Time to rethink volunteering: SEEK

With the majority of Australians having no time to spare, charities in need of volunteers are struggling. Is 2014 the year to rethink volunteering?

Time to rethink volunteering: SEEK
The majority (56%) of Australians have claimed they have no time to spare to support charities and other organisations that require volunteers, a report from SEEK has revealed.

“Australians topped the World Giving Index this year, but while we are quick to donate cash, it’s our time that many essential charitable organisations are looking for,” Colin Carter, non-executive director at SEEK, said.

 Carter added that Australians must rethink how they approach volunteering, and not view it as a ‘drain on time’, but think more about the benefits it provides.

Volunteering not only benefits the community, but can also add to personal and professional development for individuals, adding to one’s skills set. In addition, volunteering comes in many forms, ranging from one-off jobs to weekly commitments.

“I always encourage my younger colleagues to get involved in volunteering their time as it not only helps to sustain our very lucky country, it provides us with essential learning opportunities so we can be more effective in our day-to-day professional lives,” Carter added.

Rick Hammond, a volunteer for SecondBite, has found volunteering a rewarding way to spend his retirement, providing fresh produce to communities and families in need.
“It’s just a couple of hours a week or a month. You contribute an enormous amount during that time and you always get something back in return,” he stated.

Employers seeking to action volunteering initiatives in their organisation may wish to look to SEEK Volunteer, a network set up by SEEK to request volunteer services, currently with over 11,000 requests.

The benefits of charity and volunteer work has been well documented.

“The reality is that the workforce passionately cares about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and expects their employer to share that commitment,” Malcolm Scovil of LeapCR said.

Key HR takeaways
When providing charity options, there are a number of key points that must be considered. Melissa Brown of the Centre on Philanthropy at Indiana University provided some steps HR must consider before rolling out a volunteering program:
  • Recognise both the advantages and disadvantages of workplace charity efforts. Be mindful that despite the best intentions, some employees may have enough responsibility in their lives already and may view additional commitment as a source of stress.
  • Determine if time off for charity work will be paid, unpaid or a mixture of both. If your organisation uses software to determine the amount of man hours needed per project, factor hours for charity work into the overall project time. If it becomes clear that paid time off during work hours will affect your productivity negatively, consider allowing unpaid time off that can be made up during an evening or weekend shift.
  • Gauge how much interest your employees have in community work by conducting either a formal or informal survey. Some employees may already be involved in charity work on their own time and some may want to keep as clear a line as possible between work and charity.
  • If a large number of key employees indicate interest in charity work, plan to keep a strict schedule allowing only one or two employees time off during each shift. Communicate that they are still responsible for making sure their work gets done by either doing it themselves before or after charity work or by delegating tasks to someone else. If only a small number of employees indicate interest in charity work, it may be better to officially sponsor a certain charity, and allow those who are interested to engage in a few events throughout the year.

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