Law firms have been the best practitioners of the pro bono approach to creating social impact for some time now. Presenting a valuable opportunity for businesses to upskill their staff, the idea is splintering out to other industries too.
Increasingly, companies are encouraging employees to provide their professional services to nonprofit organisations (NPOs) at no cost – these unstructured volunteer programmes enable staff to strengthen and diversify their skills sets, which makes them more valuable to their bosses and more engaged with the brand they represent.
“A skilled and experienced workforce is any company’s most valuable asset. It doesn’t matter whether an employee has gained his or her skills on a paid-for or pro bono basis,” says Andy Hadfield, CEO of www.forgood.co.za, a platform that connects corporate employees to reputable causes, NPOs, and community organisations across the country.
Since launching its business product in 2015, forgood has designed and assisted in managing online volunteering ecosystems for some of South Africa’s biggest corporates, including the likes of Vodacom, Discovery, and Telesure Investment Holdings. Each company’s individually branded platform is populated with real-time volunteering and donation requests from nonprofits.
For these NPOs, corporate volunteerism creates greater capacity by providing access to services that are needed but typically expensive. Professionals can, for example, offer to streamline bookkeeping processes, provide legal and contractual consulting services, boost an organisation’s computer literacy skills or develop a fundraising strategy.
Volunteering programmes are seen as a key part of a balanced human resource strategy because of their role in boosting employee engagement. “Seeing your favourite NPO grow, receive more donations and make an even greater impact as a result of your professional involvement leads to a great sense of achievement. Having purpose alongside the standard business profit motive drives self-confidence, professional self-worth, and happiness. In turn, this results in greater productivity and satisfaction at work,” says Hadfield.
Companies can incorporate all activities in their Corporate Social Investment reporting, and they also stand to gain from the positive brand association that a good volunteering programme can promote. A growing body of research has found that social responsibility is a major drawcard for young graduates entering the workforce; they want to feel that their work has purpose and value.
“Employee volunteering should entail much more than an annual teambuilding trip to paint a crèche. Effective programmes support staff in rendering a range of services; bosses may even discover an unknown talent or interest amongst their staff,” says Hadfield.