Close this search box.

Managing corporate volunteers: positive relationship = positive outcomes

3 min read

Despite the global financial crisis, corporate volunteering is becoming more popular among businesses that are committed to their corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. In a sign of the times, this year the Centre for Volunteering has had the highest level of interest since our corporate volunteering program started a few years ago.

The popularity boom

Perhaps businesses now see CSR activity as an integral part of community engagement and/or staff development. Perhaps there is an acceptance that community engagement enhances reputation, and the associated spin off in terms of staff development ensures staff morale remains high in organisations even though they may be struggling to contribute to CSR via the usual financial philanthropy pathway.

While employee volunteering is seen as an ideal experience for staff, some businesses still see the employee volunteering opportunity as an activity in which the community sector is desperate to participate. Unfortunately this is not always the case. While not wishing to deter business interest in their work, many not-for-profit (NFP) organisations participate in corporate volunteering programs under sufferance. As one large national charity declared, “Let’s get them all in for one week and get it over and done with.” This suggests a distinct lack of interest in engaging with business volunteers. Why is this so?

Understanding pressures on NFPs

Many businesses fail to understand that while NFPs may be keen to get all the manpower they can, appropriate management of volunteers places a huge strain on their already limited resources. New volunteers may require a range of supports such as skills assessment, training and resourcing (desk, computer, safety gear) and these costs have not usually been factored into the annual operating budgets of the NFP. Furthermore, some businesses see the NFP sector as desperate to receive any assistance offered to the extent that they can be dismissive of the standards and regulatory regimes under which community services must operate.

How should a business/community partnership be best managed?

Both partners should have a dedicated program manager. Often in businesses this responsibility is delegated to the HR functions of the business and as a consequence is often seen as ‘another load to my already overloaded work day’. It is vital that the person responsible for the company’s volunteering program is adequately supported and resourced for the job.

Considerations:Corporate partner

Sometimes the push for an employee volunteering program is a result of the preference of a particular person in the company such as the CEO. Other times the push comes from the employees themselves. Whatever the source for the interest in employee volunteering, the business should have undertaken a survey exercise to determine:

  • The level of interest of the employees
  • Employee preference for the type of organisation they wish to support
  • The preference for individual or team based experiences
  • The amount of time the business is willing to offer their staff in release time
  • Whether any financial contribution can or will be made to the NFP to assist with the program.

The company should provide all this background information to the NFP so that the particular program can be designed around the specific needs of the business’ volunteers.

Considerations: NFP

Conversely, the NFP should not consider engaging employee volunteers without first investigating:

  • The need for volunteers
  • The particular skills needed to assist the NFP
  • The alignment of the skills of the volunteers to the organisation’s need
  • The resources available to support the volunteers
  • An assessment of any OH&S issues
  • The need for any specialised training needed by the volunteers
  • How the volunteers can contribute to the strategic objectives of the organisation
  • Any ethical issues around the businesses operations, products or reputation.

Memorandum of Understanding

Once these preliminary issues are sorted out on both sides, then a negotiation can commence about a specific event or engagement. This is the time to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that both partners should be prepared to sign. The MoU should incorporate the following:

  • The names of the people in both organisations responsible for managing the program
  • Details of the activity to take place
  • Specific dates and locations for the activity
  • The need for any specific training
  • Awareness of any legal or regulatory obligations (e.g. OH&S, issues around background checks)
  • Responsibility for supervision of volunteers
  • Any financial commitment or contribution
  • The expected outcomes and/or outputs of the event
  • Agreed evaluation process.

If the agreed outcomes are achieved there is every chance that an ongoing relationship will develop that will see continued opportunities for engagement and support for both partners.

In summary, corporate volunteering is an opportunity for the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors to join together in contributing to their community and appreciate the vital role that both play in the development of robust and healthy communities.

+ posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Up