Calgary Corporate-Community Forum – Part 3

Changing the conversation: The final post of a 3-part blog, based on a Calgary meeting of non-profits and companies to discuss corporate volunteering

Volunteer Canada held the semi-annual Corporate Council on Volunteering (CCOV) Gathering in Calgary on May 28 and 29, 2018. The Council invited non-profits to join them on the first day so that together they could discuss the best ways to work collaboratively to engage employee volunteers. In this 3-part blog, we share some of the key learnings.

While seemingly providing “free” support to non-profits, employer-supported volunteering has real costs.

Creating, managing and executing a corporate volunteering project, and doing the follow-up work all take staff time. For many non-profits, most of which don’t have dedicated volunteer management staff, that means taking staff time away from other aspects of meeting their mission. There are usually financial costs for project supplies and volunteer refreshments. And while it is often thought that volunteer projects would be done with or without the support of companies, non-profits frequently create opportunities specifically for employer-supported volunteers.

As explored in a previous blog on changing the discussion between non-profits and businesses , it is essential that non-profits: value their own assets and opportunities; audit organizational needs that can be filled by different sizes of volunteering groups and length of commitments; reach internal consensus on when and how to work with companies; and assert their prerogative to decline offers of support from companies.  When the match of volunteers-to-needs works between non-profits and companies, both have a responsibility to ensure costs are recognized and reconciled.

When there is a match of volunteers-to-needs between non-profits and companies, both have a responsibility to recognize and reconcile the costs.

Based on the discussion amongst participants in Calgary, here are some cost-related items for non-profits and companies to consider before corporate volunteers start rolling up their sleeves.

Non-profits:

  1. Proactively discuss volunteer opportunities with donors. Whether including volunteer activities in the donation agreement or negotiating them separately, clarify expectations up front with donors.
  2. Separate cost recovery from fundraising. Some non-profits set fees that far exceed the costs associated with corporate volunteering activities. If the company that wants to volunteer is not already a donor, a separate discussion should take place about a donation beyond the costs of the volunteer activity. Usually, the company representative requesting the volunteer activity has little or zero influence on the company’s donations process and a smaller budget than the company’s donations department.
  3. Consider all the costs for your organization, including staff time and supplies. Decide if the expenses and opportunity costs outweigh the benefits to your mission – even if you can negotiate a full cost recovery with the company.
  4. It is okay to not ask for funds or to decline those offered. However, be confident that you have internal agreement amongst key staff.

9 of 10 companies surveyed by Volunteer Canada said agreeing to host a volunteering opportunity has no impact on receiving a future donation. (April 2018 Poll)

Companies:

Those at the Calgary Corporate-Community Forum agreed that, as a society, money is a difficult discussion for Canadians. However, to ensure equity in corporate-community relationships, it is a necessary discussion.