Volunteering for Leaders

Volunteering means offering your time and expertise, and possibly even the products and services of your business, to an organisation without being paid.  Volunteering within a business context can take on many forms. It may be an ongoing or one-off offering/partnership, it may be informal or formal and it may involve individuals or teams.

Volunteering is proven to be beneficial to everyone involved – the business, the individuals and the organisations you volunteer with. It helps businesses engage with their teams and demonstrate their commitment to doing more for the broader community around them (which we know is important to both shareholders, employees and, most importantly, to the community).

For individuals, it provides an opportunity to give back to a cause or group that means something to them, to learn new skills and to connect with their colleagues in a setting outside of their standard workday. For the community (or the organisations benefitting from the volunteering activity), it provides access to much needed time, services and expertise that they may not otherwise be able to access.

Businesses can support volunteering in a number of ways, including; by creating a culture where volunteering is valued and seen as important, by providing paid time off, and/or by linking their people to volunteering activities. To make your business volunteering a success, it is critical that you get your team involved and engaged in the process. This can be as simple as supporting your team to pick the volunteer cause and/or activity they participate in.

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mwah. making work absolutely human

What is volunteering?

Volunteering means offering your time and services to an organisation without being paid. Businesses generally support either personal and/or corporate volunteering as part of their Corporate Sustainability offering, or as we see it, as a standard part of good business practice. (We always note that businesses are not fenced off from the communities they live and work in, so the closer you can work with your community, the better).

Volunteering at work can take on a variety of forms, including:

  • Individual volunteering whereby individuals from your team complete business-supported volunteering with a charity/cause of their choosing
  • Team-based volunteering where a cause is supported through the work/efforts of a business/team. This also provides a great additional opportunity to build the team and team relationships. 

Supporting volunteering

As a leader, you can support volunteering in your team/business in several ways:

  • Role model volunteering yourself. It doesn’t have to be grandstanding or making the local paper. It can just be volunteering, especially in and amongst your team’s volunteering effort.

Don’t just be there for the speeches, or the fancy golf day. Instead, get amongst it with your sleeves rolled up, working.

  • Provide a culture where volunteering is valued and available to all employees and considered part of how you do business. You can role model from the top of the business, and you can include volunteering activities in development plans, performance discussions and in rewards and appreciation when you get the team together.
  • Provide paid time off/time in lieu for volunteer activities, both for individuals and/or for team based volunteering
  • Provide ancillary support including; paid insurance cover while volunteering, the provision of safety equipment, reimbursement of any personal costs involved in the activity (i.e. travel, materials, meals etc.).
  • Offer the expertise, services or products of your actual business to a charitable organisation that needs these things. This will really have a special place in the hearts of your team, because they’re using what’s special about your company to provide support to people who need it. Two really nice examples we’ve seen are a hairdresser, who had two staff who had asked to volunteer go to a nursing home that was close by, and cut and style the hair of some of the elderly residents. It became a special day once a month and they had a waiting list. Another example was a small financial planning firm that, one night a month, ran classes on budgeting at a local school hall. It was under the guise of “for the students” but parents were invited and increasingly they made up the bulk of the room. Eventually, it was a “budgeting for parents” evening.      

Options for volunteering

Options for volunteering at work are endless and include community based work, charitable support or specific cause-related activities. Volunteering can include one-off activities or regular events/partnerships between a business and another organisation.

Specific examples include:

  • Skilled based volunteering

This involves using the specialist skills of the team to help another organisation (e.g. a Marketing team using their skills to assist a charity in building their brand). This is a great team building opportunity, as well as a good thing to do.

  • Non-skill based volunteering

This can include non-specialist activities that do not require a specific skill set to complete. This could include things like cooking for the homeless, cleaning up a local environment, selling raffle tickets, or packaging care parcels for others to deliver.

  • Mentoring

Using your skills to help others. A great example of this is business leaders mentoring small charity leaders in leadership, financial management, or other skills useful to build a charity. 

  • Event support

This can be sponsorship, but it can equally be your team going along and being part of the event.

  • Community work

Working with a local community can be a great way to connect people to their local environment and/or community. This can include initiatives such as supporting local schools or interest groups, looking after a local area/park or providing time and resource support for local events.

  • Individual interest based volunteering

Including in schools (e.g. reading groups, canteen duties) sports teams, religious groups etc.

Getting the team involved

Volunteering together as a team can be a great way to build and strengthen relationships and an opportunity learn to work together in a different setting.

So how do you get your team involved?

  • Allow your team members to pick the cause they support/type of activity they want to do

This will allow a team to select a volunteer option that they are most passionate about. This will encourage broader participation and engagement from the group and create a sense of team ownership over the volunteering activity. In turn, this may well mean that the team supports a sustained initiative moving forward. It becomes part of the work the team does together, and a shared experience to look forward to.

  • Create space for volunteering to occur

Volunteering can often be viewed as a “nice to have” activity that can be pushed to the side when things get busy. To show that volunteering is valued by you and by the business, support the team to set aside a designated time for the activity to occur. Even better, demonstrate through your actions that it is important by participating in team volunteering yourself sharing your experience with the team.

  • Help make connections

Often, people are very keen to volunteer, but do not know where to look or how to get started. Help your people connect to volunteering opportunities or create an ongoing partnership with one or more volunteer organisations who offer activities your team can participate in.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Want to know more about volunteering in Australia? These groups provide information and resources to assist you in arranging and managing volunteering in your business.

National Volunteer Week:  National Volunteer Week is held in Australia in May of each year and is a great opportunity to build the profile and important of volunteering in your business. 

Visit https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/nvw/ for more information.

Our recommendation – Use your business’s expertise, time and services to get out in the community you live and work in, and connect. There’s nothing more powerful for your business and your team than using what you do every day to make a difference to someone who needs a hand. Make it part of how your business does business.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

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