Close Search
News  |  Social Affairs

5 Strategies to Transform Your Corporate Volunteering Program

14 May 2013 at 6:06 pm
Staff Reporter
As part of National Volunteering Week, Doug Taylor from United way highlights five strategies that corporations from across the world have used to transform their volunteer programs.

Staff Reporter | 14 May 2013 at 6:06 pm


5 Strategies to Transform Your Corporate Volunteering Program
14 May 2013 at 6:06 pm

As part of National Volunteering Week, Doug Taylor from United way highlights five strategies that corporations from across the world have used to transform their volunteer programs.

I’m lucky enough to be able to have some fairly frank conversations with corporate leaders about their volunteer programs. While most of them would suggest that their programs have all the basics in place and are doing some good things, more often than not they will suggest that they believe they can do better and would like to see more employees engaged, their people utilised more strategically and greater levels of impact created in the community.

As part of National Volunteering Week, I want to take this opportunity to highlight 5 strategies that I have seen corporations from across the world use to transform their volunteer programs.

There is enormous potential within Australia to capitalise on the enthusiasm and expertise of corporate volunteers, and the support and investment of their employers, in order to bring about effective community change.

Be fit for purpose
It sounds overly simplistic but the key question to ask yourself is; why do you run a volunteer program?

So many corporate volunteer programs have become transactional services for voluntary experiences without an overarching purpose. Of course there’s a place for this but it’s critical to remember that corporate volunteering is a means to an end but not end in itself. The end should be about improving people’s lives in the community.

Here’s a question to think about; can you clearly articulate how someone’s life will be improved by a specific volunteer activity or program that you operate? Being able to do this might help people understand how what they are doing really makes a difference. Being able to clearly communicate this to your people can really fire up your program.

Build clear pathways
Just like every customer is not the same, so too are employees. Every workforce has different demographics and it’s critical that these are understood to ensure a corporate volunteer program reaches its potential.

This means creating multiple pathways into and along your program. What does this mean? Firstly it’s important that there are different ways into volunteering in order to create a variety of different programs to attract the diversity of your workforce.

One size doesn’t fit all! Similarly once people have been engaged in a volunteer program they are often open to doing more activities so it’s critical that this be capitalised on by providing opportunities for people to move along the volunteer journey.

At United Way we often see people start with our Team Volunteering programs, moving into Engaged Volunteer programs where they support people more directly and then to Strategic Volunteering where they are able to exercise their leadership and specialist skills.

Power your program through peers
You know better than anyone that no one person can transform a corporate volunteer program. It needs a team and workplace peers are critical allies to energise and scale a program. Ideally these allies will be at all levels of your business and can be from both formal and informal networks.

Champion’s networks of employees are a great tool for creating ideas, disseminating information, recruiting volunteers and creating a pipeline of advocates for your community program. Of course this won’t happen without engaging, training and equipping them to do this work, but it’s a worthwhile investment and sure to get a return.

Develop an integrated program
One of the greatest problems that corporate volunteer programs face is that they often look like a lot of good ideas thrown together by competing interests in the organisation. One simple strategy that can have a transformative impact is to better integrate volunteering efforts.

You can start doing this is by leveraging existing core community partnerships including ones that might be supported through fundraising and grant making initiatives.

Once you do this start to look at the many other ways you to touch the community and explore how these connections can be better leveraged for volunteering. But remember a few deeper relationships are more efficient to manage and more compelling in your communications.

Apply CANI
The best form of transformation comes from the virtuous loop of acting, reviewing and improving or CANI- Continuous and Never-ending Improvement. At United Way we recently released our Community Impact Report and core to this was our public reflection on two key questions that are critical to seeing improvements in corporate volunteers programs; ‘As a result of our learning from the year prior what did we do differently?’ and ‘What have we learnt this year and how this will influence what we will do differently next year? It’s fun to be caught up with the new and exciting programs but this can only be done on a solid foundation of improvement.

As well as celebrating the efforts of the 3000 volunteers that United Way worked with last year, I also want to use this opportunity to recognise the contribution of those people who are responsible for delivering corporate volunteer programs. There people are the ones working away in the background and are often not acknowledged for their efforts, so thanks.

Corporate volunteering has come a long way since we started engaging with our corporate partners 10 years ago and I hope that this article might get you thinking about what we can do in collaboration to get better outcomes for corporate volunteers and the communities we serve.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


Webinar Value Packs

Get more stories like this



  • Clare Desira says:

    Hi Doug, Fantastic advice! My name is Clare Desira and I manage the NAB Employee Volunteering Program which turns 15 years old this year, works with over 450 community organisations and saw 17,000+ days volunteered last year alone. I see many organisations wanting to engage employees in their CSR programs who look to corporate volunteering as a quick win. One bad experience with a corporate volunteering program or unrealistic approach from a corporate can sour a community organisation’s interest in the idea altogether. The organisations we work with are forever sharing examples of unrealistic demands that aren’t meeting genuine community needs coming from corporates. If approached well, it can absolutely be a win/win for all involved. To help with this and share NAB’s lessons and tips, I have set up a regular session with state peak VicVolunteering and a community organisation to provide a best practice view from three perspectives. Dates for the next sessions will be released shortly. For more information contact Perhaps you would like to be involved Doug or suggest the session to others so together we can capitalise on the potential, enthusiasm and expertise of corporate volunteers in Australia through best practice programs?

    • Doug says:

      Totally agree Clare- you guys are doing great work, it’s fantastic that you are helping others. Happy to support the workshop


    • Anonymous says:

      Interesting how the nab program has been hijacked and now for part of employees ‘Balanced Scorecard’. If you don’t do your “volunteering” days you are penalized via your scorecard which in turn effects wage growth/promotion/recognition. Very nice program and nab should be applauded but questions need to raised when senior management have goals in number of hours to be achieved so they can put in a glossy annual report and say ‘Look how good we are!’ Is this the banking industry’s version of Greenwashing??

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


National Volunteer Week shines a spotlight on volunteers

Mark Pearce

Monday, 16th May 2022 at 3:17 pm

The end of 'voluntourism' and the rise of skilled volunteers

Victor Lee

Monday, 28th March 2022 at 6:03 pm

Predictions for 2022: Volunteering

Mark Pearce

Monday, 21st February 2022 at 5:19 pm

Volunteering in a time of COVID

Mark Pearce

Monday, 6th December 2021 at 6:09 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook