July 5, 2011
State of corporate volunteering revealed at IAVE world conference
Companies around the world genuinely want to make a positive contribution to communities through employee volunteer programs. The ways in which they do this are broad and varied, and should be tailored to the needs of the company and community. However, more should be done to measure the impact of corporate volunteering programs.
The Global Corporate Volunteering Research Project: Report to the 21st IAVE World Volunteer Conference
IAVE’s Global Corporate Volunteer Council’s research team, and company managers involved in the project, presented the results of their study into the state of health of corporate volunteering, at the 21st IAVE World Volunteer Conference in Singapore, on Wednesday morning, January 26, 2011. Hosted by silky-voiced Sam Santiago from American Airlines, and interspersed with short videos set to music, the plenary had all the glamour of an award ceremony.
Ambitious, big and different
The first speaker Steve Bertamini, group executive director and CEO of global consumer banking at Standard Chartered Bank, said corporate volunteering was good for communities, good for people and good for business. Since 2008, Standard Chartered has invested US$130m in communities. Recently, the bank offered employees three days of leave to volunteer. Staff volunteered 49,050 days in 2010, up from 11,825 days in 2009. But offering time off to volunteer is not enough - support needs to come from the top of the organization, you need an infrastructure to support volunteering and to create a culture to encourage volunteering. Research shows that staff who volunteer are more likely to stay with the company, 74% said volunteering improved their job satisfaction, and 84% said they would prefer to work for a company that supports volunteering.
Kenn Allen said corporate volunteering is a dynamic global force driven by companies that want to make a significant difference to serious global and local problems. Second, corporate volunteering is a “big tent” that encompasses a broad range of activities, philosophies, approaches and management structures - which means there is no “best way” to do corporate volunteering. While it is better to do something than nothing, it is not always better to try to do everything. Third, there are regional and cultural variations in how volunteering is understood and practiced that shape corporate volunteering to local realities.
“Inspiring” practices: Better than “best”
Monica Galiano, senior researcher and president of Iniciativa Brasil said there were no such thing as “best practices”: instead she preferred to use the term “inspiring practices” which are better than “best” practices, because “best” is in the eye of the beholder, and all practices are situational. “Best” practices are often “popular” or “interesting” practices in corporate volunteering, which other companies see others doing, and decide to try for themselves.
Sarah Hayes pointed out some of the differences between corporate volunteer models: including business models which bring value back to the company, social development models, human development models and so on. So what works for one company may not work for another.
Skills-based to skills-development volunteerism
Regina McNally, global volunteer program manager from State Street Corporation, shared her experiences in skills-based volunteerism. As the GCVC project discovered, employees enjoyed using their skills to the benefit of NGOs. Taking it to the next level, State Street is developing “skills-building” volunteerism. Lucila Ballarino, from the international development program of Telefonica pointed out how her company works closely with NGOs to change the world through volunteering.
Introducing Ed Martinez, the director of philanthropy and corporate relations at the UPS Foundation, Kenn said every company that has an active volunteer program is a wonderful company. But some companies emerge as real leaders in promoting and supporting volunteering, building the NGO structure that supports volunteering, and in turn corporate volunteering. One of those companies is UPS.
As the world’s seventh largest employer and a people-based company, UPS staff have contributed 1.2 million hours to volunteering. Focusing on skills-based volunteering, the global humanitarian relief program and the road safety “road code” program have saved lives. In the aftermath of a major disaster, logistics are essential to get aid to survivors. UPS works together with humanitarian NGOs in Haiti, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chile, and in the recent floods in Australia and mudslides in Brazil. Meanwhile, UPS Road Code teaches safe driving techniques to novice drivers, helping save lives. Ed gave a special mention the the World Association of Girl Guides (WAGGs), acknowledging the partnership between UPS and WAGGs to train young girls.
Carla Sattler, the manager of social mobilization at C&A in Brazil, said the chain store’s volunteer program concentrated on early child education. The program is autonomous and decentralized, allowing volunteers freedom to choose the NGO they want to work with, following broad guidelines. Julia Gin, senior manager of community involvement at Kraft Foods said her company holds a “delicious difference” month in October.
Sarah said the research showed that companies need to improve the technology to support their employee volunteer programs, they need better and more creative ways to measure the impact of their programs, and they need to
Sherrie Bossung, the director of the community outreach and employee engagement at Eli Lilly and Company, expanded on the tools for volunteer programs by creating a Lilly “hands on hearts” database. To encourage volunteers to use the database, Lilly embarked on a day of service with 40,000 employees. Sherrie said the portal helped bring staff around the world together, and was also able to capture the value of what they were doing in communities.