Kindly hosted at FirstRand’s offices in Johannesburg, on 21 June 2016
Employee volunteerism programmes (EVPs) refer to any formal or organised company support for employees who wish to give of their money, time and/or skills in service of the community.
Trialogue hosted its quarterly CSI Forum to discuss the benefits of and considerations required to run effective and collaborative EVPs that can contribute to social and business transformation. Offering expert corporate insight, Desiree Storey presented on the challenges experienced and lessons learnt from running the FirstRand Volunteers Programme. For expert non-profit insight, Karena Cronin from Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa (CAFSA) spoke to effective NPO and corporate collaboration.
The following is a summary of key points raised in the session.
Overview of Trialogue research on EVPs
- Corporate EVPs declined from 78% in 2013, to 70% of CSI research respondents in 2015.
- Various activities, including matched funding, payroll giving, volunteer time and volunteer days are classified as EVPs.
- Volunteering initiatives and fundraising/collection drives are the most commonly participated in EVPs. Pro-bono and give-as-you-earn initiatives are the least common.
- NPOs are most interested in benefitting from company fundraising, collection drives and give-as-you-earn initiatives, and are least interested in company-organised volunteering initiatives.
- To assess the impact of volunteering, 51% of companies measure reputation, 38% measure brand value, and 29% measure return on investment. Fewer companies quantify the value that EVPs have for staff retention (27%) and development (21%).
- More companies are measuring community benefit from EVPs, with 73% in 2013 increasing to 84% in 2014.
- Most volunteering initiatives are not restricted to companies’ existing social investment projects.
- A company culture of social awareness and volunteerism is often inspired from the top. Changes in company leadership may pose challenges to such a culture, and compromise staff buy-in.
- Business restructuring may bring about changes that make it difficult to implement EVPs. Executive committees do not always know what their foundations do, therefore foundation initiatives should be on executive committee agendas.
- Challenging economic times make it difficult to justify company time and other resources spent on non-revenue generating initiatives such as EVPs.
- It is often easier to secure the participation of head office staff, rather than staff who work ‘on the ground’. In these cases, it may be useful to introduce sub-committees and volunteer champions.
Recruiting and maintaining staff buy-in
- Volunteerism should not be forced and companies must be realistic about what employees want.
- The more innovative and fun the EVP, the more staff and beneficiaries will buy into and remain committed to the initiative.
- Companies’ support of individual staff members’ outreach initiatives, whether through time off or matched financial contributions, have been found to be effective. A means of deepening such impact may be through incentivising employees to work in teams, based on their personal interests and social concerns.
- Companies should prepare and manage staff conduct during outreach initiatives, particularly on mass volunteerism days (e.g. Mandela Day). Best practice is to include the NPO/beneficiary in the preparation phase, including the briefing session to staff.
Strategy and structure
- As far as is possible, EVPs should be aligned with the company’s CSI strategy, as well as the overall business strategy.
- When establishing an EVP, the company should consider conducting a survey to get input from all staff that may help to improve the design of the programme. Surveys are also useful for finding out about employees’ existing volunteerism practices, outside of the company.
- The more democratic and transparent the establishment of an EVP is, the easier it is to get staff buy-in. Companies could consider inviting external adjudicators to assess the selection process and help to choose projects.
- Induction and sensitisation of the broader social context form a good foundation for sustained EVPs, and NPOs could be brought into this discussion as well.
- Companies should offer a bouquet of different volunteering opportunities so that employees can decide what works best for them. Options should include activities that employees can do fairly easily, e.g. FirstRand graduates have the option of mentoring support staff’s children in maths and science. These options should also range from more traditional hands-on forms of volunteering, to pro bono activities, in order to tap into people’s varied interests.
- Corporates should not be fixated on volunteerism on specific days, such as Mandela Day. EVPs should be sustained initiatives that consistently feed into the overall company ethos.
- While EVPs present several business benefits, including building staff morale and brand promotion, it is crucial for EVPs to be motivated by developmental and sustainable intentions.
- Companies could host semi-regular workshops to support staff commitment to EVPs, and potentially inspire various business units to drive their own initiatives.
Partnerships for impact
- The quality of partnerships are directly linked to the quality of a corporate strategies and programmatic approaches to employee volunteering. Thus, employee volunteering strategies and structures are foundational pieces to building partnerships for impact.
- Reciprocal and equitable partnerships between companies and non-profit organisations are essential for ensuring impact.
- A shared value proposition is important. Companies should understand the capacities of the NPOs that they are working with, since NPOs with a charity model would benefit more from financial contributions, while NPOs with skills-linked initiatives may benefit more from the donation of expert services and skills (e.g. expert assistance with accounting or legal advice).
- Adequate consultation with prospective NPOs and beneficiaries should be conducted before implementing EVPs, and beneficiary/community expectations should be carefully managed. This needs to focus on NPO needs, opportunities to build on success within organisations and also volunteer management capacity for corporate employee volunteer engagement.
- Partnerships require ongoing engagement and learning, and a commitment by both parties to be open about expectations and to negotiate these within a context of mutual benefit.
- NPOs need to be confident about their own worth and contribution to society, whilst also knowing their particular needs when engaging with corporate EVPs.
- Measuring the impact of EVPs makes it easier to motivate for its maintenance. Feedback forms completed by participating staff, as well as NPOs/beneficiaries, could be particularly useful in this regard.
- EVP and staff volunteerism achievements should be celebrated. This could help to promote broader staff involvement/commitment to such initiatives.