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Why volunteering matters to business

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For many employed South Africans, volunteering for the first time can be an eye opener. This small act can create awareness around the concept of privilege, socio-economic imbalance and promote cultural understanding. Beyond painting walls and planting gardens, employee volunteer programmes improve collaboration, innovation and soft skill development – crucial in creating a socially aware and considerate workforce.

“The private sector needs to build more meaningful engagements with civil society. The skillset within the corporate workforce can help deliver on social projects, create developmental strategies and fill resource gaps,” says Andy Hadfield, CEO of the South Africa’s largest online volunteering platform forgood.co.za.

Since launching their business product in 2015, forgood has designed and assisted in managing online volunteering ecosystems for some of South Africa’s biggest corporates, including the likes of South African Breweries (SAB), Vodacom, Deloitte and Telesure. Each company’s individually branded platform is populated with real-time volunteering and donation requests from non-profits across South Africa. Forgood now has over 10 000 corporate employees registered and has facilitated almost 15 000 engagements on the site, a significant portion of these coming from corporate volunteering programmes.

Showing a conscience and highlighting the social purpose behind a brand has become a powerful tool for business; “South African consumers prefer companies that care and are using their status and infrastructure to do good. Likewise, employees, millennials in particular, seek out companies seen to be doing good.”

Besides working towards a fairer society, one of the key benefits behind corporate social activism is that all activities can be incorporated into Corporate Social Investment (CSI) reporting, which contributes towards BBBEE ratings. Key to the success of these programmes is creating sustainable volunteering programmes that support communities over the long term.

Evidence of the swing in corporate support towards this trend is the amount of companies offering paid volunteer leave to their employees. More than half of forgood’s 14 corporate brands offer paid volunteering leave, with the industry leaders giving between three and five days towards making a meaningful difference.

“The ugly truth is, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. By connecting the resources of the empowered to the needs of the disempowered – at scale – we can begin to close the inequality gap. To achieve this, we need corporate South Africa and their employees to get involved.”

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