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Creating Impact Through Volunteering – Part 5: Deepening Employee, Business Engagement for Impact

Creating Impact Through Volunteering – Part 5: Deepening Employee, Business Engagement for Impact

By: Gabrielle Kay, Corporate Partnerships Manager, United Way Australia 

In this fifth blog on corporate volunteering, we discuss the impact the last ten years of our unskilled team volunteering program has had on ourselves, United Way Australia, and how we have used this to deepen our engagement with our corporate partners, their employees and our communities, to create greater impact for all these stakeholders.

Back in 2009 United Way produced a report with the Centre for Social Impact, Common Cause, looking at Sydney’s key social issues. Looking through the lens of United Way’s Community Impact strategy focusing on Education, Income and Health and building on this evidence United Way identified innovative and collaborative strategies.

In 2012, over 500 corporate volunteers told us they want to volunteer again. In addition, 56 percent told us they want to volunteer more and make a larger contribution. This desire fits in well with the new United Way Community Impact Strategy that is based on a collective impact approach , bringing collaborations of interested people and organisations together. United Way has built in opportunities for corporate volunteers to do more, engage more deeply and make greater impacts.

The new volunteering approaches United Way has developed to support the Community Impact strategy are Engaged Volunteering and Strategic Volunteering.

Engaged volunteering provides opportunities for corporate volunteers to use their personal and professional skills, to mentor and motivate Year 10 high school students. Focusing on our more vulnerable communities where many families don’t have a history of working, this exposure to professional working people is helping students to stay focused at school and plan for positive pathways after school.

Volunteers have told us after workshops, “we certainly got more than we gave today and it was a real privilege to be at the workshop.”

Early evaluations are showing that the impact goes two ways and students too are benefiting, with 93 percent of students who were unclear about their pathway post school had clarified their intention to go into secure, productive pathways by the end of the program.

Strategic volunteering, is another type of volunteering United Way has developed to enable executives to use their skills and influence to create Community Impact outcomes. Coalitions of corporate, community and government leaders have been formed to address the strategic issues affecting an identified focus area. A great example is the Homelessness Coalition, which we’ve previously written about – see blog.

Partners for Impact is another strategic volunteering program that provides executives from the corporate and community sector the opportunity to work together on a business issue posed by the community partner in a year long collaboration. As the first year winds up, there has been acknowledgement on both sides of the value of the program, “we’ve had really useful conversations. My corporate partner mentor asks “cut-through” questions to pull out the [employee] traits and she’s spot on with her assessments – she has a bit of a gift.’

With equally powerful feedback from the corporate partner mentors about their experience, we are set to offer this program for a second year in Sydney and also launch it in Melbourne in the coming months.

Community impact is a journey, just as innovation and collaboration is a journey, underpinned by the experience of all those involved. United Way’s role in gathering the evidence, getting the community projects going and harnessing the resources to achieve the outcomes is showing early wins in creating community impact.