Amid headlines of wars and natural disasters, it can be easy to feel lost and unsure of how to help, especially if you can’t be there directly to assist with shelter, cleanup or general aid.
While the typical corporate work day doesn’t involve cleaning up mould after a flood or assisting with bushfire recovery on the ground, there are plenty of ways for companies to volunteer during times of crisis.
How to get involved in corporate volunteering
Community Bred Founder and Lead Consultant Lyndal Scobell said companies should get in touch with their local state volunteering organisation or local government to assess the volunteering opportunities available.
“Do this before a crisis event, so your supporting response can be delivered in a timely and appropriate way,” she said.
“Building and strengthening relationships before a disaster means you can pick up the phone to an appropriate person to offer support after a crisis event.
“Resources and support are highly valued and always needed but not all support is needed all of the time.
“Let the impacted community and the experienced agencies supporting them decide what they need and when they need it, and be ready to provide that support at the right time if you can.”
Ms Scobell said companies should meet with their staff and brainstorm what support they could offer to make the response more inclusive and informed.
“Think about what is needed after a disaster – do you have a resource which fills a gap?,” she said.
“Ideally you will have identified where your service fits, what you can offer before the crisis and have made connections with the right agencies prior.
“That way, services can be deployed promptly and appropriately in a timely manner.”
For some businesses, such as hardware stores, medical services and electrical companies, Ms Scobell said the best response they could offer was to open their doors quickly if they could to allow trade to happen when it was safe to do so after the event has passed.
“For larger businesses who work in multiple locations, think about how you can support colleagues in other locations,” she said.
“Can you send similar-skilled staff to a disaster-impacted area, so local staff can take time off to clean up their homes?”
“Can you take cash donations to send to the disaster-impacted businesses?
“Can you support management from a distance?”
Getting it right
According to the Volunteering WA’s 2020-21 Annual Report, 203 corporate teams were connected to projects, equating to 10,590 volunteering hours donated to Western Australian community organisations.
Working with around 750 not-for-profit organisations, Volunteering WA helps to connect thousands of volunteers to these various groups.
“We can provide advice and also connect businesses to community,” Volunteering WA Chief Executive Officer Tina Williams said.
“We provide employee registrations, risk management, catering, transport, personal protective equipment and onsite instructions, reports and success stories.
“At the front end of that, we also provide organisations with their own platform to advertise positions of their choice to their employees.”
For organisations, such as Volunteering WA, it’s a combined effort from the ground up to deliver appropriate aid to those in need.
“It’s truly a coordinated effort, rallying a team together during a crisis could be to collect donations, funds and volunteer their time for sorting the donations,” Ms Williams said.
“It also helps to build team spirit and morale."
"It’s really rewarding to give back to your communities and see the difference you can make in that process.”
Although volunteering is often thought of as a selfless act, can it actually do more harm than good? Ms Williams said it was a possibility if the incorrect services and resources were sent to those in need.
“If companies support community recovery and response through appointed leads, such as the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, the Department of Communities or Volunteering WA, then we can match these volunteers, agencies and businesses together, so we can divert them to areas where they are actually needed,” she said.
“It’s all about making the most meaningful and useful contribution to that emergency.
“Volunteering can have a huge positive impact on employees and, of course, the community groups you choose to support.”
Ms Williams said it was crucial that organisations didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, highlighting the importance of conducting research and talking to community organisations that aligned with their goals and values.
“That leads to the best outcomes when volunteering in organisations that really matter to the organisation and the employees,” she said.
Volunteering versus marketing scheme
From rainbow logos during Pride Month, through to social media posts of solidarity during natural disasters, it almost seems too easy for companies to tick the social responsibility box and move on.
“People can see through any lack of authenticity and would question how you continue your support on the other 364 days of the year,” Ms Williams said. “Employees want to make a meaningful difference in the community.”
Before responding to a crisis or a topic of national discourse that’s been promoted throughout the community, Ms Williams said it was important for a company to check their motives before jumping on-board.
“It’s just about highlighting that genuine need to want to respond to an emergency,” she said.