by Sharon Mvundura, Volunteer Edmonton,

Published in Edmonton Examiner on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Picture your typical workday. Think of the tasks you need to do, the lunch spot where you grab a meal, and the conversations you have with your co-workers. Now imagine if you finished your lunch and the next thing on your to-do list was a volunteer project with your co-workers. That probably isn’t your typical workday.

Employer-supported volunteering is gaining traction all across Canada. In 2013, Statistics Canada reported that 55% of people who worked and also volunteered, did so because they received formal support from their employer. Now you might think that people volunteer all the time outside of work so there is no reason to include it in your workplace priorities. Think again!

Employer-supported volunteering has tremendous benefits in the workplace. For example, it can be hard to get to know your co-workers in a structured work atmosphere. Volunteering together is a relaxed, social activity that can build team spirit and strengthen relationships between staff members. This has positive effects once you get back to the workplace and have to tackle projects and deadlines together.

Volunteering together also gives staff members the opportunity to try out new roles. Let’s say you’re a staff member who usually works as an assistant. Volunteering might give you the opportunity to be a team leader. You may also benefit by building transferrable skills that will boost your resume. Who knows, it might even help you when asking for a promotion, or added responsibility in your current role.

Participating in an employer-supported volunteer project may be a way for you to demonstrate your personal values to the business or organization where you work. Volunteering is a great way to show that you care about the people who access your services and that you care about the wellbeing of your community.

To get a volunteering project started at your workplace you first need to figure out the type of charity or nonprofit organization you would like to support. Keep in mind that not all nonprofit organizations have voluntary programs appropriate for large groups. Don’t be deterred. If an organization is unable to accommodate your entire group, think of unconventional ways to support them. Perhaps an organization has a need they cannot address through their existing voluntary program.

Maybe your work team can pool its’ skills and develop a media campaign, an HR manual or a basic website for the organization.  Ultimately, spending time communicating and planning your volunteer activity with the organization of your choice is the key to a successful experience.

If you’re volunteering for an organization that regularly schedules groups of volunteers, be flexible. Remember you are there to help them, not the other way around. Respect their scheduling systems, and any pre-set group activities they have in place.

Lastly, make sure the experience is fulfilling for everyone involved.  Your volunteer experience should be one that benefits the organization and meets the values of your workplace.

Need some ideas to get started? Our website always has opportunities available for groups of different sizes.

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations believes in volunteerism and is proud to support individuals and nonprofit organizations who work to make their community a better place to live. If you have questions or want to share your volunteer experience, send us an email. Our address is [email protected], we would love to hear from you. 

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