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3 min read

New incentives for new volunteers?

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An article in the Weekend Australian explains that in an effort to retain staff members and be more receptive to the lifestyle needs of working mothers, babies are now sharing the office space in some of our major corporations.

In the US, this is already becoming a wide spread practice with some major companies already employing this form of support for its workers, with many tipping that this type of program will continue to take hold here in Australia.

With the contents of this article fresh in my mind, I happened to attend a meeting with a representative of a major Australia coffee retail company. The specialty of this company is to provide small, modern coffee making units which at the push of a button dispense high quality fresh coffee products such as cappuccinos, lattes and hot chocolate along with more standard coffee products.

The most interesting part of our conversation (for me at least) centered on the fact that while in the past these type of ‘luxury’ coffee products may have been confined to a local café at lunch time, many Australian companies are now installing these coffee dispensing units throughout their operations for staff to access (free of charge) right throughout the work day. In fact, I was told that many major corporations now have at least one of these units on every floor!

Why? Well because workers today are demanding this – not as a luxury but as an expectation in their workplace. For employees, having access to these small luxuries can often make all the difference between them staying with the company or moving elsewhere. For employers, the expense of providing coffee and retaining employees for longer is far more cost effective than having to continually recruit and induct new staff.

In both cases, the equation is a simple one.

Happy staff equals a happy workplace which in turn equals greater company retention. As the availability of workers continues to become even scarcer, this equation will continue to become an even more critical one.

So where does that leave the volunteering world?

For many years, the ‘traditional’ way of providing support and recognition to our volunteers has been simple. Badges acknowledging years of service, the odd Christmas party, certificates of appreciation.

But the question must be asked of whether or not these forms of retention and acknowledgement still ‘cut it’?

Volunteers, like paid staff, have busy lives to juggle.

Consider:

  • Part time workers
  • Grandparents with responsibilities for caring for grand kids
  • Young mothers with pre-school age children to care for
  • The unemployed with little or no disposable income
  • Students with busy study schedules and limited income
  • Parents who only have weekends free for both family and social responsibilities

Is it time the voluntary sector took a leaf from the book of human resource management and found new ways to support volunteers in undertaking their involvement within the community?

  • How many volunteer programs provide access to free child care?
  • Are parking spaces made freely available to your volunteer workforce?
  • Are volunteers provided with meal vouchers or fuel reimbursement
  • Are there ways volunteers can access technology through your organisation that they cannot gain privately?
  • Are volunteers able to access cheaper memberships or products as a result of their contribution with your agency?
  • Can you utilise the expertise of others in your agency or corporate partners to provide additional training opportunities for your team?
  • There are two key points here:

There is little doubt that those volunteer organisations who find ways to make volunteering more attractive will both attract – and more importantly retain more volunteers.

busy-volunteers

The ways we have traditionally achieved this are becoming less effective, and we need to find new ways to address these issues as we move into the future.

So my questions that I'd love to hear you chime in on are:

  • Do you already offer ‘out of the box’ incentives to your volunteer team? If so what are they?
  • What are the limitations to your agency being able to offer more of this type of opportunity?
  • What other thoughts would you like to share on this topic?

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