Even in the face of an unprecedented global crisis, corporate volunteering remains a vital force – mobilizing the skills, energy and commitment of workers in every region to help build a better world for all.
That is the core message of this report on IAVE’s Global Corporate Volunteering Research Project. It is built on in-depth examinations, as seen through the eyes of those directly responsible for managing the volunteer programs, of the realities, the trends and the best practices that continue to shape the field.
This report presents what the research team has learned from 2020-2022,a time of unprecedented crisis and change for the concept and practice of corporate volunteering. Seven broad themes emerged and are discussed in this chapter. In the following section, “An Agenda for the Future,” four major challenges to the field, also drawn from the research, are presented.
The following short summaries are intended to briefly describe the key trends and characteristics of corporate volunteering in each major region of the world. Detailed essays for each region will be available in Corporate Volunteering for a Post-Pandemic World, Part Two.
COVID-19 brought a seismic shift to corporate volunteering worldwide, halting a wide swathe of in-person programs, stimulating development of alternate online activities and redefining existing partnerships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It remains an open question as to what the field will look like in a post-pandemic world.
At the end of the day, it is not enough for companies to have great volunteer programs or to encourage other companies to get involved. They also must become active advocates for volunteering writ large. Their knowledge, their resources, their skills, their images and their reach can make a critical difference – particularly in communications – in bringing to life and sustaining the needed enabling environment for volunteering.
One of the great challenges for corporate volunteering remains: how to effectively document and articulate its impact and value to the communities, organizations and individuals served, as well as to the company and those who volunteer.
Skills-based volunteering (SBV) represents one of the fastest growing forms of corporate volunteering. It recognizes the breadth of people’s skills and the ways in which they can be put to work to enhance individual lives, improve organizational effectiveness and contribute to community vitality.
Corporate volunteering is broadly acknowledged throughout the world to be a benefit to companies, communities and employees. A number of companies are very explicitly using corporate volunteering as a professional and personal development tool for employees. This is most often done in cross-border and skills-based volunteer programs, but can extend beyond these to other forms of volunteering as well.
Cross-border volunteering is a niche product in the broad spectrum of corporate volunteering. Its rationale is based explicitly on its value to the business and participating employees as well as to the organizations served. Its future will be shaped by the impact of COVID-19, changing worker attitudes about participating, evolving views of top management and the not-yet-proven viability of virtual delivery.
Given the increasing number and severity of natural and human-made disasters, it is imperative that companies determine the most appropriate roles they can play – and where volunteering can best make a difference.
Creating and sustaining global volunteer programs takes strong leadership and management skills, energy, imagination, attention to detail and time. Companies rely on distributed leadership and management, tied together virtually for mutual support, to drive both global and local high-priority initiatives.
A more inclusive approach to volunteering offers companies an opportunity to build new, expanding communities that reflect a shared commitment to mutual respect, problem-solving and sustainable growth.