Is Corporate Volunteering a Benefit of Self Serving?

Andy Fryar June 1, 2008 4
Is Corporate Volunteering a Benefit of Self Serving?

HOT TOPIC – JUNE 2008

by OzVPM Director, Andy Fryar

Probably the greatest growth area in the world of volunteerism over recent years has been the explosion of corporate or employee volunteer programs the world. This growth has been explosive and in many ways has taken volunteering in directions many of us could barely forecast merely a decade ago.

With this surge in corporate volunteering has come money – make no mistake about it! There are benefits to any company’s triple bottom line in having a happy workforce and it is proven that employee volunteer programs provide a terrific conduit for both satisfied employees and supported not for profit agencies in the community. It stands to reason therefore that those companies who invest in their volunteering programs will gain greater benefits in the long run.

One only needs to look at the myriad of brokerage services which have sprung up around the corporate volunteering agenda – agencies that match the skills of a corporate volunteer with the needs of a non profit agency – to understand this new industry and its potential impact on our sector.

A Volunteering Australia study conducted in 2006 that surveyed many companies with corporate volunteering programs in this country found that:

• The majority (57%) had ‘formalised’ programs with policies, procedures and management approval

• Were investing between $20,000 and $30,000 per annum into their programs while

• 43% had a specific Corporate Social Responsibility department dedicated to overseeing these programs

Additionally one third of all companies who responded had a full time person to oversee their employee volunteer involvement while a further 28% employed someone at least on a part time basis

Now here’s the point of this hot topic.

With this unprecedented growth over recent years, and with massive companies each pouring tens of thousands of dollars into providing these opportunities for their staff, why is it that so little has seemingly changed in relation to the resources being placed into good volunteer management practices, and why do we not see those who manage corporate volunteering opportunities within the sector?

With all due respect, I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve met someone from the world of corporate volunteering at a network meeting or training event for volunteer managers. I’d hazard to guess there are very few registered as members of AAVA and there seems to be a very distinct lack (at least from afar) of the benefits of corporate volunteer involvement flowing into our established Volunteer Centre network here in this country.

Further, of the 450 + members we have in the OzVPM newsgroup, I am unsure of any from the corporate world.

So my question this month is simply – WHY?

• Do those employed in the corporate volunteering world not understand there is already an established network of volunteering infrastructure in place?

• Do they see it as not being relevant?

• Do they not see themselves as being a part of the VM sector but of the business world?

• Have we (or they) created another ‘class’ of volunteer management professional?

• And finally …how can we better forge links with this group and learn from one another

I am fascinated to hear of your experiences and perspectives on this most interesting topic

4 Comments »

  1. ozvpm_andy March 25, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Response posted on June 3 2008 by Sandra Waite, Community Development Officer, City of Playford, South Australia

    Hi Andy good topic this month on corportate volunteering – my thoughts on the subject and in answer to your questions

    … With this unprecedented growth over recent years, and with massive companies each pouring tens of thousands of dollars into providing these opportunities for their staff, why is it that so little has seemingly changed in relation to the resources being placed into good volunteer management practices, and why do we not see those who manage corporate volunteering opportunities within the sector?

    My belief is that the Human Resources Sector percieve themselves as specialists in managing people and cannot see the correlations & expertise. This will not change until Volunteer Management is included into the HR course structure, training, conference and the AHRI (Aust HR Institute) I feel we are getting there in some areas in the LGA and other org but still have a long way to go in recognition of salary – until VM is a recognised tertiary qualification

    WHY?

    • Have we (or they) created another ‘class’ of volunteer management professional?

    Yes we have created another class because there was an identified need in the sector to professionalise the sector – this has been acknowledged but still there is a gap that needs to be narrowed – it will be done I predict within the next 10 years if not sooner the whole cycle has changed significantly over recent years as VM’s we always worked with the whole person in motivation, recognition, training etc whereas in the HR sector they were tradionally working in the personnel focus – functional, short term, maintenance, polices and programs, rules and procedures (industrial relations) now the HR / People Services are more focussed on strategic, long term focus eg: keeping people within the organisation (motivation- VM focus) development ( upskilling, identifying training needs = productivity in the workplace; (VM focus- we train our volunteers we connect with them! )whole organisation = organisation sustainability (retention – VM focus) , values and mission = what we are here for – how we operate – we are accountable (VM focus – collective action – we have always done this!) over the past 5 years HR have started to understand the need to focus on the individuals – people mean the business ethos and to sustain good employees and be employers of choice you have to listen tothe people etc etc. In the future HR will be looking at change management – overcoming the barriers, career coaching – developing people to their full potential, industrial relations

    • And finally …how can we better forge links with this group and learn from one another chip into the iceberg until it starts to crack ! – infiltrate the HR sector – post articles and compare HR to VM, – attend any HR workshop, seminar, conference you can – speak their speak but keep grounded – stay abreast of industrial relations issues and legislation – correlate our polices and procedures to HR but in ‘real speak’ – keep doing what we are doing so well by harnessing the valued time of individuals, provide satisfying volunteering assignments, build good people relationships and build relationships with business partners more productively, – ask for increased funding and resources or ‘in kind support’ to manage the corporate sector – target and survey the 1. baby boomers, 2. generation x 3. generation yz what makes them tick in job satisfaction, how can they helps us and what can we do for them in the way of providing transferable skills, experience, flexiblity etc etc etc. any way the opportunites are there we need to be more savvy in the way we develop our tool kits for managing the Corporate Sector

  2. ozvpm_andy March 25, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Response posted on June 3 2008 by Jessica Panter, Coordinator, Volunteer Service, Cerebral Palset League of Queensland

    I have liaised with a number of corporate volunteer organisers in the last eight years and find that for most, setting up an activity with a non-profit is simply one more hat they briefly wear in addition to whatever their ‘main’ job is. So in answer to your question – WHY? – Most would not see themselves as primarily Volunteer Managers. They are finance specialists, or account managers etc. They do not have to work hard to recruit their volunteers. They simply put the word out, the staff are compensated for their day out of normal work and there are career benefits in the networking that ensues. They do not have to worry about keeping their volunteers. They’re paid employees and if staff don’t enjoy the activity, they’ll quickly move to one that is more rewarding (just like other volunteers!) I have found that the corporate staff who take on the organising role are often enthusiastic juniors who will work with a non-profit for one or maybe two events and then they are promoted or transferred and they are on to something else. So for them, they know that their involvement is going to be fairly short-term. I guess the benefits for them in terms of corporates getting more involved with Volunteering forums is the chance to find out what non-profits are really looking for and what would make for a more beneficial, longer-term relationship with them. The key ingredients for non-profits to return again seem to be that they have fun and that they get some direct client contact, during their activity. I hope this helps.

  3. ozvpm_andy March 25, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Response posted on June 3 2008 by Tony Frew, Research & Policy Manager, Centre for Volunteering, Sydney, NSW

    Please have a look at the report of a recently completed research project conducted by The Centre http://volunteering.com.au/latest_news/national_volunteering_news/2008/EVP_release_0508.asp

  4. ozvpm_andy March 25, 2012 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Response posted on June 3 2008 by Zoe Pelteki, Manager Volunteer Services, Calvary Health Care Bethlehem Ltd, Australia

    Do those employed in the corporate volunteering world not understand there is already an established network of volunteering infrastructure in place?

    Volunteering programs run on the smell of an oily rag!

    But really…………………who cares?……………..What is the true reality?

    Let us not look through opaque glass and forget that a profit making organisation does get tax deductions – exemptions.

    Perhaps corporate volunteering is nothing more than a feel good marketing strategy by management to gain social recognition that, yes although we are in the business of making a dollar, we still are a caring philanthropic minded organisation with a heart and it looks great in the annual report as well!

    Perhaps it is purely nothing more than a lipstick demonstration of social responsibility within the business world and within various communities that support is given yet at the same time nicely offloading government’s social responsibilities to the poor and those in need of physical and mental health care.

    Profit driven organisations providing financial support through grant making or staff to the not for profit sector does not take away the problems and complexities of social and family turmoil’s volunteers are recruited trained and dispatched to support and prop up.

    An important question not openly discussed is the ethical aspects of a not for profit organisation and its volunteers being supported by large businesses whose primary business create the ills and problems volunteers are trying to patch up.

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