Chain Reaction Foundation

Corporate Volunteering: The Benefits of Giving Back to the Community

by Margaret Bell | July 14, 2016

Corporate volunteering is something which Australian employers engage with to varying degrees. It is estimated that around a quarter of volunteers come from companies with volunteering programs in place, but many of these organisations are not fully grasping the benefit of volunteering on an internal and an external level.

When correctly managed, corporate volunteering – also known as employee volunteering – programs are of great benefit to our society at large. Statistics released by Volunteering Australia in 2010 valued Australia’s total volunteering efforts at almost $100bn worth of hours worked, something which provides an immense boost to communities locally as well as nationally.

What Is Holding Volunteering Back?

The same study also published the findings of a survey of those who elected not to volunteer. The survey showed that 67% of respondents said that they did not have enough time to volunteer – i.e. paid work placements and other activities got in the way – while 62% said that they were unable to make a long term commitment. If we apply these two barriers to volunteer work within the parameters of a corporate volunteering program, we can see how receiving encouragement and support from employers is important to sustaining these programs and the work that volunteers do across the country.

Benefits for Individuals, Businesses, and Australia

All of this is undoubtedly important, and a hefty dose of altruism and community-mindedness should always be a part of true volunteer work. However, businesses are not charities, and such programs must fit into the growth goals of an organisation. With this in mind, are there any direct benefits of a volunteer program to an Australian business?

Volunteering Australia’s findings would suggest so. They found that 96% of volunteers said they felt happier as a result of their work. This positivity will be fed directly back into the workforce. Also, doctors have found that volunteering has a positive effect on mental health.

If such benefits seem a little hard to quantify, look to the findings of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The American wing of the professional service provider conducted its own survey in 2012, which showed that 88% of Millennials looked for a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program when searching for a job, with 86% saying they would then leave if they did not deem the CSR program to be effective enough. This highlights the importance of corporate volunteering and the implementation of a high-quality CSR in enticing the brightest and the best to come and work for our companies.

Another survey, published by Deloitte, found that 91% of HR managers in Fortune 500 companies identified volunteering programs as key to “cultivating critical business and leadership skills.” The study posits that so-called ‘soft skills’ like communication, project management, and an objective perspective were all vital as organisations set themselves on a course for future successes.

The above highlights how vital such programs are for Australian society and for forging strong links between businesses and the local communities they operate in. They also show how useful such programs are for the businesses themselves, as the organisations seek to secure strong positions in the market, underscoring the ongoing need for Corporate Social Responsibility and employee volunteering programs in modern business.

For Corporations really interested in where to from here, we suggests they attend the 24th bi-ennial world conference on Volunteering conducted by The International Association for Volunteer Effort in New Mexico November 7 – 10. Corporate volunteering and the way forward will be showcased from all over the world. Presentations on volunteering and benefits for business will blow the mind conference organisers tell us.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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