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Is corporate volunteering the answer to our volunteering woes?

5 December 2022 at 2:25 pm
Danielle Kutchel
Corporate volunteering programs benefit both workplaces and volunteer-involving organisations, but they take some work to get things right.

Danielle Kutchel | 5 December 2022 at 2:25 pm


Is corporate volunteering the answer to our volunteering woes?
5 December 2022 at 2:25 pm

Corporate volunteering programs benefit both workplaces and volunteer-involving organisations, but they take some work to get things right.

Corporate volunteering programs could play a role in addressing the decline in formal volunteering across the country, according to Volunteering Australia.

Ahead of International Volunteer Day, Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce told Pro Bono News that although research shows there has been a drop in the number of Aussies formally volunteering their time, informal volunteering rates reveal that “more Australians want to participate and volunteer, than don’t”.

See more: Data behind National Volunteering Strategy revealed

Corporate volunteering programs can provide a means to tap into that desire to give back to the community by providing people with structured opportunities to help out volunteering-involving organisations (VIOs).

And corporates are now using volunteering programs to entice new employees on board, he added.

“There’s a benefit for the organisation and we know that organisations are increasingly utilising their corporate volunteering programs and their workplace giving programs to recruit staff to say, ‘hey, we actually do have a sincere focus on our corporate responsibility and here are ways that you can participate in that’. So we know that organisations are utilising that as a recruitment tool, which is a positive,” Pearce explained.

Working together for greater benefit

The greatest benefits of corporate volunteering programs come about when VIOs have the right structure in place to make use of the volunteers, Pearce said.

Often, he explained, those processes aren’t there.

But corporates can help make things easier for both parties by engaging with the set up and resourcing of the volunteering program before allocating volunteers to it, to assist in the VIO’s mission.

VIOs operate every day of the year, taking steps towards their vision; meanwhile, corporate volunteers may only help out for one day a year, which may not necessarily have the impact intended and may create more work for VIOs to prepare for — especially when VIOs lack the resources to put into preparing for that day, he added.

“Whilst I think every volunteer-involving organisation or community-based organisation is grateful for support, oftentimes it’s just an asymmetry between availability of the two organisations to be able to to maximise the benefits of the corporate volunteering intent,” Pearce said.

See more: A new National Strategy for Volunteering is in the works — and you can help shape it

He believes “early stage, honest conversations” between the two parties can help alleviate the issue.

VIOs need to be strict about what criteria they need met in order to host an effective corporate volunteering activity.

“Ultimately if it’s not appropriately structured, it actually dilutes the effectiveness of the organisation. And that’s something that we really don’t want to see because these organisations are doing good work in the community,” Pearce said.

He added there should also be a “genuine desire” from both parties “to find ways forward where everyone benefits” and to make a difference in the community.

“We would hope that there’s a true sense of engagement with the community and a sincere belief in the power of volunteering for their employees [from workplaces],” Pearce said.

“I think we’ve all seen, whether it be greenwashing or whatever the case may be, that it can’t be a tick-in-the-box. But I think increasingly with the sophistication of corporate volunteering programs… the incidences of organisations using the tick-in-the-box approach is far less than it may otherwise have been.”

Signs of success

A good corporate volunteering program, according to Pearce, should be “driven and supported from the CEO all the way through the organisation”.

“It’s one where the employees have real control and say in how that program is structured and to which organisations that corporate is providing assistance. It has strong metrics around impact and time, and money is spent on building those metrics. The importance of the volunteer program is not just articulated internally, but externally as well,” Pearce added.

There should also be a “tangible link” between the missions of the VIO and the corporate.

Successful corporate volunteering programs often draw on employee passions and observations about the kinds of VIOs to support, he explained.

And as corporate volunteering evolves, more organisations are providing flexibility to their staff to pursue volunteering opportunities individually, with the same support that would be given through the workplace program.

See more: Report finds challenges and opportunities for volunteering

There’s also no need for there to be a pre-existing relationship between corporates and VIOs to make the program successful. What matters most is that the two parties communicate with each other to define and implement a mutually beneficial program, with measurable outcomes.

With Christmas just around the corner, Pearce said it’s “never too late” to start a corporate volunteering program.

“There are a veritable plethora of opportunities for people to volunteer their time into the community. And I think importantly for people as they think about this, the best place [to start] is always to look within your community, look within your own neighbourhood… and work from there.

“This is a huge opportunity for corporates to engage in ways that they haven’t before, to assist communities in ways which are really meaningful for those organisations which support the community.”

Looking for a volunteer role? Find your perfect fit on Pro Bono Australia’s Volunteers Board.

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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