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  • Anneli Knight
    Smarter Writer

    Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

    Anneli Knight
    Smarter Writer

    Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

    Allowing your staff to take part in community volunteer projects makes them feel good about working for you and can have the added advantage of transforming the dynamics of your workplace. Read on to learn how your business can support employee volunteering initiatives.

    A working environment, where employees are encouraged to volunteer can make staff feel good, is team-building and will develop skills; plus it’s just a nice thing to do.

    Two times a year a team of employees from brand activation group, Zinc fly to Cambodia to work on projects for the charity Cambodian Kids Foundation.

    Zinc CEO, Peter Cleary, says the team members from Zinc have been involved in many ways during their 10-day visits.

    “They do a range of projects – they build houses, they’ve built a school, they’ll help in the community garden. We have a graphics creative department and they will go in and teach art, some of the guys will teach music,” says Peter.

    The-Business-Benefits-of-Charitable-Acts

    Kindness is currency

    The volunteer program at Zinc is central to the culture and values of the business, and it’s an approach Peter recommends strongly.

    “As long as the [charity] organisation aligns with the business’s values, it’s the most powerful team building you can do,” says Peter. “And it costs us nothing.”

    The Zinc staff fundraise to cover the cost of their airfares to Cambodia and take a mixture of annual and paid leave while they’re there.

    As well as doing on-the-ground projects, the business donates a percentage of its profits to Cambodian Kids Foundation and also offers skill-based services that don’t require staff to travel. The business sets aside two to three business days a year for team members to focus their skills to deliver specific outcomes for the charity.

    “One of the projects we’ve done recently is help them develop their marketing and branding, and managing their CRM (customer relationship management),” Peter says.

    Staff volunteering projects are a wonderful way of enhancing skills, professional development, work enjoyment and retention rates.

    Brett Williamson, Volunteering Australia

    How to help

    Brett Williamson, CEO of Volunteering Australia, says there are many ways for a business to support volunteering initiatives.

    “Some organisations give one or two days of volunteer leave each year within their employment practices and leave it open-ended so individuals can make a choice with how they volunteer,” says Brett.

    “The other way is to make it a group decision where the business can identify a particular project or need, and pursue it on a collective basis, pooling the skills and services the business offers,” he says.

    “It’s not necessarily about rolling up sleeves and getting hands dirty. There’s a lot more intelligence sharing now, making contributions to a [charity] organisation’s planning, business strategies and even some of the functions that need to be enhanced, whether it’s a website that needs to be developed or a training program delivered.”

    Giving back is gratifying

    Brett says the new generation of employees are increasingly looking for a workplace that makes a community contribution.

    “The younger generation prefer to work for companies with good citizen values and actions.”

    While there is a great deal of flexibility possible for a business to supports its staff volunteering, there are some basic rules.

    “One of the main things is to make sure it’s not just tokenistic. It’s important to make sure the objectives and outcomes are really clear,” says Brett.

    And then to involve staff in the planning so they feel engaged in the process.

    “It’s a wonderful way of enhancing skills, professional development, work enjoyment and retention rates.”

    Overall, it’s a triple-win.

    “It’s a win for individuals, a win for small business because it gets seen as making a difference, and it’s good for the community.”

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