Volunteer Week: Value beyond money

Sam Judd, CEO Sustainable Coastlines,
Volunteer Week: Value beyond money

Corporate volunteer days are surging in popularity, allowing businesses to establish and promote their values, employees to feel good about themselves and get professional development, and charitable causes to get the help they need, says the CEO of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam Judd. 

 

Since starting the Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust 6 years ago, we have motivated 41,737 volunteers to clean up the beach and plant trees.

Many of these punters came from businesses that encourage their employees to use paid time out of the office to get out and do something good for the community.

It gives them a chance to express their personal values amongst their colleagues and do something different from ‘business as usual’ in the community as a team.

SEE ALSO: Volunteering: Doing well by doing good

 Sustainable Coastlines

New generation, new priorities

Over time we have seen a great surge in the popularity of corporate volunteer days. This aligns with research that shows entry-level applicants are becoming more concerned about flexible hours and the non-monetary values of an organisation than they are about the size of their pay packet.

This change has necessitated a big shift from the ‘baby boomer’ days, as ‘Generation Y’ recruits are also more likely to take risks such as leaving a job they don’t like. The associated staff turnover costs mean that businesses have to adapt to survive.

Armed with ultra-connected devices in pockets, on wrists, and even glasses, the new generation has so much vying for attention that activities that promote a business's values such, as volunteering, must also be efficient, effective, and meaningful. 

 

Education is the key to progress

In 2009, we cleaned up the entire Auckland-facing coast of Aotea/Great Barrier Island. A diverse group - which included a 400 school students, navy cadets, and volunteers (including a team from Westpac) - removed 2.8 tonnes of rubbish. One year later we went back and removed more - 3.1 tonnes from the same beaches.

We realised that whilst these (really stressful and expensive) events were great fun and had an excellent impact on those who participated, it wasn't stopping the mass population from littering in the first place, which is what we need. The activity was certainly meaningful, but not efficient or effective enough.

So just like a business adapts their product strategy, we shifted our focus towards education. Our events continued (and we have now removed over 1 million litres of rubbish), but they always involve educational presentations beforehand aimed at changing littering behaviour – making them more effective.

We decided that we needed to prove the efficacy of the education, so we engaged a team of psychologists who help pro bono and really enjoy using their professional skills to contribute towards looking after the beaches that everybody loves. They assist us to show behavioural change and demonstrate a key, non-financial value from the work.

Sustainable Coastlines Westpac

The value of youth

Now that we can see the education and events making a measurable difference, we are seeking to scale this up by training corporate volunteers in public speaking and event management. This will involve volunteer trainees picking up key skills and applying them by working with school students in the community.

My small team has an incredibly varied range of work, but all of us find that nothing is more meaningful than running presentations and events with kids.

It can also be really efficient if you think that one volunteer could educate over 500 students in a day with a couple of assembly presentations – achieving much more to effectively stop litter getting into the ocean than filling up a few of bags of rubbish that has already been dropped.

We are looking forward to launching this program this year. We see it giving businesses the opportunity to establish and promote their values, employees feeling good about themselves and getting professional development, and it will allow us to deliver even more for the charitable cause. A win-win-win if you ask me!

SEE ALSO: Volunteering: Doing well by doing good 

About the authorSam Judd

Sam Judd, 2013 Young New Zealander of the Year, is the Co-Founder and CEO of the multi award-winning Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust.

To get involved in Sustainable Coastlines volunteering programs, sign into their mailing list on the homepage of their website: www.sustainablecoastlines.org

 

 

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