Time to rethink volunteering

Proportion
Categories: Blog

What’s the first thing you did after lockdown ended? Some people headed straight to the pub. But it wasn’t the lack of booze during lockdown that drove people to queue outside a bar at 8am; it was the opportunity to do it with friends. The long months have taught us a lot about what’s really important. What we’ve craved is companionship, connection and belonging with our co-workers, friends and families. I’m still waiting to hug my mum after two years and I’m counting the days.

Humans are hard-wired for belonging and will even prioritise it over their basic needs of food, water and shelter. When you offer volunteering opportunities for your corporate partners, how are you meeting their deep-rooted need for belonging and connection?

Volunteers may be critical to keeping your non-profit operating. Whether you’re working with food, nappies or support services, you need many hands to help. Corporate partners love volunteering opportunities for their teams as it raises morale and ticks their CSR boxes. But in a COVID world you need to go beyond the traditional forms of volunteering and find new ways to connect people to each other and to your cause.

Many employees will not return to the office full time or at all. Many are reluctant to work in close quarters with big groups again. But they are missing the water cooler conversations, the chats over a coffee in the kitchen and the Monday morning debrief on the weekend’s footy results. Zoom doesn’t really cut it.

The challenge for your non-profit is to create opportunities to bring people together, create connectedness and offer a shared experience that goes beyond a day or two packing in your warehouse. Some smart charities are using their core expertise to create new experiences for workplace teams. Australian Childhood Foundation is providing the teams at Target with workshops  and information on bringing up great kids. Beyond Blue are helping to bring people together to break down the stigma of poor mental health. How can you use the core of your expertise to create awesome new experiences for workplace teams? And in the process, you’ll create a greater connection to your organisation and your cause.

Have you noticed how mass participation events have been so successful in the last few years? Things like May50K, Dry July and Push Up Challenge are great examples of activations that have allowed people to work as a team, feel connected to each other and learn about an important cause. You don’t need to rely on traditional volunteering options to inspire people about your work- you can think creatively about what participation looks like.

One of the unforeseen consequences of COVID has been the time to reflect and take stock of life. Many people have done the sea change or tree change move or have shifted careers entirely. The author David Graeber writes about bullshit jobs and how 40% of employees feel that the work they do has little or no value to the world. Knowing you’re in a pointless job, even if it’s paying the bills, has been making a lot of people feel miserable. If you’re marketing yet another brand of shampoo or working in tax litigation, would you feel connected to social purpose? Probably not, but this is where your non-profit is the solution to a corporate’s problems. You’ve got bucket loads of inspiration and a clear purpose for good- you just need to find a way to let corporate teams share in it.

It’s time to rethink volunteering, and focus on the types of experiences you can deliver for a corporate that helps them create the purpose, belonging and connectedness that everyone craves right now.

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