Corporate volunteering vs team building

We hosted a forum with a few Councils for Voluntary Services across the United Kingdom. During a discussion about employee supported volunteering, a great question was raised, "Should we charge corporates for organising their volunteer days or programs?"

It's a valid question. Hosting episodic groups of volunteers costs VIOs time, money and human resources (which, some VIOs simply do not have). Many groups have indicated this type of volunteering is sometimes helpful but not necessarily impactful (nor meeting their core needs).

So, what is the ideal employee supported volunteering scenario?

According to Volunteering Victoria, corporates should be looking to create 'mutually beneficial partnerships' with the community sector. This involves identifying synergy between organisations (skills in hand, skills required, purpose, goals, strategy alignments and budget).

Think beyond volunteering for just one day. What does the VIO need? Ask about their IT systems, website, cyber security profile, marketing strategy, project or event management through to fundraising requirements. Consider allocating a team to support a VIO over a longer period of time. Receiving consistent support and interaction with known (trusted) individuals reduces the need for a VIO to continually retrain and supervise those looking to help. Move beyond unskilled team building and offer more impactful pro bono support. Deliverables from your efforts will allow the VIO to redirect its financial and human resources to other impactful activities. In return, corporate employees often report a sense of empowerment by sharing expertise instead of simply hours and physical labour. Consider how this might positively affect attitude towards (and participation within) employee supported volunteer days or CSR strategies.

That's the nirvana. However, we understand it's not always possible to allocate skilled resources. Let's return to the discussion of cost associated with episodic team building volunteering...

Elizabeth Dove, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Volunteer Canada, recommends VIOs consider all costs incurred by the VIO when hosting corporate volunteers (including employees and supplies), and to be sure to separate cost recovery from fundraising.

The same applies for a CVS or a Volunteer Resource Centre (VRC) which are designed to serve VIOs, not corporates. CVS and VRCs possess the relationships and knowledge which can help with introductions, align intent, budgets and skills. Keep in mind both CVS and VRCs are also resource stretched so supporting them financially is a great idea.

We researched how some charities approach to costing one-day episodic volunteering.

One Australian-based VIO which promotes engagement in natural resource management prices a corporate volunteer day for 10 people at AU$3,080 (this cost includes lunch, all resources for the day, team leader supervision, safety briefings and insurance).

Another VIO in the food reclamation/redistribution sector asks corporates for a financial contribution of AU$85 per person for a morning experience of weeding, mulching, fertilising, harvesting and composting in the garden.

Lastly, the COO of a US-based Food Pantry shared his organisation has transitioned to a mandatory donation model for corporate engagement due to no-shows and administrative burden. He said ‘this approach ensures there is real skin in the game and that people turn up’. In return, the corporate employees enjoys outcomes such as team building, images/stories to share on social media and impact statements like the number of meals served to members of the community.

In conclusion, each model has its place and at the same time, each model isn't right for every VIO. How might you tailor your approach to employee supported volunteering to better support your community?

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