Mapping Skill based employee volunteering: Key Webinar takeaways

Corporates have access to the best of resources, in terms of funds, skills, tools, technologies, network and more. Particularly, in terms of human capital and skills, corporates invest in the best of talent and dedicate additional resources on nurturing them. On the other hand, NGOs work with limited resources but bring empathy, intent, and a profound connection with beneficiaries, giving a sense of contributing to the larger benefit of the society often missing in corporate workplace. The potential for transformative collaboration between these two sectors is undeniable and this exchange can be instrumental in bridging the gaps in the social sector.

Skill-based volunteering emerges as a powerful tool in this collaboration, enabling corporates to fortify NGOs while the latter delivers essential services to the beneficiaries. However, for this collaboration to be effective, corporates must align their volunteering initiatives with the genuine needs of the NGOs, prioritizing impact over mere employee engagement.

Key insights from the webinar shed light on essential shifts in mindset and approach:

  1. NGOs must transition from only seeking help from corporates to offering meaningful opportunities for corporate employees to engage. This shift is mutually beneficial as the experience brings out empathy in volunteers and NGOs also transform in the process.
  2. The reciprocal nature of volunteering must be emphasized, highlighting that employees and organizations that volunteer often gain more than they give.
  3. NGOs must recognize the equal value of cash, in-kind donations, and volunteer time—a holistic approach to giving that fosters a comprehensive impact.
  4. Furthermore, NGOs must learn to leverage the value of a volunteer’s time strategically, recognizing its potential to reduce operational costs effectively.

Discussing on a recent study, Kartikye Aggarwal, who is the Growth Strategist at India Welfare Trust highlighted the pressing need for enhanced reporting and disclosure of volunteering data. To further amplify the impact of volunteering initiatives, Aggarwal emphasized the importance of formalizing volunteering policies and incentives.

Discussing with Balakumar Thangavelu, Director of CSR, Employee Volunteering and ESG- Cognizant, shared his perspective on an employee’s journey in the volunteering space using the Volunteering Pyramid. The volunteering pyramid has five levels. It begins with exposure and progresses to advocacy.

He also emphasized the existence of three types of volunteers: tourists, travellers, and guides, each exhibiting varying levels of commitment to volunteering.

  • Tourists: They come for a one-time event and participate and go
  • Travellers: They come with a purpose, want to explore, and understand.
  • Guide:  They will sustain, guide more people, and bring in more volunteers.

Balakumar also discussed how a purposeful experience can make volunteering as an addictive habit, noting that rehabilitation is unnecessary.

Aarti Mahadevan, Founder- Governance Counts focused on the personal development benefits for volunteers, such as building resilience and equity awareness. Aarti shares that it is important for both the volunteers as well as the hosting organisation to effectively plan the volunteering time by understanding the needs and skillsets available. There are abundant volunteering opportunities available to an individual and one must not restrict for a formal occasion to contribute.

The Corporate Context

Balakumar delved into the corporate context, clarifying that employee volunteering budgets are standalone and not tied to CSR initiatives. The myriad benefits companies gain from employee volunteering include engagement, retention, and enhanced branding. The complexities of employee volunteering go beyond other HR engagements like fun Fridays and are focused to motivate employees embrace the long-term benefits.

Kartikye emphasized the importance of a clear purpose for sustainable volunteering. To scale up these efforts, he suggested that volunteering programs be strategically designed as comprehensive HR solutions. By integrating employee involvement within Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, a harmonious synergy can be achieved, maximizing the positive outcomes of both volunteering and corporate social initiatives.

Rajiv Kuchhal, an Impact Investor and startup Mentor, provided insights into engaging with rural NGOs and the dynamics involved. With grassroots organisations there is a huge scope of leveraging technology to address their needs.

Aarti brought attention to the need for skill testing and proposed a person-centric approach, advocating for the mapping of individuals based on motivation, cause alignment, and constraints.

The NGO Context

NGOs must not shy away from rejecting irrelevant offers and communicate their actual needs, so the engagement contributes to a long-standing impact for all involved. Volunteers are integral to the social change process and urged persistent requests for support. A mindset shift is necessary at the NGO end, moving from being requestors to offering opportunities.

To engage in a practical way, it is important to involve them at all levels of the engagement and avoiding assumptions about their capabilities. A very open discussion, a personal touch can go a long way beyond a one-time activity.

Balakumar shared examples of Cognizant’s initiatives in digital empowerment for NGOs and underscored the importance of thorough preparation when exploring proposals with corporates. He stressed the value of volunteer time, equating it in line with cash or in-kind donation.

In conclusion, the webinar offered a comprehensive understanding of employee skill-based volunteering, highlighting the need for clear purpose, effective engagement strategies, and collaborative efforts between corporates and NGOs. Fostering a symbiotic relationship between corporates and NGOs, grounded in strategic and impactful collaborations, has the potential to bring about a significant positive change in addressing societal challenges.

Aarti Mahadevan is actively involved in the skills based volunteering space. Individuals looking for volunteering opportunities and NGOs looking for volunteering help can reach out to Aarti Mahadevan at: [email protected].

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