Corporations Now Recognised as Volunteers
Wednesday, 29th July 2015 at 11:30 am
Businesses have welcomed their inclusion into the new Australian definition of volunteering, released by national peak body Volunteering Australia.
For the first time, corporate volunteering by an entity, that is, a company that organises employee volunteers, is recognised under the new definition.
The change follows a two year review by the national peak body, Volunteering Australia, along with the State peak bodies, to reflect the diversity of volunteering activities.
The broad, new definition states that “‘volunteering’ is time willingly given for the common good without financial gain”.
The explanatory notes set out what is in and what is out, including corporate volunteering by an entity.
Volunteering Tasmania led the review project on behalf of Volunteering Australia and CEO, Adrienne Picone, said that the new definition is aimed at being more inclusive and as such, more enduring.
“This recognises the entity or company as giving the time rather than a focus on individuals who volunteer within their paid working time,” she said.
The Australian Business and Community Network (ABCN) has 33 corporate members, including PWC, Optus and the Commonwealth Bank, involved in their volunteer programs. CEO Jacqui Jones welcomed the change.
“I was so pleased to see that recognised because otherwise it’s a bit invisible to government and to community,” she said.
“One of the things we’ve noticed – we’ve been around for 10 years – was when you talked about volunteering, nobody thought about people who worked for large corporates, or small corporates for that matter, going out into the community and volunteering.
“And more importantly being supported by their employer and effectively sponsored by their employer to go and give up their time to create positive impact in the community.”
Jones said the new definition will make working with businesses easier on a practical level.
“There’s a reason why you say the Commonwealth Bank supports volunteering, rather than trying to say these are all the individuals within the Commonwealth Bank – we’re talking about really large numbers of people,” she said.
“They’ve got around 50,000 employees and thousands of people volunteer with many, many organisations.
“So the idea that you’d say, we’re going to look at that on an individual level makes that incredibly complex. It makes sense practically to say an organisation is taking an approach to volunteering.”
NAB also runs an extensive corporate volunteering program, and this year they will reach one million volunteering hours, which the bank said equates to $50 million in value.
Volunteer Manager, Rebecca Lund, said the announcement will help the Bank further expand its operations.
“It will help us to have constructive conversations with various stakeholders in markets, so they might be community groups, the media or individuals who may not previously have recognised the NAB corporate volunteering program as volunteerism,” she said.
“It’s going to help us strengthen the program, so from that perspective it will help us engage with new potential program partners and community organisations so we can create new connections and offer more volunteering opportunities out to our employees. It’s really going to help us grow the programs.”
While the focus has shifted away from paid staff involved in volunteer activities, Lund doesn’t expect they will be impacted by the new definition.
“It’s early days but… to be honest I don’t think they’re going to be affected by the announcement,” Lund said.
“[The impact] is more on the community side of things where it’s just going to help us reach out and connect with new community groups and offer new opportunities for our employees.”
Along with the practical benefits, Jones said the expanded definition is a step a more inclusive sector.
“I think we’ve always felt a little bit like a fringe dweller in the sense that in the volunteering community we’ve always sat on the edge and so the positive for us is that we now sit in the volunteering community,” she said.
“I love the breadth of the definition, because I think that recognises all the different types of volunteering.
“Philosophically it recognises the contribution of those organisation. They are making people available for volunteering in a way that potentially they wouldn’t otherwise be, and so they do deserve recognition for that.”
Read more on the new definition of volunteering HERE.