Help­ing oth­ers helps us

Vol­un­teer­ing brings re­wards for worker and em­ployer alike, writes So­phie Toomey

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

NOT many of us can af­ford such gen­er­ous ges­tures as Drew Bar­ry­more’s when she re­cently handed a cheque for $1 mil­lion to the World Food Pro­gram. But thou­sands of Aus­tralians do make ges­tures of ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eros­ity, and with the help of their em­ploy­ers, to a huge variety of causes.

Phi­lan­thropy Aus­tralia es­ti­mates that Aus­tralian busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als give $11 bil­lion each year in money, goods and ser­vices to not­for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions. While some of that money comes from large-scale cor­po­rate fund rais­ing and do­na­tions, there are many em­ploy­ees giv­ing up time, money and ex­per­tise for char­ity.

Belinda Mor­ris­sey is di­rec­tor of Good­com­pany, an or­gan­i­sa­tion match­ing vol­un­teer em­ploy­ees with vol­un­teer projects that utilise their pro­fes­sional ex­per­tise.

‘‘ The idea of Good­com­pany is to match wishes for skills. It’s beau­ti­ful in its sim­plic­ity,’’ says Mor­ris­sey. ‘‘ In 2000, the first year, we had 15 char­i­ties and 150 mem­bers. To­day we have over 600 char­i­ties and have achieved 1000 out­comes worth over $7 mil­lion in pro­fes­sional ser­vices for the com­mu­nity.’’

Mor­ris­sey says the fact that Good­com­pany is an on­line ex­pe­ri­ence ap­peals to pro­fes­sion­als. ‘‘ Time-poor pro­fes­sion­als wouldn’t be in­ter­ested in us with­out that model. Our vol­un­teers search on­line and ap­ply for one of many projects listed by com­mu­nity groups.’’ Mor­ris­sey says her vol­un­teers are driven by a strong de­sire to make Aus­tralia a bet­ter place.

Martin Walker is man­ager of Still Mov­ing De­sign. He vol­un­teered as a web and graphic de­signer to Good­com­pany, and was linked with or­gan­i­sa­tions need­ing help with cor­po­rate-style web­sites or an­nual re­ports. His projects so far in­clude an­nual re­ports for The In­fants Home and Quest for Life and web­sites for HeartKids Aus­tralia, African re­lief and wel­fare agen­cies.

Walker is clear about what mo­ti­vates him to vol­un­teer his time: ‘‘ I re­ally like help­ing out. It is as sim­ple as that.’’ Walker says he pro­vides work that might oth­er­wise cost $5000 in de­sign fees. ‘‘ Time-wise it’s not that ex­pen­sive for me. They pro­vide the images and it’s a case of do­ing what I love, which is con­cen­trat­ing on de­sign.’’

Walker says that projects don’t al­ways fit into the time al­lot­ted, and vol­un­teers must be pre­pared to be leaned on a lit­tle. ‘‘ Some char­i­ties need a lot of at­ten­tion, par­tic­u­larly when be­ing in­tro­duced to new con­cepts. You need pa­tience.’’

Mor­ris­sey says there has been a rise in the num­ber of com­pa­nies in­ter­ested in fos­ter­ing vol­un­teer­ing among their work­ers. She says there are ben­e­fits in staff in­volve­ment in such im­por­tant ac­tiv­i­ties: ‘‘ Pro­gres­sive com­pa­nies un­der­stand this. Many of the com­pa­nies we talk to are not in­ter­ested in the tra­di­tional approach to em­ployee vol­un­teer­ing of paint­ing fences or serv­ing soup. They re­alise they have skills and they see skilled vol­un­teer­ing as a value-add to their or­gan­i­sa­tion.’’

Mor­ris­sey says smart com­pa­nies see they have to en­gage their staff. ‘‘ Gen X and Y have a strong so­cial con­science and are look­ing for em­ploy­ers who match their views. There is an in­creased sense of sat­is­fac­tion and pride in work and, im­por­tantly, an in­creased un­der­stand­ing of the broader so­cial scene.’’

Hunter Hall in­vest­ments is one com­pany with cor­po­rate gen­eros­ity built into its man­date. The com­pany de­cided five years ago that all share­hold­ers would take part in a com­pul­sory share­holder do­na­tions pro­gram.

Suzanne Daniel is chair of the Hunter Hall share­holder nom­i­nated char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions scheme and a di­rec­tor of Hunter Hall In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited.

Daniels says that the com­pany’s founder, Peter Hall, had al­ways per­son­ally do­nated to char­ity and when he floated the com­pany on the Aus­tralian stock ex­change in 2001 he de­cided that 5 per cent of its pre-tax prof­its would go to char­i­ties. The com­pany later de­cided that staff should be ac­tively in­volved, on com­pany time, with those char­i­ties.

Daniel says the com­pany’s lean­ings seem to have at­tracted staff with al­tru­is­tic lean­ings, and she has never en­coun­tered an em­ployee who did not em­brace the in­volve­ment. ‘‘ We sur­veyed staff a cou­ple of years ago about work­ing for us, and two things they were most proud of were our eth­i­cal in­volve­ments and our char­ity scheme.’’

Staff in­volve­ment is prac­ti­cal and struc­tured, but they can be­come more in­volved if they wish. ‘‘ Staff take a paid day off each year to vol­un­teer to one of our char­i­ties, and al­most all staff mem­bers have done this.’’ Daniels says the projects can be as di­verse as pack­ing ham­pers for the Smith Fam­ily to help­ing with the or­gan­i­sa­tion of an ed­u­ca­tion day for the Aus­tralian Orang­utan Project.

Christina Christo­pher­son is re­la­tion­ship man­ager for Hunter Hall In­vest­ments. She is a mem­ber of the char­i­ties com­mit­tee for the com­pany, and has vol­un­teered for the North­cott swim­ming car­ni­val on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. North­cott is an or­gan­i­sa­tion help­ing chil­dren with dis­abilites. She has also been in­volved out­side work time with fundrais­ing for the Syd­ney Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.

Christo­pher­son says she is mo­ti­vated to vol­un­teer by the per­spec­tive it gives her on her life. ‘‘ There are a lot of pres­sures around daily life and spend­ing a day vol­un­teer­ing puts that into per­spec­tive. Plus, of course, there is a cer­tain feel-good fac­tor in it for me.’’

Christo­pher­son says work­ing with char­i­ties has given her a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how hard the peo­ple be­hind them work. ‘‘ I have such ad­mi­ra­tion for their work, but I have also got a far bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties from work­ing with North­cott.’’

Price­Wa­ter­house­Coop­ers Aus­tralia is an­other com­pany with a sig­nif­i­cant char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion and which has ex­tended its reach into em­ployee vol­un­teer­ing. The foun­da­tion was set up five years ago to co-or­di­nate PWC’s char­ity ac­tiv­i­ties, do­na­tions and cor­po­rate com­mu­nity lead­er­ship.

Anita Poppy, man­ager of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at PWC Aus­tralia, says ‘‘ we have 21 char­i­ties across five cause ar­eas such as health, poverty, youth and the en­vi­ron­ment’’. Poppy says em­ploy­ees can in­volve them­selves in any num­ber of ways, in­clud­ing ac­tive vol­un­teer­ing or pay­roll de­duc­tions. ‘‘ Staff are en­cour­aged to trial new ac­tiv­i­ties. This leads to some chal­leng­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, like sit­ting down to lunch with marginalised and home­less peo­ple.’’ Poppy says the pay­roll scheme is hugely suc­cess­ful, with PWC match­ing em­ployee do­na­tions dol­lar-for-dol­lar.

Anita Burer is an ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant with PWC Melbourne, and was re­cently re­warded by PWC with a prize for her vol­un­teer work. ‘‘ It felt odd to be re­warded for some­thing I en­joy do­ing so much. It re­ally doesn’t feel like hard work. Both my par­ents vol­un­teered and as a teenager I helped my mum with Meals on Wheels. When I left home and wasn’t vol­un­teer­ing, I felt like some­thing was miss­ing.’’

Brurer has been in­volved in many things, from dis­tribut­ing ham­pers for the Smith Fam­ily to tree plant­ing for Land­care and as­sist­ing in fundrais­ing events for breast can­cer and leukemia.

Brurer says there are enor­mous per­sonal re­wards in vol­un­teer­ing. ‘‘ It makes me re­alise I am part of a com­mu­nity, of some­thing big­ger than me and that my ac­tions — good or bad — im­pact on that com­mu­nity. I also love get­ting oth­ers in­volved. ’’

Brurer says it has de­vel­oped her on a per­sonal level. ‘‘ I’ve learnt so much, and vol­un­teer­ing has forced me out of my com­fort zone so many times. I’ve learnt that en­gag­ing peo­ple in­volves a good deal of skill!’’

Per­spec­tive: Christina Christo­pher­son says vol­un­teer­ing has changed her view of life

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.