Corporate volunteerism proves a smart business move

More organisations are realising that corporate volunteering makes both social and economic sense.

A recent national survey found 24 per cent of volunteers worked for an employer that had an employee volunteer program, however, there’s an even higher level of interest that remains untapped.

The survey, conducted by employment marketplace SEEK, revealed 72 per cent of Australians believe companies should support volunteering, with 51 per cent saying companies should have programs that allow staff to volunteer during business hours.

CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Scott Miller

"Corporate volunteering is about real people trying to help solve real-world complexities."  Volunteering Victoria CEO, Scott Miller

The benefits can be both social and fiscal. In addition to giving back to the community, corporate volunteering can boost staff retention and wellbeing and enhance brand recognition.

"Volunteers often get a 'helper’s high' that can ward off work-related stresses and the drain of 'high demand' work," notes CEO of Volunteering Victoria, Scott Miller.

Scott says that corporate volunteering is "an exciting phenomenon" in the sector. "It can bond teams going through change, and bridge differences often overlooked in the hubris of 'business as usual.'"

Victoria, in particular, is a very generous state when it comes to volunteering, according to Scott, who notes that compared to the rest of Australia, Victorians are more likely to offer their time and skills to volunteer. To quantify this, it is estimated that there are more than 1.5 million volunteers across Victoria, expected to be worth up to $42 billion by 2021.

As a state with a large number of corporate employers looking to offer the benefits of corporate volunteering to staff, the opportunity is here for us to maximise, he says. "The scale and impact of our potential workforce of corporate volunteers has potential to realise a more inclusive, just and resilient society. And the beauty of corporate volunteering is the limitless options it offers organisations. Whether you’re keen on investing your professional skills directly to a charity in need, or volunteering in an entirely different sector or role, there is something for everyone."

An added plus is authentic engagement.

"Unlike a lot of artificial team-building and contrived role-modelling activities, corporate volunteering is about real people trying to help solve real-world complexities," Scott says. "Through it, leaders can learn about different strengths of their teams whilst staff members become better engaged. Consequently, the organisation as a whole becomes better connected to its customers. It’s a satisfying way for staff to connect with their communities, demonstrate corporate citizenship, build their team and foster new experiences."

The work can bring different meaning to different generations, too. "For younger staff members who expect stronger pro-social values from their organisation, volunteering provides a meaningful way of creating a recruitment competitive advantage," he explains. "While for those nearing retirement, corporate volunteering offers an opportunity to explore ways of continuing to offer their skills and experiences without the demands of full-time employment."

Scott’s tips on how to roll out a corporate volunteering program? "Spend time aligning your organisation’s values with a similar charity or sector. By doing this groundwork, you increase your chances of volunteering engagement, resulting in a sustainable strategic advantage. And find champions in your organisation to ensure maximum interest, investment and impact."

Who volunteers?

Volunteering Australia defines volunteering as "time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain." Data collected from Australia’s last census in 2016, provides a snapshot of exactly how we are volunteering in Victoria. From this data Volunteering Victoria assembled an information sheet of key facts and statistics1.

The findings include:

  • Volunteers skew female
    20.8 per cent (518,547) of Victorian females aged 15 years and over, as opposed to 17.6 per cent (413,006) of males, count themselves as volunteers.
  • Middle-aged are more magnanimous
    Almost half of our state’s total number of volunteers belong in the 40-49 year-old age bracket.
  • Relationship status
    It’s not just singles who volunteer. Almost 23 per cent of volunteers in Vic are married.
  • Sector divisions
    Some sectors are more flush with volunteers than others. Considering our state’s penchant for sport, it is no surprise that sport and physical recreation organisations contain the largest number, followed by:
    • Welfare/community
    • Education and training
    • Health
    • Religious and other.
  • Other ways to volunteer
    For the many of us who aren’t enrolled in a volunteering program, Victorians are still contributing in other ways.
    • Spontaneous volunteering is triggered by a sudden act, usually during a time of crisis. The Black Saturday bushfires were cause for 22,000 Victorians to volunteer.
    • Informal volunteering is when volunteering occurs away from an organisation or group. In Victoria, close to ten per cent of volunteers provided care to someone with a disability, long-term illness or problems associated with ageing.


1:The comprehensive information sheet, ‘Key facts and statistics about volunteering in Victoria – 2016 Census Update’ was published in January 2018 and is available in full on the Volunteering Victoria website.

Volunteering Victoria also offer corporate volunteering special interest groups, consulting services, online toolkits, videos and case studies.