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Business Support for Employee Volunteers in Canada

Results of a National Survey

March 8, 20078 March 2007

Business Contributions to Non-Profit Organizations

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Based on a survey of 990 businesses in the fall of 2005, supplemented by two focus group sessions and 22 interviews, this report provides information about the types of organizations supported by employee volunteering, business benefits and challenges related to employee volunteering, the number of businesses that support employee volunteering, and how this support is provided.

The survey finds that cultural organizations are supported by only 1% of companies that provide support for employee volunteers. The most commonly supported non-profit organizations are in the health (16%), social services (13%) and sports and recreation (12%) sectors.

The perceived benefits for businesses include improving their public image (reported by 33% of companies that support employee volunteering), increasing employee morale (21%), and enhancing relations with the surrounding community (17%). The key challenge for businesses is covering the workload of employee volunteers.

Almost three-quarters of all businesses (71%) indicated that they “encourage or accommodate employee volunteer activities during working hours and/or encourage employees to volunteer on their own time”. However, most of these companies fall into the latter category of encouraging employees to volunteer on their own time. Only about one-third of all companies (35%) “accommodate employee volunteer activities during regular working hours”. Even fewer businesses actively encourage volunteer activities during work hours.

The report finds that business support for employee volunteering “tends to be reactive rather than proactive”. This support most often takes the form of adjusting work schedules (reported by 78% of those businesses that support employee volunteering), providing time off without pay (71%), and providing access to company facilities and equipment (70%). Only about one in three businesses recognize the contributions of employee volunteers or make information about volunteer opportunities available to their employees. Very few businesses have a formal corporate volunteer program.

More than half of businesses make a direct link between employee volunteering and the organizations to which they provide financial or in-kind support.

The report provides recommendations for non-profit organizations, businesses and governments. Non-profit organizations are encouraged to “collaborate with businesses to provide meaningful opportunities for employee volunteers and recognize the less obvious supports provided by businesses”. Organizations in need of fewer volunteers and those involved in areas that are less popular with the business sector, such as arts and culture organizations, are encouraged to focus on small businesses for support.

Businesses are encouraged to develop formal policies regarding employee volunteering, to provide recognition of the contributions of employee volunteers, and to accommodate employee volunteering during work hours. The recommendations for governments include encouraging greater collaboration between businesses and non-profit organizations and considering providing tax breaks for companies that support employee volunteering.

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