L’Express – Volunteers at Work
February 5th, 2007
By Cecil Lepage
In British Columbia, 45% of the population, over the age of 15, volunteers with not-for-profit organizations. What’s new? Qualified professionals are volunteering their specific skills and expertise.
For several years, Jen Lund has devoted her spare time to Shooting Stars, a foundation which organizes events and concerts to raise money for the fight against HIV/AIDS. “I sit at the Board of Directors, but I also take on basic tasks like ticket-sales or staffing the coat check…” recounts Jen. These tasks are quite distinct from her consultancy in human resources. So, when Jen learned that Volunteer Vancouver sought a volunteer with expertise in Human Resources, Jen did not hesitate: “As a volunteer I carried out two projects for them with the goal to improve the management of their staff and the members of the Board of Directors”.
Jen Lund’s case is not isolated: more and more qualified professionals are volunteering their skills and expertise to support not-for-profit organizations. Formerly rivals, professionals and volunteers are now common causes. “Usually, one associates the image of a volunteer as someone stuffing envelopes,” summarizes Maria Williamsof Volunteer Vancouver. “However, many professionals can find interesting ways to support the not-for-profit organizations they are passionate about.”
Companies with a philanthropic culture encourage their employees to engage as volunteers in their community. Business Objects, a provider of Business Intelligence and reporting software, for example, provides employees one paid day per annum for them to volunteer for an organization of their choice. Over the last 18 months, Troy Anderson and one of his colleagues devoted 80 hours to Arts Umbrella, a visual and performing arts institute for children and youth. They developed a system to more effectively manage Arts Umbrella’s Fund Development program.
“Not only did I enjoy making a difference for the organization but I also enjoyed exploring my passions and contributing my expertise,” Troy analyzes. “I know well the field of sales and how it relates to Fund Development, essential to not-for-profit organizations. But in my regular employment, I don’t often have the opportunity to take on a project leadership role. My contribution to Arts Umbrella allowed me to develop this skill.”
An expanding network
It is through volunteer work that Jon Morris, CEO of JDQ Systems, a strategic consulting firm, has reconciled the extremes of his personal and professional lives. As a long-time community citizen and volunteer, Jon is convinced that community engagement can play a part in a company’s success. Among other things, John has established philanthropy as one of the pillars of his company. Named the 3Spheres of Reciprocity™, this initiative demonstrates that an employee can volunteer to contribute to community while, at the same time, developing professionally.
“Believe it or not, at the beginning, the not-for-profit organizations were the most skeptical,” tells Jon. “They could not believe that a gesture could be so altruistic. But, in fact, our offer of services profits us mutually. Of course, it does not provide us with new contracts to JDQ Systems, but our volunteer promotes a positive image of the company which differentiates us from our competitors.”
Through the framework of the 3Spheres of Reciprocity™, the employees of JDQ Systems offered their expertise to the Surrey Food Bank, the Westcoast Family Resource Society and the Neil Squire Society to improve the organization’s efficiency or to implement a new software system. On the other hand, JDQ Systems has widened its network. Jon Morris confirms: “We are pleased to have worked with new people and to have to discovered new talents. This can, for example, facilitate recruitment”.
These initiatives announce the rise of a new volunteer, very distinct of its image as an envelope-stuffer or candy-striper.