What does corporate volunteering mean to your charity?
Are volunteers a critical resource to help run your operations? Or are they just an incidental but necessary requirement to secure a corporate partnership?
In the COVID environment traditional volunteering has been challenged by the restrictions placed on face to face and group activities. But rather than switch off volunteering, charities have a golden opportunity to engage people with their cause in a deeper way. Deeper engagement leads to stronger corporate partnerships and bigger long-term value. If your charity has traditionally been limited in the volunteering options it can provide, this is an ideal time to rethink, reposition and compete in a different way. Not every charity has a guide dog to walk or a classroom to build, so this could be your time to shine.
Charities typically create a donor journey but don’t spend the same attention on the corporate volunteering engagement journey, or what can be achieved through corporate volunteering. In the COVID environment charities have had to adapt to provide other engagement opportunities beyond face to face activities. That has led to a surge of creative ideas. See the Botanic Gardens offering gardening tips, zoos livestreaming from the animal enclosures and the Australian Ballet giving dance lessons online. All provide new and inventive ways to learn, share and experience what the organisation does- and most importantly, build a greater understanding and connection to the cause.
Face to face corporate volunteering will resume at some point. But charities should consider the benefits of diversifying into broader engagement programs to build their supporter base and create better social outcomes. Broader engagement creates new and deeper value for a corporate partner and a stronger alignment between the corporate and the charity. For corporates who are eager to express their social purpose there are substantial benefits.
New audiences in different locations
Corporate volunteering opportunities are often limited by geography, but online options open up participation from areas not previously served. If your corporate partner has operations in rural and remote areas, they will welcome the chance to include employees who miss out on activities in capital cities. Talented staff are hard to find and keep in remote areas, so a corporate benefits from better retention and lower turnover from engaged staff.
Corporate volunteering that is accessible
Different ways to engage with your charity can create opportunities for more diverse and differently abled groups to participate. Not everyone can do a 50km bike ride or sort goods in your warehouse; but more people could do phone mentoring, advocacy on social media or share content. It’s very attractive to a corporate partner looking to align their core values and credentials on diversity and accessibility.
More convenient times
Corporate volunteering that’s confined to a traditional 9-5 workday can be limiting. For corporates with shift workers and those who work varied hours it can exclude plenty of willing staff. A broader engagement program with different ways to get involved will tap into a category of employee that might otherwise miss out. Corporates will welcome options to raise the level of engagement and satisfaction with all their staff, not just those who work regular hours.
Tapping into different networks
Effective engagement can include family, friends and networks rather than just a single volunteer. Shareable content and activities can travel a long way. If your charity wants to build a database of prospective donors, you need to turn your volunteers into advocates and channels for your messages and content. Corporates who are committed to family friendly workplaces and staff wellbeing will welcome the chance to build goodwill with their broader community.
Developing skills in a different environment
Charities provide a different environment in which corporates can challenge their skills, adapt and innovate. Adaptive leadership opportunities are sought after by many corporates. Engagement that includes secondments and skills create value for both charities and corporates, for example Qantas, Telstra and Medibank using their staff to assist in COVID tracing activities.
Volunteering is valuable to both charities and corporates. It achieves commercial benefits for the corporate and provides an outlet for empathy, sense of purpose and inspiration for the volunteer. The COVID crisis provides the catalyst to evolve traditional volunteering into creative, deeper and more impactful ways to engage partners and create mutual benefit. A bigger fan base for both partners is more likely to shift the dial on those stubborn societal problems and solve some urgent business issues at the same time.
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