Corporate volunteering: Considering multiple stakeholders

By Louise Lee. Third Sector Review, Vol 16(1), 2010

Corporate volunteering is one of the fastest-growing areas of voluntary activity in the Western World as it is considered a win-win-win for the three main players: the company, employees and not-for-profit organisations (NFPs). However, there is little research evidence to support that assumption from the NFPs perspective.

Lee conducted qualitative research among New Zealand companies and NFPs to discover their perceptions about the benefits and challenges of corporate volunteering. She found that there were several benefits of corporate volunteering perceived by NFPs: having the ‘people power’ to accomplish general tasks or projects that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily get done; broadening networks and gaining greater exposure to the business world; educating business on social issues and raising awareness of the work of NFPs; and developing business–NFP partnerships that might include other elements of support such as financial donations, in-kind products or services, staff donations or marketing initiatives.

However, NFPs also revealed the many challenges involved in corporate volunteering. Many found it difficult to provide suitable volunteering roles. While many NFPs wanted more committed volunteers to help with their core mission and a greater focus on skills-based volunteering, the overwhelming majority of corporate volunteers in this study were involved in activities that utilised general skills rather than professional expertise. Finding suitable volunteering roles that fit within the short timeframes of one-day projects and yet were still meaningful for the NFP, the volunteers and the business presented significant challenges for NFP managers. The one-day team-volunteering model, the model most often offered to them, didn’t meet the most pressing volunteer needs of their organisations. Further, the hidden costs of hosting corporate volunteers (financial and non-financial) put further strain on stretched NFP resources. Inadequate communication and information-sharing between the business and NFP was another issue and some businesses had high and unrealistic expectations of what NFPs could offer through corporate volunteering projects.

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