as benefits for the Not for Profits. However NFP’s need to develop more volunteer projects to engage the corporates.
“It takes a lot of work to establish, maintain and communicate. However, the staff love it…” wrote one respondent.
Importantly the survey says 80% of companies also reported receiving positive feedback from Not for Profit organisations with which they had worked.
Volunteering Australia mailed out a self-completion survey to 164 companies which have a corporate volunteering program. The two-month collection period closed in November 2005. Fifty responses were received, representing a 30% response rate.
The research revealed that the majority (71%) of programs were established between 2003 and 2005 and that most companies surveyed were from the finance/banking/insurance sector. Company size was spread evenly between less than 500 employees to up to 4000.
The survey found that corporate volunteering programs are predominantly run through a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) division. 54% of respondents ranked CSR considerations as the main reason why their company engaged in volunteering programs, closely followed by the reason that it allows employees to make a contribution to the community (52%).
Volunteering Australia says it’s hoped that these survey findings will provide a resource to companies, it is not the intention to prescribe a ‘one-size fits all’ model of corporate volunteering. “It is not possible, nor preferable to take a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to corporate volunteering programs.
“Both parties need to be flexible and open to change,” wrote another respondent. The different models adopted by companies can reflect the specific objectives of a company’s program.
Despite the majority of programs being recently initiated, nearly half (48%) were at the stage of being fully implemented with staff actively involved and a further 20% had been running for some time and were now being reviewed. Only a small percentage was at the early stages of development.
A large percentage of companies (43%) had a specific corporate social responsibility division that was responsible for the running of the program. Other companies utilised departments such as human resources, public affairs or marketing to manage their programs.
One respondent recommended that the volunteering program does not “operate within a vacuum”. Running an effective program is a collaborative effort which cuts across multiple departments within a company such as CSR, HR and Sponsorship.
It was also revealed that 40% of respondents allow their staff one day of work time to contribute to volunteering and a further 21% allow two to three days per year. 6.3% of respondents allowed up to one week, and 2% more than one week.
However 31% of companies do not allow staff any work time to contribute to the program. 77% offer volunteering opportunities to staff in all office locations and the majority of companies (76%) allow all staff to participate in the program with 39% also encouraging partners, family or friends of employees to participate.
The majority of respondents identified that having a well-organised, resourced and managed program was a key learning into how to run a successful program.
The survey found that upper management support is integral to a well-structured and resourced program. Ideally, support from management would extend beyond the investment of resources into genuine validation of the worthiness of volunteering through their own participation in, and promotion of the program.
In order to ensure the corporate volunteering program is meeting objectives, 72% of companies have mechanisms in place to report on the outcomes or performance of the program.
The most common factor measured is the percentage of employees participating in the program (80%), feedback from employees and employee hours. The companies mainly use the information in reviews to provide feedback to management (92%), to refine and improve the program (86%) and for corporate social responsibility reporting (83%).
It is evident from the research that companies are offering staff a variety of options in the type of work they can participate in.
While most companies (70%) rely on their Not for Profit partners to identify opportunities, 20% employed the services of a broker to assist them with the running of the program.
The research reveals that most companies make a concerted effort to encourage staff participation in the program with 87% encouraging staff at an organisational level, 70% providing information to enable employees to initiate involvement and 64% assigning certain employees as ‘motivators’ or ‘champions’ to encourage others to participate.
Almost 39% of respondents indicated that they encourage partners/family/friends of employees to participate in the corporate volunteering program.
While open-ended comments also revealed a desire to find roles more closely associated with their employees’ professional skills, others have found that these types of roles may not necessarily be of interest to staff, and possibly this preference reflects more about what management believes is a worthwhile volunteering activity.
The survey found that 53% of companies extend their insurance coverage to staff while they are volunteering.
Managing the risk of engaging staff in external volunteering activities was acknowledged by most respondents as a shared responsibility between the company and the Not for Profit organisation. Most companies (52%) ensure that the NFP organisation has adequate public liability insurance and confirm that the NFP’s provide training to undertake the activity, while 38% of companies undertake their own risk assessment of certain tasks.
Participation in volunteering activities is sometimes the first step towards forging longer-term partnerships between companies and Not for Profit organisations. Many companies indicated that they also contribute in kind and/or financial support (74%) to enable volunteering projects to take place.
The volunteering activity has also led to companies becoming more involved with the Not for Profit through workplace giving programs and the contribution of additional in kind and financial support. This suggests that Not for Profit organisations are benefiting in ways beyond receiving volunteering support.
As the demand for corporate volunteering activities strengthens, the survey says the challenge is to create a confluence between the needs and expectations of the companies and those of the Not for Profit sector.
Most opportunities are occurring within the community / welfare sector, followed by education / training / youth, and in a range of roles but predominantly repairs / maintenance and fundraising activities.
In the volunteer category of repairs / maintenance / fundraising here are high rates of participation in these roles by corporate volunteers.
The key challenge facing companies with a corporate volunteering program is that employees have limited time to devote to volunteering – 64% of companies surveyed listed this as one of the three main difficulties they face.
Other key challenges include finding suitable volunteering opportunities (38%), finding meaningful volunteering opportunities (38%) and finding suitable NFPs that have the capacity to accept assistance (36%).
The survey says it is evident that there is still a need to build the capacity of the Not for Profit sector to produce more opportunities (“it is the business that needs to drive it otherwise the opportunities are not presented”), and create more volunteering roles linked to professional skills.
And looking to the future many corporates reported they would be maintaining or expanding their program, creating more volunteering opportunities.
A full report of the survey findings including the survey instrument and frequency distributions for each question is available on Volunteering Australia’s website www.volunteeringaustralia.org