Volunteering for Employees

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 important, 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.

And finally, volunteering can be great fun – doing something worthwhile to help someone, or an organisation that needs a hand. To put it simply, it’s good to spend time with your team, giving back.

© 2017 All rights reserved
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. 

Looking at 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.

Deciding to volunteer

Deciding to volunteer, what volunteer work you want to do, and how much time and energy you can commit to this is a very personal decision. It is a decision that can also be determined by whether you are volunteering as an individual or as a team.

Deciding to Volunteer as an Individual

Making the decision to volunteer as an individual is easy. It’s all about what you want to do and what you want to get out of the experience. Some things you can consider are:

  • Why do you want to volunteer?

Do you want to give back to a cause/community? Do you want to learn different skills? Do you want to try a different skill or get exposure to a new industry? Are you required to complete volunteering as part of your profession? Being clear on why you want to volunteer (and what you want to get out of this experience) will help you pick a volunteering activity that best suits your needs.

  • How much time and energy can give your volunteering?

Do you want to volunteer regularly or is this something you want to do occasionally or something you want to do as the mood strikes? Do you want to do something easy and simple for you, or do you want to commit more mental or physical energy to your volunteering task?

  • The logistics

This bit is really important as it will help to support how sustainable your volunteering efforts are. Is the volunteering location close to you/easy to get to? Will you be able to get out of work on time/find someone to care for your family/friends while you are volunteering? Do you have the tools you need to volunteer (e.g. a Drivers Licence)? Are you eligible to get the accreditation you need to volunteer (e.g. a Working with Children Check)?

  • Who do you know?

Do you have connections with a charity/cause you are passionate about and want to volunteer at? Do you know how to connect with a charity/cause to start volunteering?

  • Who needs your help most and where can you add the most value?

There are so many options for volunteering, have a good think about what you can do, and who might need that voluntary work the most. Some charities have waiting lists of people who want to help. Others would SO appreciate your knowledge, that they would have you over to workshop next year’s plans tomorrow.

Deciding to Volunteer as a Team

Volunteering as a team can be a highly rewarding experience. It’s a great way to connect outside of the usual work environment, build new and different skills, and learn how to work better together. It can also be great fun and a fantastic way to engage and motivate you and your team members.

To decide to volunteer as a team, share the benefits of this with your colleagues and how it may positively impact your team. Explore the same areas you would as an individual (as outlined above), but try and reach consensus (or a majority view) around what is most important and how it can work on a team basis. This early discussion and agreement will ensure alignment between team members and make getting the team involved in the volunteering activity much easier.

Our advice is to keep volunteering either towards something fun you all want to do, or keep it close to the expertise and skills you have. This is where you can add the most value to someone who really needs a hand.

Getting the team involved in volunteering

Once the team has collectively decided to volunteer, it is time to turn your intention into action and get everyone involved. This can often be the hard bit. Ways to help your team/colleagues to get involved in volunteering could include:

  • Get everyone involved in picking the volunteer cause and activity

Try and reach agreement on the cause you will support and the activity you want to complete. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t reach full consensus. Explore options to meet everyone’s needs, but if this can’t be done, go with the majority view.

  • Ask each team member to commit to an activity and a date

Work can get busy and often volunteering can be seen as a “nice to do” activity. People can pull out at the last minute, which can cause resentment or create a sense that the activity is “not important” for the rest of the team.

  • Ask each team member to be responsible for organising part of the activity

This could be as much as identifying and setting up the relationship with the cause/charity, or as little as identifying how transport to the activity will work.

  • Post the volunteering activity, celebrate your effort

This could be sharing photos after the activity, sharing your own stories and reflections from the activity, or even having a group coffee or debrief after you have finished volunteering.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Want to know more about volunteering in Australia? These groups provide helpful information and resources to assist you in sourcing and arranging either individual or team volunteer activities.

National Volunteer Week:  National Volunteer Week is held in Australia in May of each year and is a great time to promote and engaged in volunteering activities.

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 as powerful for your business and your team as 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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