Corporate volunteering, done well, creates cross-pollination between business and community that broadens perspectives, builds aspirations and strengthens productivity.
Done badly it is a burden to charities without the resources to manage volunteers and of little value to the corporates covering the cost of having their staff out of the office.
Every week at Benefacto we get requests from companies wanting to send out their staff to volunteer together, sometimes up to 100 employees at a time.
While we recognise the value of volunteering as a team building activity, large groups don’t help the charities. If it’s not helping the charities, then it won’t be benefitting the volunteers and corporates.
If 25 people were sent to your office next week could you find each of them something to do that would be meaningful to your business? If I sent one, or maybe a group of five, is that more likely to work?
Charities, many of which employ less than 10 people, face exactly the same challenge and get overwhelmed with big numbers, too. The support they need is often with running sessions for service users, for example helping young people with interview skills, teaching seniors how to use a computer, or serving lunch to isolated, vulnerable people. A group of 49 people turning up in corporate branded t-shirts is not what they need.
However, with a bit of planning the team building spirit can be kept alive and the needs of the charity met. And the way we do that is by dividing the volunteers into smaller groups. Even better is if the groups are made up of people who don’t usually work together.
It works like this: we find the charities wanting help on the given day and the groups of between four to eight people and chosen by the corporate, are matched to the opportunity by us. Although there’s an element of choice for the employees, the priority is the needs of the charity. As with all volunteering, it’s also a case of getting out of your comfort zone and simply getting on with it. That’s where the magic – the learning and the self-development – happens.
Before the volunteering day we will brief the volunteers about what they will be doing, so they can give some thought to the activity and what the needs are of the service users they will be working with.
On the actual day, all the volunteers will meet up at their place of work, be given a further quick briefing and, if necessary, prepped in more detail. They then get out volunteering, gain all the benefits, and return to the office at the end of the day (or pub) to share stories, have a few beers and talk about what they’ve been doing. It’s surprising how long these get-togethers can last!
Taking this approach gives each volunteer a memorable and worthwhile experience; the charity gets a huge lift in delivering its services; and the corporate knows its employees are bringing new skills and experience back to the business.
We manage the entire planning process and are on hand at the beginning and end of the day to ensure everything goes smoothly. A crucial part is to minimise dropouts. When one member of a small volunteering team fails to turn up it will make the day much harder for their colleagues and the charity relying on them. It doesn’t look good for the firm they work for, either.
We’ve had great feedback with this approach and know it works. Interested in Benefacto delivering your volunteering day? Then click here.
We've helped over 100 companies develop their volunteering programmes and we'd love to help you too