21/11/2006 - 21:00

Not for profit: Non-profit sector in the frame

21/11/2006 - 21:00


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Changing social perceptions of corporate social responsibility and work/life balance are bringing about a shift in many businesses’ approach towards volunteering.

Not for profit: Non-profit sector in the frame

Changing social perceptions of corporate social responsibility and work/life balance are bringing about a shift in many businesses’ approach towards volunteering.


No longer the realm of informal fundraisers and casual dress days, corporate volunteering is taking the form of ongoing partnerships with not-for-profit organisations, governed by formal policy and specially assigned staff.


Anecdotal evidence from different sectors suggests that professional volunteering is becoming more common in areas such as human resources, IT, financial management and legal advice.


Rio Tinto’s WA community invest-ment manager, Megan Crust, said the organisation was developing a formal policy regarding volunteering, to be implemented in 2007.


There is a trend towards younger people looking at the wider culture of an organisation, including opportunities for participation outside the workplace, which can be important in attracting prospective employees. 


“We’re very conscious that they’re asking this of us,” Ms Crust said.


“It’s part of our wider community investment remit and another aspect of our more formal partnerships.


"In terms of attraction and retention, it’s increasingly a part of the mix we should be offering people.


“People are looking at the terms and conditions and salary details, but other dimensions, like our commitment to sustain-able development and employee involvement, are increasingly important.”


The benefits of staff volunteer programs for organisations are more complex than simply attracting and retaining staff, however. 


KPMG community partnerships national manager Catherine Hunter said volunteer work, especially in a professional capacity, aided skill development in staff.


“Where young people in the firm are working on projects, it’s an opportunity to apply their skills in a different environment, assisting their own learning and development,” she said.


“It’s provided employees with…a greater sense of loyalty, commitment and satisfaction, and provides them with more of a work/life balance and interest outside of work.”


While the legal profession has a long-standing tradition of pro-bono work, there has been a shift in the wider business community towards the provision of professional assistance to not-for-profit organisations, according to Annette Bain, executive director of the Freehills Foundation.


“The big difference now is that it is better organised and more efficient than it used to be,” Ms Bain said.


This is supported by research from Volunteering Australia, which found that more than half of organisations surveyed in 2006 had formalised their volunteering programs and were investing between $20,000 and $30,000 in their programs annually.


“I think it’s about fulfilling professional responsibilities, because that is part of being a lawyer. You have certain privileges and, therefore, ought to provide assistance,” Ms Bain said.


Wesfarmers provides both structured and ad hoc volunteering to its not-for-profit partners.


Wesfarmers human resources general manager Chris Ryan said this kind of voluntary support was highly beneficial to the employees involved.


“It gives them self-satisfaction out of assisting an organisation which may not have the resources to deal with the issue itself,” he said.  “It also broadens their minds outside of the world they operate in.”


Alcoa Foundation and environmental partnerships manager Kylie Cirak said corporate volunteering was being driven by a desire on the part of businesses to be better corporate citizens.


“The primary reason is making sure we’re a genuine contributor,” she said.


“It helps us to have our employees more in touch with the community – it makes for more rounded individuals.”



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