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Corporate Volunteering - Who Benefits?

21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm
Staff Reporter
Resolving the issues and misconceptions of charities seeing corporate volunteering as cheap ‘team building’ and businesses seeing charities as seeking handouts from business and government, is complicated.

Staff Reporter | 21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm


Corporate Volunteering - Who Benefits?
21 September 2006 at 1:09 pm

What a hot issue corporate volunteering is becoming. If you saw Leon Gettler’s Age newspaper article ‘When you can’t help charity’, it appears based on Hayley Hext’s research (Pro Bono Australia Edition 17 August 2006), just published by Philanthropy Australia that there are problems with business and charities understanding each other.

Our guest writer is Chris Wainwright, an Adelaide based communications and marketing consultant, who specialises in corporate social responsibility issues.

He writes:

Resolving the issues and misconceptions of charities seeing corporate volunteering as cheap ‘team building’ and businesses seeing charities as seeking handouts from business and government, is complicated.

However, if businesses and charities take the time to listen, understand and begin resolving some of the misunderstandings, there potentially is a way forward to building trust and respect between the two sectors.

While you’re doing this, it doesn’t mean one has to stop encouraging or supporting your employees who do corporate volunteering.

When did you last find out which employees do it and what they do? Do you support what they do? Do you find out ways to help them? In addition, when someone asks you for some practical support, do you practice what you preach?

These questions are asked not to be critical, but to reinforce the importance of companies supporting their employees’ volunteering and to remind you that value gaps can quickly kill your credibility.

Companies are ever increasingly supporting not-for-profits which is to be congratulated, through initiatives such as the Federal Government’s Workplace Giving Australia initiative. While that’s good news, we do also need to remember that this often is a company’s starting point for corporate-community engagement.

As it is commonly known, Australia is facing an ageing workforce and combined with record low unemployment, there is a greater need than ever for companies to become ‘employers of choice’.

Many graduates when they are seeking employment are asking their prospective employers the hard questions about how their company meets their social responsibilities. This new generation is not only highly socially aware, but they also do the research. Thus, to get the best employees, it requires companies big and small to undertake and support meaningful corporate volunteering.

Cavill + Co’s PassionPeople™ found that 96% of people choose employees based on their reputation, with 77% of employees wanting to volunteer with workmates in work-time in projects they choose.

For companies participating in corporate volunteering there are many benefits. They include: creating motivated employees, engendering team spirit and leadership and loyalty which all can help increase productivity and discourage absenteeism and early departure of employees.

While those benefits exist, it is also essential that companies don’t do one off volunteering or volunteering which both internally and externally be seen as a marketing ploy rather than building long-term community engagement.

There are many ways for companies to participate in corporate volunteering. Some choose to let a big charity such as Greening Australia, Earthwatch Institute and Mission Australia to organise events that involve many of their employees at once. Other companies have created volunteering projects as part of their community partnerships. While other companies want to allow their employees to volunteer almost autonomously, by allowing them to have one or two days a year off to undertake authorised volunteering work.

What ever your company wishes to do about corporate volunteering, do it because you believe in it, nurture your volunteers and take the time to move outside of your comfort zone and do something which not only what you want to do, but also what the charities need.

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