Eco News from 4imprint
What better way to live your eco values and demonstrate sustainable credentials while getting involved in your local community and ‘recycling’ your time and skills than to adopt and encourage a corporate volunteering programme within your organisation? And, if you want a cost-effective way to create that ‘feel good’ factor amongst your team, look no further than a corporate volunteering scheme, says Gennie Franklin, director of the employee volunteering campaign at Business in the Community (BITC). As one of The Prince’s Charities, BITC is a business-led charity focused on promoting responsible business.

Whilst they concede that many businesses initially start volunteering programmes simply because they ‘feel it’s the right thing to do’, they very quickly come to realise the solid business reasons that create a winning environment all round.

Here are just 5 key reasons to start your corporate volunteering scheme today:

1. Employee Recruitment
2. Brand Development
3. Reputation Management
4. Achieving Business Objectives
5. Team Building and Engagement

In a survey published recently by BITC, of the 20,000 volunteers they spoke to 95% felt that voluntary involvement in their community, with the active support and encouragement of their employer, was the right thing for them to be doing. A sense of belonging and putting something back into creating and maintaining a strong community for employees to live and work is ranked highly by graduates looking for employment.

The great thing about an employee volunteering programme is that it can help to achieve many of the organisation’s business aims and strategic objectives. For example, it enables people to develop personally and take on challenges that might not be possible within their current job description but essential for their on-going growth and future within the firm. Participations boosts morale, builds team bonds within different sectors of an organisation and can improve your corporate profile within the community.

According to the BITC, companies can also benefit from reduced training costs in situations when they use employees volunteering opportunities in lieu of more formalised employee training, or are using programmes such as Work Inclusion initiatives, whereby a disadvantaged person is guaranteed time on a work placement scheme, as an alternative, low cost, way of training potential new employees.

Companies with strategic community investment take time to understand the needs of their communities. This customer insight has led many companies to expand their markets, improve their products and meet changing customer expectations. Through developing commercially viable products and services that directly address community needs, many businesses have been able to enter a previously untapped market. Companies that can demonstrate strong values and commitment to their communities are also able to differentiate themselves in increasingly competitive markets.

Many companies report that being able to demonstrate their commitment to local communities has improved their credentials when tendering for commercial contracts.

Once the case has been made, and you are committed to starting a volunteering programme, where do you begin?

Begin with your objectives. Although we’ve pointed out a variety of major benefits to your organisation, think first about your main objective. Is it staff retention, personal development within the team, team-building, or raising your media presence and profile?

Then choose an activity. There’s no single answer but experience suggests that the more choices you offer, the more likely staff are to get involved. Opportunities could range from reading with local school children once a week, to transforming a patch of derelict land into a community garden or working allotment. You might have a company minibus that could be put to good use during the day to ferry disadvantaged youngsters or elderly people on a trip to the countryside. Take a look around your area to see what might be needed – and remember to ask your staff. The chances are that many of them are already aware of schemes that could use your corporate help.

Make sure you allocate resources to make your programme successful. Ensure everyone knows about the programme for example place a printed roller banner in your reception or canteen and hand out printed giveaways such as balloons or message bugs to create awareness. You could also provide participants with printed T-Shirts if appropriate. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that all the relevant safety checks have been done and that your team are properly equipped and trained to undertake their chosen project.

Some organisations encourage their staff to use existing professional skills, such as legal or accountancy advice but remember that not all staff are going to want to carry their day job into their volunteering, with many preferring to do something ‘completely different’.

And if you need a boost to get you started the BITC’s excellent website has plenty of resources to kick start your programme, including details of their annual Give & Gain Day which this year will be held on 18th May 2012. What better time to join together and give something back to the communities around you to create a real ‘win-win’.