There is also great interest in corporate volunteering in eastern Slovakia
At the end of February, representatives of companies and organisations met in Prešov and together they looked for opportunities for cooperation.
On Wednesday, the 22nd of February, the Pontis Foundation held the Conference on Corporate Volunteering in the Park of Culture and Recreation in Prešov. The goal of the event was to inspire companies in the region to develop corporate volunteering and to share with them successful examples of local companies that have volunteering in their DNA. They received instructions on how to cover volunteering legally and administratively, how to motivate people or where to start.
The representatives of BLF member companies, Andrea Danihelová from VSE Holding and Jaroslav Grygar from Whirlpool advised how to start and organise corporate volunteering in the long term. The director of the Prešov Volunteer Center, Petra Gerhartová, and the team leader of the corporate volunteering team of the Pontis Foundation, Veronika Sedláčková, represented the non-profit sector. They presented the opportunities for volunteering in the region and the most common mistakes to watch out for in cross-sector cooperation.
Did you know that volunteering can make employees happier?
Volunteering in companies is no longer a rarity. It is becoming an essential part of company culture and philosophy. Deloitte Volunteerism Survey research from 2017 says that up to 89% of employees perceive their work environment to be better thanks to the opportunity to volunteer. As many as 74% of them acquired a greater sense of meaning in work thanks to participation in volunteering.
The participation of employees in volunteering activities also benefits the employer. Not only does it increase job satisfaction, but it also reduces the risk of them leaving the job by 57%.
Good examples from eastern Slovakia
The conference aimed to inspire companies starting with corporate volunteering, on where to start and how to do it well.
“We started from scratch,” Andrea Danihelová from VSE Holding described the first steps in her initiative. A total of 80 high-ranking managers engaged in the first volunteering activity in the company. They had to leave their comfort zone, but it worked well. The management’s involvement initiated corporate volunteering throughout the company, reaching almost 400 people who regularly volunteer after seventeen years. Management support is crucial for the development of corporate volunteering. Not only do they set an example and motivate other people to get involved, but often after a good volunteering experience, they become guarantors of volunteering in the company and drive its further development.
Jaroslav Grygar from the Whirlpool company confirmed that volunteering can be part of the DNA of the corporate culture even in the case of a manufacturing company. Whirlpool works in three shifts, but people are interested in engaging in charitable activities and the company supports them in this. “However, corporate volunteering must have its own structure and be well organised,” recommended J. Grygar.
Anyone who wants to help can select from the offer
In both VSE Holding and Whirlpool, over decades, they have created a rich structure that allows people to engage in corporate volunteering according to their preferences and possibilities. Both companies support people in volunteering activities and their private lives.
“We have created a programme through which we also support volunteering in free time,” stated A. Danihelová. Thanks to this, the company obtained information on what kind of volunteering activities the employees engaged in after work and incorporated them into its offer. “In our programme, employees record the hours worked in their favourite organisation. The more hours they work, the more funds this organisation can receive from the VSE Foundation. In two years, more than 300 projects were implemented and supported.” Besides, VSE regularly organises the charitable VSE city run in Košice, the proceeds of which also go to support organisations with which the company has long-term cooperation.
Whirpool has 117 active volunteers who are available anytime when the situation and circumstances require it. They even have a volunteer club in the company. Through it, they implement various activities for members and other potential volunteers. They regularly organise the Christmas Wish Tree project. The employees can purchase a gift for organisations’ clients precisely according to the wishes described by the client. They are also involved in the Our Town event, preparing a ski course for employees’ children or a summer camp, during which children can have lunch with their parents in the company canteen.
Both company representatives agreed on some important points. “Unorganised volunteering is the biggest tragedy,” says A. Danihelová. The most essential thing is to start gradually and continuously plan activities and add new ones. It would help if you relied on the preferences of people in the company and the possibilities of operation.
What to watch out for in the beginning
Where to start?
- Create a plan for the whole year with a list of attractive activities for employees. Ask them what they would be interested in, what organisations they know and would like to help, and/or connect with an experienced partner. You can contact the Pontis Foundation or your regional volunteering centre. The partner’s role is to relieve the company of the administrative and organisational burden, draw attention to possible risks, and sometimes train volunteers. Don’t forget to involve management in volunteering as well. It will promote the motivation and engagement of others. The ideal start for corporate volunteering is participating in the largest event, Our Town.
Will we lack people?
- Start small and plan activities gradually so that regular work can be done, but at the same time, make sure people do not feel that volunteering could always be cancelled because there is no time for it. Involve people gradually, including the management, to build interest. Present volunteering as an employee benefit. Use the option of volunteering as a reward for those who perform excellently, achieve results, or spend a lot of time in offices or operations. Allow them to experience something new and “breathe fresh air.”
How to find out where our help is most needed?
- Use the opportunity to cooperate with the Pontis Foundation or the Prešov Volunteer Centre (each region has its own) in selecting and coordinating corporate volunteering. Such partner organisations cooperate with other non-profit organisations and know how to identify their needs. They can be an excellent intermediary in ensuring your help is not wasted. Based on your preferences, they can find an organisation that needs help, and you have the capacity and desire to provide it.
- Volunteering must be beneficial for both parties involved; only then will the desired positive effect be achieved. Both partners must respect each other, agree on the rules of cooperation and possibly be able to back down or assert their opinion to correspond with their values. Volunteering should not be seen as team-building where nothing gets done. Therefore, people need to understand that they are going to work, but after this, they will also feel a sense of meaningful fulfilment.