Crossing borders to volunteer

Crossing borders to volunteer

Diana Molina Grasa, Fundación Bancaria ”la Caixa” (Spain)
Michael Evason, IBM (UK)
Sabina Balmer, B360 education partnerships (Switzerland)

Moderator: Eugen Baldas, IAVE (Germany)

Various companies send individuals or teams of skilled volunteers across national borders, particularly into the global South, to support communities and NGOs while giving an impact of solidarity.

In the session we discussed experiences coming from three examples.

The presenters mentioned the following challenges:

  • To select the right person for the right place (if the time to volunteer is company time, there are many more applications of employees than places);
  • to match the skills of different employees to have a balance of skills in the project
  • to manage the expectations of the volunteers and the expectations of the partners;
  • Cross cultural understanding.

Presentations and the discussion highlighted the following key aspects for success:

  • It is very important to know the local and national NGO-partners and to hear their needs.
  • To use professional skills, also from pensioners
  • To realize an appropriate preparation: Volunteers and partners have to be well prepared; the company should have all the necessary things well organized
  • Building bridges with a win-win result should be an important goal.

Experiences in getting a successful grogram:

  • Pre-departure calls with the person and with the local partners ahead of time
  • The program delivers results for the community as well.
  • Preparation beforehand on the cultural aspects; actual tasks and responsibilities are known
  • Getting a feedback from all the stakeholders of the cross – border assignmentsThe examples the forum discussed were based on “out-going programs.” But there could also be “incoming programs” in future to strengthen partnership with corporate volunteering.

Prepared by Eugen Baldas, Moderator


Presentation by 
Diana Molina Grasa, Fundación Bancaria ”la Caixa” (Spain)

Presentation by 
Sabina Balmer, B360 education partnerships

Presentation by 
Michael Evason, IBM

DIANA MOLINA leads the international partnerships within the International Department of “la Caixa” Banking Foundation. She has been responsible for different programs within the institution from public sensitization and awareness to capacity building for health professionals and entrepreneurs in Africa, always focusing on contributing to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

SABINA BALMER is the Founder of B360 education partnerships, which offers companies and private persons the opportunity to participate in an education and ‘cross border volunteering’ project. Prior to founding B360, Sabina worked for Credit Suisse for thirteen years. During the last three years at Credit Suisse she was the Chief Operating Officer of Credit Suisse Asset Management in Switzerland.

MICHAEL EVASON is a Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs manager for IBM, covering around 30 highly varied markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. His major focus is on Corporate Volunteering, including all aspects of employee volunteering, community engagement and pro bono technology engagements with NGOs and government organizations.


EUGEN BALDAS is Vice President and the Regional Representative (Europe) for the International Association for Volunteer Effort. Eugen served as the head of the Germany Caritas Association’s Volunteer Sector, which currently has a network of 60 volunteer centers. Eugen is also the Chair of the international “BeSo” association (Begegnung und Solidarität e.V.), organizing full-time voluntary service overseas.