From mulching to mentoring: the journey of corporate volunteering
National Volunteering Week takes place from 13-17 May and highlights the contribution Australians make to the community. Lyndsey McKee from United Way, one of ING DIRECT’s community partners, talks about the impact made by corporate volunteers and the growing trend for drawing upon specialist skills to make a difference.
When United Way first started organising corporate team volunteering projects ten years ago, the emphasis was on giving individuals the chance to connect with community partners, as well as helping communities with projects and events they couldn’t resource.
Small teams of volunteers, supported by their employers, would spend a day rolling up their sleeves and taking part in ‘backyard blitz’ community projects, community BBQs and educational resource making to help strengthen some of Sydney’s most vulnerable communities.
Ten years on and United Way’s team volunteering program continues to grow. Last year, we worked with over 3,000 corporate employees to complete 195 projects for 60 of our community partners. Through this work, volunteers are breaking down the barriers that occur in our large cities and are helping to build trust and understanding in communities, one project at a time.
As well as the hands-on team volunteering projects, in the last few years United Way has created opportunities for corporate volunteers to engage more deeply and make a greater impact within the communities we support. Not only is the not-for-profit sector realising the value of these opportunities, but corporate volunteers are also pushing for more challenging and meaningful activities.
Through what is often referred to as ‘skilled’ or ‘strategic’ volunteering, we have been leveraging the soft skills, talents and experiences of our corporate volunteers in order to make a more purposeful contribution. From mentoring year 10 students and helping them make the successful transition from school to further education or employment, to working on specific capacity building projects to improve the sustainability of our community partners, there are lots of ways that employees can use their experiences and expertise to make a difference.
One great example of this work in action is United Way’s Partners for Impact program. Carlie Lau, from ING DIRECT’s Marketing team and Executive Director John Arnott, have just completed this year-long peer development program in which they were partnered with the Brand and Marketing Manager for the Inspire Foundation.
Over the past 12 months, the trio have been working on a specific project to develop the strategy for the ReachOut.com brand in order to help raise awareness amongst young people with a mental illness who were not accessing mental health services. As a result of this partnership, ReachOut.com will roll out a large-scale social marketing campaign in mid-2013.
The feedback from the partnership has been fantastic. Carlie told us that she got a lot out of the program: “I really enjoyed applying my skills to a different business and understanding Inspire Foundation’s challenges and strategy.”
It’s still early days for a number of our skilled volunteering programs, but with both our community and corporate partners giving us fantastic positive reinforcement, we want to continue to explore how we can further engage corporate volunteers to make the best use of their enthusiasm, knowledge, and skills. We are excited about where the volunteering journey will take us next!