Building Corporate Volunteerism into CSR

Companies today are moving back from philanthropic (cash only) contributions to active community involvement. This includes in addressing practicing community amelioration by engaging employee involvement. Civil society is increasingly holding the corporate sector responsible for environmental issues and local community issues. This movement has been promoted by growing accountability demanded by the general public.

As a subject it has taken front stage in the corporate world globally. However correct understanding of CSR is still quite limited in Pakistan, with a general belief that corporate philanthropy (altruistic donation of funds to causes / charities without expectation of any return) is the ‘same thing’ as CSR. Whilst CSR has evolved from corporate philanthropy, it needs to be considered as a process within the company which goes well beyond mere cheque-writing.

In Pakistan, companies which have made the effort to understand CSR have quickly realized that there is in fact a business case for CSR. These companies have improved their image and reputation within the local communities, have more productive supply chains, have become better selling brands and have become workplaces of employee choice.  In other words, CSR is good for business. By developing a holistic CSR strategy covering all business operations, and by putting this strategy into practice, companies stand to reap a number of benefits. Broadly speaking, these include:

  • Cost savings
  • Reduction of environmental footprint
  • Higher efficiencies and hence higher productivity
  • Higher profit margins
  • Reputation and image enhancement
  • More motivated workforce

Corporate volunteering can be linked to reputation enhancement and a more motivated workforce. It has been explored as both an aspect of CSR and employee development. Globally, survey reports identify a number of reasons for CSR. Effective CSR creates a viral marketing or word-of-mouth benefit, which may be difficult to quantify but whose impact is far greater and far more long-lasting.

Volunteerism is not a new phenomenon. Children from as early as the age of sixteen are part of volunteer programmes in Pakistan. Private schools encourage students to opt for programmes towards community building and helping to promote progress and equality.

Volunteerism helps to bring in new ideas and energy to work. New innovative ideas can be drawn while looking into new projects or at times dealing with monotonous work. There is a great deal of flow of ideas.

Other benefits of introducing volunteerism at a large scale include the strengthening of relationships with the people in the local communities. This also helps to improve social and relationship skills of the volunteer. Moreover, engaging volunteers for a project helps to gain support for the work and to gain first-hand knowledge of what the community needs and lags behind in. Later, the goals can be set in tune with the perspective of the community as a whole rather than just in the aim of the organization.

Volunteerism thus enables everyone to become a part of the community service. It provides them a sense of direction, and keeps them engaged and occupied. It is not only good for individual self-esteem but at the same time it is important for mental health.  In developed countries volunteers have become a support force to different public and not for profit organizations. Volunteering Australia reports volunteer activity was worth $25.4 billion to the Australian economy in a study done in 2010 (Volunteering Australia (2015).

Corporate volunteering has been explored as both an aspect of CSR and employee development.  Volunteering has become a strategic asset to help achieve business goals.  The benefits of corporate volunteering include employee development, as they are required to think and use his/her skillset in an alternative situation. It also helps build greater teamwork and bonding between employees within the company through their close interaction outside the workplace. When employees are validated by the company for their additional skills and strength of character, it can lead to higher productivity, increased employee motivation and loyalty.  

Researchers have found that employees who volunteer through their workplace report improved physical and emotional health. The specific benefits include reduced obesity, reduced stress, increased levels of activity, a more positive emotional state and higher levels of overall satisfaction with life.

New at Volunteering

New at VolunteeringIn June 2011, I had recently finished my A’level exams and my eagerness to begin my journey as an undergraduate student was at its peak. However, the tedious wait of two months before I enrolled as a student was getting to me. I had to make the wait worth awhile so I decided to volunteer in the meantime. I had never volunteered at a nongovernmental organization before and I had no idea about the challenges which were heading my way. I went ahead and spoke to the Care Foundation to let me volunteer at one of their government adopted schools. The school I volunteered at was called the Zamzama Government Primary School. They were very keen on letting me begin this new chapter of my life as a voluntary teacher to children from class 1 to 3 the very next day.

That day I remember waking an hour before my alarm was meant to buzz, feeling nervous to meet the children I was going to teach. Thoughts such as, “Am I going to be able to teach them anything? Will I actually make them learn and discipline themselves? Are they going to respect me as their other full-time employed teachers?” ran through my head. I mustered up all the courage and positivity I had in me and got ready to go to school. Once I got there, I was called into the Principal’s office and he told me that I would be teaching English to classes 1 to 3. He handed me a set of English curriculum books that they were using. He told me that my first class would begin in fifteen minutes and until then I should familiarize myself with what is being taught. I went through the books and the responsible feeling of educating  young brains breezed through me and filled me with joy. I sat there going through different English Language exercises and made a mental plan of what exactly I was going to teach.

Soon, I was taken to class 1 and was introduced to them as their new English teacher. The children all stood up to greet me with a synchronized ‘good morning teacher’ while a few just murmured a simple ‘hello.’ Once they were all seated and ready for their first lesson, I picked up a chalk and scribbled ‘English’ in bold letters across the board. I was instantly nostalgic of the time when I role played as a teacher when I was five years old. I began teaching and lost track of time looking at little hands writing in their notebooks and giggling over a silly mistake. Soon, the bell rang and I was done teaching my first class. I went back to sit and wait in the library until I would be called to teach class 2.

That day, I learnt a lot about myself. Not only was I capable of teaching and making the children feel comfortable around me but I realized the power every teacher holds of shaping an individual’s life. The authority of making a mark in someone’s life is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Think about it. You are giving a child something that he would store in her or his mind for the rest of her/his life in one way or the other.  When he grows up and finally makes use of the knowledge you have provided him with, you realise it’s a priceless experience to become a teacher.

Similarly, volunteering is an experience that enables you to trespass your comfort zone and achieve new heights. The minute you decide to serve a cause or an institution without seeking to gain any monetary or tangible benefits you teach yourself the importance of community ownership. It is our duty to serve other people and make their lives easy if we have been blessed with an easier and less complex life. The more we give, the more we get – I certainly live by this statement. A person must volunteer at least once in his lifetime.

What Is the National Volunteer Programme?

13043694_1592103927747585_8427054828676257667_n-600x399Find the right cause to volunteer for through the National Volunteering Programme.

Volunteering presents opportunities for self satisfaction and learning. Volunteers can gain valuable experience and get involved with thousands of people working for the betterment of Pakistan. TBL is pleased to announce the National Volunteering Programme.

Our Mission is ‘to be a positive change-agent in society, by providing a structured platform for all people wishing to volunteer their time for socio-economic uplift, and placing such volunteers into those beneficiary institutions which can benefit the most from the volunteers’ particular skills and capabilities’. The National Volunteering Programme presents a way of matching compassionate volunteers to make a difference with the needs of a nongovernmental institution or a not for profit – the beneficiary institutions. It also gives the companies to volunteer their employees as a part of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. The beneficiary institutions gain valuable human resources which helps them further their outreach.

NVP Begins Placements!

First batch of Volunteers ready to assist! 

The first ever NVP Volunteer Orientation took place on Saturday, 26th March 2016. Baring a few, almost all of the invited registered volunteers were able to attend and it was an absolute delight meeting them all. The main purpose of the Orientation was to introduce our volunteers to the basic Code of Conduct of required of them as well as to discuss their respective placement within our registered Beneficiary Institutions.

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The Orientation began with a small but engaging presentation which explained in detail the Volunteer Code of Conduct as well as their rights and obligation within the Beneficiary Institutions. A small activity was also conducted in the midst where all the participants got the chance to share their respective views regarding volunteering, its necessities and the acquired benefits. It was a joy to witness the passion and enthusiasm our volunteers feel on helping the institutions that work tirelessly for the improvement of Pakistan.

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The volunteers invited were from diverse backgrounds: architects, doctors, teachers, business trainers and consultants, etc. Their effective placements within our registered Beneficiary Institutions – decided via our state of the art match making NVP Portal – was a source of great excitement for us all! This experience gave us first-hand knowledge about the commitment of our volunteers to their respective causes and we sincerely thank them all for their support and passion. NVP would not be possible without their continuous interest.

Meanwhile, as more BI’s continue to register, many more volunteers will be required in the near future. The details of our upcoming programmes will be posted soon so stay tuned to our Portal for further updates! In the meantime, keep spreading the word and keep volunteering!

Honing your skills through Volunteering.

The time given for volunteering has many benefits, from personal sati10357121_1570466546577990_5468601647025790185_nsfaction to learning new skills and gaining experience. For the volunteer, volunteering can help in personal development. For society, volunteering can help in expanding outreach and boost the community spirit through involvement.

One way of volunteering is using our skill sets. If we feel we have an interest or are particularly proficient in something, we can choose to volunteer in those skills. A number of local small social organizations have been developed by housewives using their interests and skill sets in traditional textile embroidery to teach and involve less fortunate women in projects which create outfits to be sold and gain household income.  Other popular activities include teaching the underprivileged and conducting medical camps for the poor by doctors.

All of the activities mentioned above use that ‘particular skill set’ which is important to the activity’s focus, but to run any activity or enable it to grow its outreach, such institutions need further help. Often students are asked to intern to provide help. The help required is unplanned, often frustrating the   student who normally just spends his time twiddling his thumbs or partaking in a mundane activity.

Such volunteering is not fruitful for anyone – the institutions will gain little out of the time – whilst there will be no learning experience for the student or volunteer. Volunteering, if properly managed can be a valuable learning experience adding to the skillsets and confidence of the person.

Establishing volunteer management plans can derive the greatest benefit out of volunteers for nongovernmental organizations and charities.  The plans define the activities volunteers can be used for. This can be used to meet expanding needs in institutions with limited resources. If the institution is able to define what it needs and the volunteer can be recruited to meet its requirements – then there can be a ‘match’ so to speak. If volunteers can choose particular activities that appeal to them which make use of what they know, then they can be content in making a more meaningful contribution.

Globally, this type of volunteering has become very widespread. With the advent of the internet and social media, volunteering has become very easy. Many portals are available online which make it possible for volunteering in many ways.  Most portals allow you to develop a profile and identify your interests, skill sets and also show profiles and requirements not for profits which require volunteers – making it easy to choose.

The National Volunteer Programme offers this facility.  Volunteer recruitment is managed through filling in a form online. The advantage of the programme is that it has defined areas where volunteers can assist in terms of interests and skill sets. Beneficiary institutions let us know of the needs through the ‘job description template’ about the requirements they have and we match both volunteers and institutions where both can benefit most.

It is also easier to become involved with these institutions as well if they have defined modes of volunteering. In this day and age with work, family commitments, internet, socializing and other activities – all our time is literally timetabled.  If we slot in volunteering in our time, we would look forward to being productive in that time period.  The National Volunteer Programme offers the opportunity to be compassionate and hone in personal development.

Interview with Qurat Ul Ain Bakhteari

Qurat Ul Ain BakhteariWelcome to the inaugural blog issue of The National Volunteer Programme (NVP).  The NVP is striving for two key goals – realization of the potential of volunteering in Pakistan and the provision of the much required human resource relief to institutions working hard to improve the lives of the people of Pakistan.

The NVP provides volunteers with an opportunity to choose how to volunteer their time. Many volunteers have specific skill sets which they can use in their volunteering. The NVP portal makes use of a volunteer’s specific skill set to provide a match in institutions which have specific human resource requirements.

One such institution is the Trust for Development Studies and Practices based in Karachi. The institution has established the Institute of Development Studies and Practices (IDSP) in 1998 in Quetta. Dr Qurat Ul Ain Bakhteari is the founding Director for the Institution. IDSP has based the institution on training the youth of Pakistan. “Although the IDSP has initially been established in Balochistan, the plan is to develop such institutions all over Pakistan” says Dr Qurat Ul Ain.

“If the facility is not available in Balochistan, we convince the beneficiaries to come to Karachi for training, where lodging is provided by the TDSP” says Dr Qurat Ul Ain. Leadership training is also given to the women which specifically focuses on the hurdles the beneficiaries face in their family and communities in order to work.  The IDSP has been particularly successful in imparting practical Midwifery training to women. Most students trained have had the theoretical training but have had no experience in midwifery and so cannot set up a clinic or practice. IDSP has provided the solution in arranging practical training for the midwives in Karachi. The women have then gone back to their villages to provide services in their communities

“Whilst our programmes are growing, we need support at the institutional level for long term sustainability.” says Dr Qurat Ul Ain.  With limited resources – often this is not possible. The NVP hopes to provide support by matching volunteers with the skills to meet the requirements of such institutions.

Dr Qurat Ul Ain applauds the concept of the NVP.  “The idea of creating a platform to start work on volunteer services will be appreciated as it will provide the necessary support to institutions such as ours according to our specific needs” she says.  “We need support in administrative activities such as database upgrading to proposal development”.

The NVP will also provide clarity to volunteers. The volunteers can go to the institution knowing the clear requirements. This adds value to their time and increases the sense of satisfaction as they contribute to the organization in a meaningful manner.

The NVP takes into consideration the needs of the volunteer in today’s day and age. The portal provides a format for online volunteering which reduces the time required for finding an institution that is according to the interest of the volunteer. Dr Qurat Ul Ain commented on how the world has changed in many ways. “The need of the day is to embrace the new age – The NVP is innovative in bringing the modern concept of volunteering to Pakistan”.

A salute to the volunteering spirit of Karachi

12644925_1561832177441427_6513277843255580228_nNational Volunteer Programme was launched at the Karachi Literature Festival 2016. Our stall was continuously busy with visitors. All in all more than 400 people visited our stall and approximately 250 signed up to volunteer at a beneficiary institution in Karachi.

The volunteers who registered are from varying backgrounds: sports trainers; Principals of prestigious schools; doctors; environmental consultants, lawyers etc. We are excited at the prospect of seeing volunteers placed at many of the small institutions which always need a helping hand.  

In the course of the establishment of the National Volunteer Programme, we have been in touch with both small and large beneficiary institutions which have professed a need of having volunteers work for them. The needs range from maintaining the website, developing proposals, mentoring children and adults etc.  Each institution has needs specific to the size of organization they are as well as the beneficiary focus of their institution.

A volunteer with the specific skill set can meet the needs if they are given a clear job description to work from. The concept of National Volunteer Programme is to create a match which not only satisfies the volunteer but it also satisfies the beneficiary institution. This is done through a structured process which enables us to monitor the volunteer at the institution as well as value his/her service.  The volunteer will be awarded with a certificate for volunteering a period of a minimum of 24 hours (which is approximately 3 hours a week). If the volunteer continues to volunteer with our programme, his/her hours are accumulated and exciting giveaways are available at 50, 100 and 200 hours.

These tokens of appreciations compare little though to the overall sense of personal satisfaction a volunteer feels on helping institutions in the upkeep of Pakistan. In addition to feeling satisfied, the volunteering helps a person improve his skills – communication, leadership, as well as technical. This adds to the overwhelming learning experience.

The National Volunteer Programme offers a state of the art matching methodology which makes it easier for the volunteer to work in a cause which he/she feels closer to. This could be an NGO working in relation to human rights, environmental protection, senior citizens and so on. It helps us value the good work done by these institutions and learn a little more about our country. We have all become a little insular in our daily lives. Meeting people working for Pakistan and their beneficiaries has made me humble and proud of the selfless work done against all odds. Now you can contribute in your own way by volunteering your skills as a way of showing compassion for those in need.

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