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Is Corporate Volunteering
a Benefit or Self Serving?

by 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

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About the Author:

Andy Fryar is the Founder and Director of OzVPM - a resource, consultancy and training company specialising in volunteerism - particularly as it relates to the Australasian region.

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