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Corporate volunteering - a personal perspective

Lingwa: EN
Document available also in: FR

I have been volunteering for the past 11 years. Together with my colleagues from the Association for Social Integration and Environmental Protection, I set up the Braşov Volunteer Center in 2008. These years of community involvement have meant for me a continuous learning process about the variety of volunteers.
Most of the ones we work with are youth: school pupils or students, young people in early years of work experience or looking for work. It is not common for people over 30 years of age to be engaged in volunteering, since, most of them say, they are busy with their long-term relationships or with families and children.
Volunteering is perceived as an activity which young people can do especially. If you work and have a family you can not imagine that you can get involved in the community. That's what we've seen in our little volunteer community.

Over time we have seen different paths of those who came to us. Those who were in high school were active until they went to college, those who were alone were no longer volunteering if they entered a relationship and others left the volunteer center immediately after hiring. I think it could be a matter of time management or a drop in motivation. For most people, volunteering can be a moment in life, associated with youth, a period of time when worries are fewer. It's a natural evolution that I understand and accept. It is important that your volunteer experience, no matter how long, helps you become a responsible citizen.

But there is always an exception. Our co-ordination team, which consists of members aged over 25 years, with full-time jobs, was so sontrgly motivated to keep pace, that it was active until we ensured the succession of the group of volunteers.
Our organization worked mostly on a voluntary basis, and for this reason the activities were organized with great effort and perhaps with many shortcomings in terms of volunteer management. However, over 11 years, more than 500 people have been involved in various actions in all fields (social, environmental, cultural, sports, civic).

I said above that at the Braşov Volunteer Center most of them are young people. Obviously there were exceptions: people who had the courage to come and do many extraordinary things for our community. We had seniors with incredible energy and strength. There is always the question of how we could involve adults in volunteer activities. They are an important resource and the fact that other countries have a significant tradition shows very clearly that they are capable and willing to make a contribution.

After a while I heard of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). In March 2016, the VOLUM Federation drafted a guide called "Employer-supported Volunteerism and Corporate Social Responsibility." In this paper, corporate social responsibility is defined as a concept by which companies integrate social and environmental issues into their business structure and interact with stakeholder volunteers. It is also said that "it is also the interest of companies to develop this concept internally and externally, as well as the interest of society in supporting objectives related to sustainable development and competitiveness in the social and economic market". In recent years, non-governmental organizations in Romania have approached the businness sector in the field of volunteering supported by the employer. There are more and more collaborations through which employees engage in corporate volunteer activities.

It's happening the other way around too. The private sector is approaching us, NGOs, to facilitate voluntary activities involving private company employees. For example, those from Siemens Technology Braşov have an event called Siemens Day. Once a year, on working day, employees leave aside their job responsibilities and take part in volunteer activities. The first collaboration with Siemens was extremely beneficial to a significant number of organizations in Brasov. We, the Braşov Volunteer Center, managed to restaurate a space during one Friday in September 2016. The people were extremely responsible and took everything seriously. I have seen toughness, consistency but also great creativity that day. Together we managed to refurbish a space that requires more improvements: painting benches, tables, asphalt, panel mounting. It was a family activity because Siemens employees came with the children who participated in creative workshops coordinated by our volunteers. On that day Siemens was involved in other activities. They have prepared a lunch from the "Thank you" canteen, a project of the "Joyful Gift" Foundation, as well as organizing a running competition at Mercheaşa organized by the Carpaterra Association.

In Romania, we are still in the beginning with this, but in a positive evolution in terms of corporate volunteering. I know local organizations that already have a tradition in partnerships with private companies who want to get involved in the community. From the restoration of degraded lands through tree planting actions, initiated by the Conservation Carpathia Foundation to the preparation of food packages for hundreds of beneficiaries together with the "The Joy of Giving" Foundation - there are only a few examples that make me think that in time we will make a big progress, like other countries such as the UK or Norway, where 80% of the population is normally volunteering.

In order to better understand employer-backed volunteering and corporate social responsibility, I have always tried to relate to people who have a relevant experience in the field. If, in 2016, we visited the Hammersmith Volunteer Center in London, and we received from Dominic Pinkney information on how he organizes volunteer activities for private companies through Works4U, in February 2019, I attended a corporate volunteer course organized by Slovenska filantropija in Slovenia. The experience in Slovenia was due to the partnership that the Braşov Volunteer Center has with the Volunteer Center Cluj-Napoca within the project "CiVi - Trained Coordinators - Volunteers involved", a project funded by the Eramus+ program.

In Slovenia, there is already a tradition of corporate volunteering. Every year, companies have employee involvement programs in various activities. Slovenska filantropija is an organization which collaborates with private companies in their own activities but also takes he role of intermediary for other non-governmental organizations. There is a catalog of volunteer opportunities made by Slovenska Filantropija, which includes associations wishing to collaborate with private companies. The model in Slovenia has made me think that locally, the Braşov Volunteer Center can facilitate the relationship between private companies and non-governmental organizations working with volunteers. I am aware that this relationship will be formed over time but I believe that the number of companies that will involve employees in voluntary activities will increase in the coming years.

We still need to learn how to work together so that joint actions have a real impact in the community.

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