Not for Profits Struggling to Define Skilled Volunteering Needs
11 March 2015 at 10:12 am
The inability of Not for Profits to define and package skilled volunteering opportunities for corporate employees blocks companies from offering more of their time and expertise, according to keynotes at a Melbourne corporate volunteering event.
Corporate and Not for Profit sector representatives recently convened at Deloitte’s Melbourne offices to discuss strategies and share case studies around skilled corporate volunteering programs – where employees use their professional skills to aid Not for Profits – either in person or remotely via online volunteering portals.
Hosted in partnership with Volunteering Victoria, the event drew keynote speakers including Vanessa Cover, National Director of Responsible Business at Deloitte; Eve Buckley, Manager of Corporate Responsibility at PwC; Bec Lund of NAB; and Kate Randall, Skilled Volunteering Manager at Volunteering Victoria.
“We’ve experienced barriers over the past couple of years in terms of finding new opportunities in skills-based volunteering,” NAB’s Bec Lund said.
“What we have found by talking to our community organisations is that sometimes it can be just a little too hard to locate some of those nice volunteering projects to feed them out.”
Lund said inadequate resources in both corporate CSR departments and community organisations were a barrier to consultation and the level of detail needed for projects to be successfully briefed and completed by corporate employees.
NAB has begun a new partnership with Volunteering Victoria to tackle the problem, enabling them to offer Not for Profit organisations more substantial consultation around their project requirements.
“Internally- there’s only 2.5 of us – [NAB] also didn’t have the capacity to go out and partner with organisations and write up skills-based projects that would fit. That being the case, we thought about other ways we could handle this this year,” she said.
Lund said the services offered under the partnership would provide beneficiaries with help, guidance and advice around which skilled tasks within their organisations might be suitable to be completed by NAB volunteers, and how they could be appropriately prepared to scope and delegate those projects – into “neat and tidy” packages that fit with the time demands of volunteers.
“There are a lot of organisations out there that are ready for skilled volunteering, or have done it before, but just have that time and resource barrier,” Volunteering Victoria’s Kate Randall said.
“Skilled volunteering is a journey, and there are all kinds of organisations out there on that journey. I go out and see some organisations who have never used skilled volunteers before…there’s also a bit of an education issue around what skilled volunteering is, and how that overlaps with corporate volunteering.
“Some organisations, their eyes light up when you talk about skilled volunteering, and they say, ‘It’s a great opportunity, but we don’t actually know what we need done. We don’t have the skills in house to understand what the problem is properly and therefore identify solutions’.
“The aim of this partnership is to reduce the time and effort required on the part of Not for Profit organisations to access skilled volunteers, and to encourage and enable more organisation to take advantage.”
Barriers to the facilitation of skilled volunteering were not confined to Not for Profits, with legal compliance in particular taking on new significance for companies transitioning from offers of unskilled to skilled volunteering opportunities.
Where employee volunteers were offering professional skills, presenters flagged that it was important to take steps such as disclaimer clauses, removing the company from liability for any professional advice given.
“There’s an awful lot more red tape, an awful lot more independence and risk issues, a lot of things we need to cover internally before we can actually upload that opportunity,” PwC’s Eve Buckley said. Complacency, in this area,she added, had proven to be a setback for her team in the past, who had been on one occasion forced to consult with their legal team retrospectively.
Speakers at the event said emerging technological solutions could help overcome some barriers to efficiency.
Deloitte has been running a web-based microvolunteering platform for almost a year now, matching Deloitte employees with “bite-sized” skills-based tasks submitted by Not for Profit organisations.
According to Eve Buckley, PwC will soon join them.
“[PwC] manages skilled volunteering internally…over this last year, since we’ve been scaling up, that internal system, it’s getting to be a bit of a manual process for us, it’s running us out of our capacity, so now we’re working with our own internal digital team to create a brand new web platform,” Buckley said.
“It will be an area where both NFPs and our staff can come in and share ideas and match skills,” Buckley said. “Requests for volunteering can be anything from marketing, to legal, to research – anything PwC does, anything at all you can think of you may need assistance on.”
And despite the challenges, an analysis conducted by the organisation revealed skilled volunteering was ultimately worthy of ongoing investment.
“After a year moving towards skilled volunteering we wanted to see if it was the right thing to do, so we carried out some impact measurement,” Buckley said.
“Moving towards skilled volunteering, we might have had less people involved but we found we had had greater impact.”