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The ‘On-Ramp’ and ‘Continuum’ of Corporate Volunteering

24 September 2014 at 10:26 am
Lina Caneva
Microvolunteering and progressive pathways in corporate volunteering programs will lure the millennial workforce as they seek out opportunities to make a difference, an international expert has told a Melbourne workshop.

Lina Caneva | 24 September 2014 at 10:26 am


The ‘On-Ramp’ and ‘Continuum’ of Corporate Volunteering
24 September 2014 at 10:26 am

Microvolunteering and progressive pathways in corporate volunteering programs will lure the millennial workforce as they seek out opportunities to make a difference, an international expert has told a Melbourne workshop.

Mei Cobb, Director of Volunteer & Employee Engagement at community development organisation, United Way Worldwide told an audience of Not for Profit and business representatives that emerging trends in corporate volunteering gave employees the chance to build on their past volunteering experiences.

She said that this was particularly pertinent to millennials, who would play a key role in shaping corporate volunteering in times to come.  

“If we want long-term sustained change and impact, money’s incredibly important…but if we don’t engage people, if we don’t have people involved in it, there won’t be lasting change,” Cobb said.  

“By 2025 [millennials] will be the largest part of the workforce. They’re a bit different in what they been exposed to, what they’ve dealt with.

“They love microvolunteering as a starting point. It’s a simple thing but you’ve piqued their interest…I see that as an ‘on ramp’.”

“It is on the uptake. It’s definitely something that folks are thinking about.

“It’s something you can do while you’re waiting for the train….to support someone. It’s a challenge in that, does it all really add up? Is it a way about engaging people and thinking up new things? I don’t know, we shall see.”

Cobb said it was particularly important that millennials were able to build on those initial experiences to satisfy their tendencies towards leadership and group work.

“The thing millennials are keen about is that they like to collaborate in groups. They see different entry points, the ‘continuum’.

“Remember the continuum!” It’s one the pluses of having a strategic plan around how you move people through this,” she said.

“[After microvolunteering] they love the idea then of moving to one-time volunteering events. They love to get involved, be in groups. I think there’s a way to move from one-time onto a team, and then regular volunteering.

“They also love the idea of leadership roles- they just sort of see that as the way for them."


Cobb said millennials had noted volunteering through work as a top reason for job satisfaction, and that it could be key in effective talent recruitment.

She spoke of programs offered by professional services firm Deloitte, where millennials in tertiary education were given the opportunity to undertake an ‘alternative Spring Break’ volunteering alongside Deloitte employees.

“It’s really a mechanism to recruit new employees. There’s a whole array of motivations. a slew of reasons of why you’re doing it from the business side,” she said. “Where it’s aligned or integrated with HR is an important piece.”

“I think it’s really, really important to be strategic…you need to have a plans and be thoughtful around it. Does it make sense that these are the types of things we’re doing? Knowing your goal is important.

“People come to their volunteering activities with a variety of different motivations. It doesn’t mean you have to have endless opportunities, but some opportunities for folks to be engaged with it.

“The landscape of employee volunteering is diverse. It’s very transactional, to very relational. It’s very episodic.

“It’s more than the act of delivering a critical service. It really is a way to engage your employees, a service…to be part of a movement.

“You have to invest in it as well to get the ROI you want to have. I wouldn’t treat volunteering just as an employee benefit,” Cobb said.

During the the workshop, hosted in conjunction with wealth management company AMP,Cobb addressed four trends she said were shaping corporate volunteering globally:

  • Skilled Volunteering
  • Millennials
  • Measuring Social Value
  • Value to Business

The event preceded the Sydney leg of her Australian visit with United Way, which is the world’s largest privately funded Not for Profit, with over 1,100 branches in North America with 1,800 worldwide in 41 countries.

In Australia, 3000 United Way volunteers support 300 community organisations, focused on three key areas: Education, Health and Income.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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