22/08/2012 - 10:37

Heavy hitters back volunteering

22/08/2012 - 10:37


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ON THE JOB: Alcoa’s Alan Cransberg believes in a top-down approach to encouraging corporate volunteering. Photo: Bill Kaye

WOODSIDE Petroleum, Squire Sanders, Atlas Iron and Deloitte are among the organisations behind the Corporate Volunteering Council in WA, which was created in a bid to grow volunteering across the state.

Bankwest, Alcoa and Giving West are the other founding members that make up the council, with all working towards the launch of Give 1, the council’s inaugural campaign.

Give 1 aims to encourage corporate organisations to give one element of volunteering – such as one hour or one staff member’s time –to a charitable cause in the month of October.

The council also hopes to provide small to medium organisations with the tools to develop the systems required for effective volunteering programs.

Large businesses such as Bankwest and Alcoa have the human resources capacity and skills base to develop processes, and the data analysis programs that can assess the outcomes of corporate volunteering.

Bankwest head of community engagement Craig Spencer said as the business’s volunteering program had grown, Bankwest wanted to make it as easy as possible for all employees to get involved, either in work teams or individually, in areas of the community they feel passionate about.

“We organise everything including site and job hazard analysis, equipment, transportation, catering and site volunteer managers to help coordinate the day and ensure the event is a positive experience,” Mr Spencer told WA Business News.

“All colleagues are required to complete an OHS checklist and we also ask all colleagues to complete an ‘ambassador declaration’ reminding everyone that they are representatives of the company.”

Alcoa has a similarly robust system for ensuring safety is a priority for volunteers and that volunteering opportunities are run smoothly.

The multinational integrated aluminium company, which employs 61,000 people around the world and 6,000 in Australia, has an incentives program to encourage participation in volunteering.

The program rewards employees who volunteer for 50 hours with a $250 grant to a cause of their choice, while a group of up to 10 employees who volunteer 50 hours each receive a grant of $3,000 for their charitable cause.

Alcoa has run what it calls a ‘month of service’ in October for the past seven years, and hopes to engage 49 per cent of its Western Australian workforce in volunteering this year.

Next year, Alcoa will celebrate its 30th year of partnership with environmental group Greening Australia, and while environmental causes aren’t the only focus, many of the volunteering opportunities are for planting trees and other environment-focused activities.

National community investment manager Sarah Fordham said the business took a top-down approach to encouraging volunteering among its staff, with Alcoa Australia chairman and managing director Alan Cransberg heavily involved.

“We treat volunteering like any other part of our business,” Ms Fordham said.

“We set a target, we ask our individual sites and key contacts at each site to forecast what events will happen in October, what employees will participate, do they know how many not for profit groups they will help, and whether they can identify whether they are planting trees or feeding the homeless of working in schools.

“We collect the actual data and we put that in the system to calculate how many people have volunteered, how many hours were volunteered and what they have actually achieved.”

Alcoa’s global figures show that, in 2007, 16 per cent of its global staff base was involved in its ‘month of service’; in 2011, 56 per cent of its 61,000 staff across 21 countries was involved.

To make volunteering as easy as possible, Bankwest has developed a paid volunteering leave system and has a rewards program for employees who register this kind of leave – a $500 donation to the charity of the employee’s choice is made as a reward for volunteering.

“We have built our knowledge base online, making it easy for all colleagues to access. The information tells colleagues how they can get involved, details about previous events, FAQs, links to next steps and contact details for our volunteering program coordinator,” Mr Spencer said.


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