Volunteering in a Community-Business Partnership

Volunteering is one of the most popular forms of community business partnership.

Because the community benefits are tangible to corporate staff who volunteer, the sense of giving back to the community is stronger than it is when making a donation, for example.

Volunteering Australia says 60% of companies offer staff between one and three paid days a year for volunteering. More than a third of companies have a full-time staff member managing employee volunteering.

The Business Council of Australia has encouraged all companies to consider establishing employee volunteering programs to meet staff demands for corporate community investment and for direct involvement in community programs.

A Deloitte&Touche USA 2007 survey of 18-26 year-olds found 62% would prefer to work for companies that give them opportunities to "contribute their talents" to not-for-profit organisations.

For many community groups, volunteerism is a way of life. So a partnership based around volunteering helps them attract more numbers to complete tasks or projects they have on the go and that would not normally be able to be completed. This can increase a group's profile in the community and give its membership a boost.

From a business perspective, volunteerism has been found to increase the morale and positive feelings of your staff towards your company, engender staff loyalty, increase productivity and promote the concept of teamwork through some "hands-on'' work. Many companies have staff volunteering programs or actively encourage staff volunteerism and offer incentives to staff who take part.

Don't assume that volunteers will necessarily be useful to a community group. Sometimes they don't need any more elbow-grease - they may just need money, or other resources. Or the cost to the community group of organising volunteering opportunities could outweigh the value of the assistance provided.

You need to ensure that the value to the community group and to your company outweighs the costs to both. One way of overcoming the "volunteer value gap" is to offer skilled volunteering, where your staff share their professional expertise (in accounting or marketing, for example) rather than just stuffing envelopes or planting a garden. See the Skilled Volunteering help sheet.

Volunteering can involve:

  • Individual volunteering initiated by staff members themselves
  • Employee volunteering program, where the company matches staff to a group's needs
  • A whole of business or "team" volunteering program
  • Joining your partner's community group, or community/business board or committee.
Some examples:
  • Individual staff members helping at a sports meeting, volunteering at a support centre, reading to children at the local library or cleaning up an area of parkland or reserve.
  • An employee volunteering program working on a bigger clean-up or tree planting project, helping build some furniture for a kindergarten, or taking residents from a senior citizens home on a daytrip.
  • A whole-of-business initiative that involves working as a "team" on a particular project for a day or collectively during overtime - for example, the construction of a community playground.
  • Employee fundraising initiative. Many businesses will turn out as a group to help with a doorknock, work the phones, staff the tent at a family day, or sell tickets/goods.
  • Staff members volunteering to join your partner's community group, or serve on its board or committee.