WRITER: Rebecca Young
ILLUSTRATOR: David Solm
What comes to mind when you think of ‘volunteers’? School kids shaking a tin? A retiree planting trees? While these are valuable activities, it’s the rise in corporate volunteering that’s making a real difference to community organisations.
Can:Do 4Kids, Townsend House, is South Australia’s oldest charity. We support more than 300 South Australian children each year who are deaf, hearing impaired, blind or vision impaired. For the past 140 years our services have been underpinned by the goodwill of the community, people who generously give up their time and money to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Non-profit organisations today have more diverse volunteer groups than ever before. At Can:Do 4Kids we have a wonderful group of retirees who miss the social bonds of the workplace and working with young people who are at the start of their careers. But we also have many others, who see volunteering as a way of building valuable work experience and networks.
With the increase in the business sector’s community conscience, and the resulting strategic focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, employers across the globe are encouraging their staff to get out into their communities and make a difference.
Tips to manage your volunteers
- Take volunteers seriously.
They might not be taking home a paycheck, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t feel like part of the team. Treat them as you would a new staff member—induction, position description and regular feedback.
- Say thank you. Then say it again… and again.
Nobody ever complained about being thanked too profusely. We all like to be appreciated for a job well done, and this extends doubly to volunteers.
- Make volunteers feel welcome.
Get back to basics—introduce your volunteers to the rest of your team, involve them in fun workplace activities and invite them to special events.
- Communicate well and often.
Having a central point of contact is a great way to manage volunteers. Consider a quarterly email blast to keep volunteers in the loop of what’s going on. Like your core staff, they want to feel as if they’re contributing to your organisational goals.
Indeed, Volunteering Australia says that the increase in employee volunteering schemes equates to 40% of companies allowing their staff one day of work time to contribute to volunteering, and a further 21% who dedicate two to three days per year.
In the current economic climate, many businesses struggle with the short-term impact that traditional sponsorship models can have on their bottom line.
Fortunately, organisations are still passionate about giving back and are keen to align themselves with community-focussed organisations. Corporate volunteering is a great part of a partnership—and both businesses and charities are reaping the benefits.
According to Nielsen’s Consumers Who Care survey (2013), there is a growing consumer sentiment towards socially responsible companies. Since the last report in 2011, the percentage of global consumers willing to reward companies that give back to society by actively choosing socially responsible brands, or paying more for products, grew by 5%—increasing to 50%.
As well as being good for business, organisations such as Westfield, HSBC, and Myer, who regularly support Can:Do events such as our Can: Do Caper, and Farm Day, say that their involvement provides a ‘money can’t buy’ team-building experience. So, volunteering not only offers opportunities for staff engagement, it also breaks down silos across disparate divisions and tiers of seniority, providing new ways for staff to work towards positive goals together.
Statistics show that businesses that encourage their employees to contribute to the community enjoy higher rates of staff retention, especially among the ‘millenials’, 21–35-year-olds who are often described as ‘team and achievement-oriented’.
Deloitte’s Volunteer Impact Survey (2011) states, “If millennials frequently participate in company-sponsored volunteer programs, they are more likely to feel a strong connection and sense of belonging at work. It all adds up to a discernible difference for companies interested in driving the ‘double bottom line’ and making both a business and a social return.”
Times might be tough, but it’s wonderful to see businesses committed to making a difference to their community and still focussing on what they Can:Do.
> For more information, visit the Can:Do4Kids website