14/02/2017 - 13:55

Charities cement corporate connections

14/02/2017 - 13:55

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Tight economic conditions have led the volunteering sector to adapt its practices as demand for services continues to grow.

Charities cement corporate connections
Tina Williams says there is more demand for volunteers given its scope across a range of sectors. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Tight economic conditions have led the volunteering sector to adapt its practices as demand for services continues to grow.

Local not-for-profit organisations are becoming more creative in their targeting of corporate partners as the state’s volunteer landscape evolves.

Despite volunteer rates across the country declining for the first time in 20 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ quadrennial General Social Survey, a number of Western Australian charities have bucked the trend.

Litter prevention and reduction organisation Keep Australia Beautiful Council WA chair Michael Aspinall said its current volunteer base of approximately 15,000 people and general steady flow of corporate volunteers each year through its ‘Adopt a Spot’ program did not reflect a decreasing trend.

“Volunteering is not related to people’s income, it’s related to people’s sense of community," Mr Aspinall said.

"When people are passionate about where they live or united by a common cause it can motivate them to get involved and take action.”

In 2016, the state’s peak volunteering body, Volunteering WA, placed 720 corporate volunteers into team and skills-based projects, up by more than 130 corporate volunteers on the previous year (588).

Chief executive Tina Williams said these numbers had grown steadily since the organisation formally commenced recording participants in 2009, placing 151 corporate volunteers in that year.

“As our society changes and the government’s purse strings get a bit tighter there’s more demand for volunteers,” Ms Williams told Business News.

“And that gap between the services they provide and what we can deliver is getting bigger and bigger.

“So our role is to advocate for volunteering and to look for ways to make volunteering easier, as well as look at trends of how people want to volunteer.”

Ms Williams said Volunteering WA currently had more than 760 registered member NFPs that required volunteers and had connected these with corporates, including Woodside and Bankwest.

“There’s certainly more demand for volunteers because volunteering goes across all sectors,” she said.

“Sometimes organisations don’t have the time, resources or planning available to run a volunteer project, so that’s what we do.

“It is really about scoping both sides to make sure that there’s a successful match.”

Aligning needs

Parkerville Children and Youth Care’s communications manager Victoria Absalom-Hornby said the organisation had one of the biggest corporate volunteer programs in Perth, and that it had become more of a challenge getting corporates on board due to the current economic climate.

“There’s certainly still a desire for corporates to support an organisation like Parkerville Children and Youth Care, however, the challenge lies in releasing staff from work,” Mrs Absalom-Hornby told Business News.

“It’s to understand what it is they’re able to do and what their initiatives are to make sure they align with ours,” she said.

Mrs Absalom-Hornby said the organisation had become more creative with its corporate volunteer programs, striving to make the process more personal by meeting with the representatives from each business.

“We have had organisations in the past look to take on an entire project whilst others are more inclined to assist with maintenance for our group homes,” she said.

“They can still be seen to support a non-profit like Parkerville Children and Youth Care without it being a financial commitment for the company.

“We’re seeing an increase in in-house fundraising and workplace giving, rather than having staff taken out of the workplace.

“And we’re welcoming more skills-based pro-bono work, which is invaluable.”

Skills-driven

Cancer Council WA volunteer development manager Jennifer Loveridge said skills-based project volunteering was a key growth area.

“Ten or so years ago, volunteering was centred in traditional means where people would come in and commit a couple of hours a week, in teams,” Ms Loveridge told Business News.

“But now we realise people want to bring their skills into our organisation.”

Ms Loveridge said business skills had been increasingly donated to help the non-profit with its strategic planning, marketing analytics and in developing business cases.

Last year, 67 volunteers at the Cancer Council committed more than 625 skilled volunteering hours, with one or several people at a time working on specific projects that required high-level expertise and skills.

Ms Loveridge said the sector needed to continue to consider the way it thought about volunteering.

“When we look at social and economic aspects, we know that people have less time,” she said.

“That’s one of the reasons project and episodic volunteering is increasing, people want to do it in doses with things that appeal to them at a particular time.

“My sense is that volunteering isn’t decreasing at all in WA, we need to respond to changing conditions for social outcomes.

“Volunteering is a two-way street; it’s not just about what volunteers can give to us, it’s also about what we can give back to volunteers.”

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