Engaging corporate volunteers

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Peter Gilberd, Trees for Survival’s Wellington Regional Manager, talks of his experience with corporate volunteers.

On 17 June, Volunteer Wellington announced the winners of its inaugural Employee Volunteering Awards which are designed to recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions from businesses, community groups and individuals.

As a judge of the awards, and a long-time user of the services of Volunteer Wellington, I recommend corporate volunteer groups as a wonderful source of help for environmental activities.

Generally, groups work from about 9am to about 3pm and can range in size from a handful to about 20 people; occasionally, up to 40. My experience is that the groups are enthusiastic, able and keen to enjoy the day. The usual planning is required but there is no need for close supervision; invariably, the members of the groups have enough nous to take ownership of the activity. The corporate groups are often mainly youngish people, but not exclusively so; sometimes a senior member of management is also present. They cater for themselves at lunchtime, but we always provide morning tea.

IAG/State volunteers and Peter, with 200 northern rata ready for planting. Photo: Judy Kerr (Volunteer Wellington)

Corporate groups can offer skills that are in demand by community groups and labour; both are valuable!

While most of the activities that I organise are based around planting, I try to bring in an angle that is novel for the corporate group volunteers. Plantings, for example, might be themed as with our “northern rata forest”, or I might build in work at the local marae, ensuring that one or two elders are present. Or we might work at one of the local rest homes (providing for the volunteers an insight to a different way of life), or work at our nursery (which always goes down well).

Increasingly, the business sector is looking for relationships with community organisations and these partnerships are one of the award categories for Volunteer Wellington.

To engage corporate groups, it is necessary to be a member (which is inexpensive) of Volunteer Wellington, and to write a descriptive, and enticing, page on the proposed activity. In Auckland, you would join Volunteering Auckland and there may be similar organisations in other cities.

For your voluntary group, for your school, for TfS activity, have a think about how corporate volunteers can support your work.

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