Community volunteering

Community volunteering

Macquarie University actively supports community volunteering by providing up to two days leave for continuing full time and part time staff.

Staff can get involved individually or within a team from your department. The benefits of getting involved are numerous, and far outweigh any concerns you may have about taking time out from the office.

Community volunteering

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to volunteering:

Connecting you with others

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. However, volunteering is a two-way street, and it can benefit you as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.

Make new friends and contacts

One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Enhance your social and relationship skills

While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it's easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

Team building and bonding

While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone's schedules, volunteering as a team has many worthwhile benefits. By giving back to the community together, you make a connection through a shared experience which is ultimately making a difference. You will understand how good it feels to help others and enact change. It's also a valuable way for you to get to know organisations in the community and find resources and activities that you may continue outside of work hours.

Good for mind and body

Volunteering increases self-confidence. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.

Volunteering combats depression. Reducing the risk of depression is another important benefit of volunteering. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you're going through challenging times.

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering is good for your health at any age, but it's especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

Good for your career

If you're considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you're not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organisation. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you've honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

Provides career experiences

Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organisation that does the kind of work you're interested in. For example, if you're interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organisations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.

Enhance or learn valuable job skills

Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counsellor while volunteering for a women's shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.

Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favourite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.

It's fun and fulfilling!

Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energising escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, lead local hikes, or help at a children's camp.

For further information, have a look at Market Leadership Journal's Ten Lifelong Benefits of Volunteering - Part 1, and Part 2.

Some frequently asked questions 

I have limited mobility - can I still volunteer?

Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today's digital age many organizations might also need help with email and websites. 

If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organizations you like and ask what some of the possibilities might be. Some volunteer organizations may require you to attend an initial training or periodical meetings. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.

How much time can I take for volunteer leave?

The volunteer leave can be taken as a full day or half day but must fall on a workday. In order to ensure organisational demands are met, staff are to discuss the volunteer leave with their Supervisor (especially if it involves a team of staff being out of the office) and a leave application has to be signed off before the volunteering takes place. A maximum of 2 days per year (pro rata for part time employees) can be taken each year.

What should I do if the organisation I want to volunteer with charges a fee or requests a monetary donation?

Volunteer organisations will often charge a fee or expect a donation for corporate volunteering or team volunteering days. This fee is to cover the costs of the organisation to set up your experience and devote staff to assist you. However, due to the way we are set up as a non-profit organisation, the University is unable to donate money. Usually, once you explain this to the volunteer organisation they will waive the fee. Instead, endeavour to collect donations from your department. Check with the volunteer organisation to see what kind of things they need. For example, when Macquarie Sustainability volunteered at the Dog and Cat Shelter, they undertook a drive to collect donations of food, blankets and pet toys to donate to the Shelter.

Who can I volunteer with?

You can volunteer with community-based non-profit organisations, charitable groups and groups identified in need of assistance. This means you can volunteer with an organisation which:

  • exists for the public benefit
  • provides for the relief of poverty
  • has charitable purposes, within the legal sense of that term
  • is non-profit, and
  • exists solely for charitable purposes

Examples include:

  • The Salvation Army
  • The Australian Red Cross
  • Reading for Life
  • Bushcare@MQ
  • Conservation Volunteers
  • Indigenous Community Volunteers
  • Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • Amnesty International
  • Meals on Wheels

You cannot volunteer with an organisation which is:

  • primarily for sporting, recreational or social purposes
  • primarily for political, lobbying or promotional purposes
  • illegal or against public policy, or
  • carrying on a commercial enterprise to generate surpluses.

Examples include:

  • a school canteen or school fete
  • a garage sale
  • an organisation whose principles conflict with the University's values eg an organisation that incites hatred or violence.

Why would a company such as Macquarie University offer staff volunteer leave?

To better understand why companies invest in corporate volunteering programs such as ours, check out Chris Jarvis' blog below:

Business case #1: Employee volunteering creates employee engagement

Business case #2: Employee volunteering attracts better talent

Four easy steps to organise an activity:

STEP 1: Decide

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and is fun and rewarding.  In NSW, over two million people regularly volunteer, contributing to more than 241 million volunteer hours a year. The importance of volunteering is immeasurable and the existence of many organisations depend on volunteers. As a volunteer, the benefits include learning new skills, meeting new people and a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement. Find out more about the benefits of volunteering.

Staff can volunteer as an individual or with a team of colleagues from their Department for an organisation that:

  • exists for the public benefit
  • provides for the relief of poverty
  • has charitable purposes, within the legal sense
  • is a non-profit, and
  • exists solely for charitable purposes

 The first step to take is to decide whether you would like to volunteer as an individual or as part of a team.

If you would like to volunteer as an individual, move onto the next step - Partner Up.

If you would like to volunteer as part of a team, discuss this with your colleagues and supervisor, to ascertain interest in organising such an event.  Once you have agreement from those around you, move onto the next step - Partner Up.

STEP 2: Partner-up

You may already have a favourite charity or not-for-profit organisation that you would like to volunteer with.  If you do, please ensure they meet the Australian Tax Office's (ATO) intended definition of what a charity organisation is:

  • an entity that is also a trust fund or an institution
  • exists for the public benefit or the relief of poverty
  • its purposes are charitable within the legal sense of that term
  • a non-profit, and
  • its sole purpose is charitable.

Please note, some organisations charge a fee to undertake volunteering with them to cover any associated costs.  As Macquarie University is a not-for-profit itself, it is not possible for the University to pay any sum of money to another charity or not-for-profit.  Instead, you may wish to organise a fund-raiser on behalf of your charity and donate any items or money raised.

Once you have decided on which organisation you are going to volunteer with, move onto step three: Apply

If you need help deciding on a charity type, check out our tips page to assist you further.  If you need help selecting a potential charity, here are some suggestions to get you started:

Anglicare provides a wide range of community and aged care services for people in need.  Corporate volunteers may be involved in indoor renovation projects such as:

  • basic surface preparation and painting
  • gardening, planting shrubs, clearing paths
  • small scale refurbishment work
  • Christmas food and toy hamper packing
  • reading or note taking with the elderly or disabled.

Contact: Corporate Partnerships Manager - corporate@anglicare.org.au
Website: www.anglicare.org.au/how-can-i-help/corporate-volunteer

Red Cross is a humanitarian organisation that works with the most vulnerable people and communities in Australia and internationally. Whether it's a major natural disaster or a personal crisis the Red Cross is there to provide immediate and practical help. The Red Cross provides a number of volunteer opportunities.

Websitehttp://www.redcross.org.au

The Charitable Foundation for Books in Homes Australia is a registered not-for-profit committed to providing high quality literature to socio-educationally disadvantaged Australian children-many of whom come from bookless households. The provision of this literature, supported by schools, communities and parents help embed a love of learning and reading. 

With your assistance, we can provide these benefits to students and families all across Australia, guiding them to a rewarding, literate future.

Website: http://www.booksinhomesaustralia.com.au/

Email contact: support@booksinhomesaustralia.com.au

Bushcare@MQ

See our dedicated page.

CanTeen is the Australian organisation for young people living with cancer. Volunteers can assist with the National Bandanna Day pack-a-thon, events and other activities which arise during the year.

Contact: 9262 1022
Website: http://www.canteen.org.au/how-you-can-help/volunteer/

The Easy Care gardening service assists frail, aged and people with a disability to stay in their own home and help create an enjoyable garden space. Corporate volunteers assist with weeding, pruning, mowing and other garden maintenance. The day is supervised by an experienced team leader who has produced a full scope of works to turn the garden area into an easy care garden. All materials and tools required for the day are provided.

Contact: 9983 1644
Email contact: volunteers@easycaregardening.org.au
Location: Client's garden in Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Ryde or Hunters Hill local government areas.
Website: www.easycaregardening.org.au

Mission Australia is a community service organisation that provides support for families, youth, unemployed and the homeless. The organisation has a corporate volunteer program that can offer a variety of team activities such as renovation projects, assistance with celebrations and outings etc.

Contact: 9288 0077
Website: www.missionaustralia.com.au

OzHarvest is a food rescue charity that collects excess food from function centres, caterers, corporate offices, restaurants, cafes and tourist operators and provides that food to charities. These charities feed those who are disadvantaged or at risk, including homeless persons, youth at risk, single parents with no support, marginalised indigenous men, women and children, refugees, those recovering from addictions, women escaping domestic violence and those with a mental illness and nowhere else to go. 

Through its Corporate Volunteering opportunities, staff teams can:

  • run a lunch or afternoon tea session at a recipient agency. OzHarvest will organise it, we just need to bring the food!
  • host a sausage sizzle for a charity. OzHarvest will organise and promote it, your team brings along the food and enthusiasm. 
  • make Care Hampers - this can be done anywhere! Put product hampers together and OzHarvest will distribute.
  • host a Shout Lunch, Fight Hunger event. This can be run in your own department - employees are encouraged to bring along a dish to share for lunch with their colleagues. The money they would normally spend on lunch is donated to OzHarvest. OzHarvest can provide further details and materials on how to run this campaign.

Contact: (02) 9516 3877 
Location: Various
Website: http://www.ozharvest.org

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides a variety of programs to assist families with seriously ill children. The cornerstone of RMHC are the houses attached to major women's and children's hospitals to provide a 'home away from home'. There is a house in Westmead linked to the Westmead Children's Hospital which provides organises volunteer days.  

Note: Due to large volumes of corporate requests a donation of $500 raised from fundraising provides 2 volunteer day opportunities.

Contactrmh@rmhwestmead.org.au
Phone: 9845 0600
Websitewww.rmhc.org.au/our-volunteers-2

The Salvation Army is one of, if not, the largest and most diverse social welfare provider in the world. The Salvation Army's work is an important part of the Australian community. Since its beginnings in Australia over 120 years ago, the work of The Salvation Army has been immeasurably enhanced by ordinary Australians who have given their time to help those who are in need. The Salvation Army can use volunteer help right across the organisation. Click through for more information on volunteer opportunities.

Website: http://salvos.org.au/get-involved/

Sydney Dog and Cat Shelter

The goal of the Shelter is to prevent unnecessary euthanasia of healthy, loving, domestic pets, young or old, or with special needs, by re-homing them and giving them a second chance at life. The Shelter services 11 council areas across Sydney: Botany, Hornsby, Hurstville, Kogarah, Leichhardt, Marrickville, Randwick, Rockdale, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra. They receive more than 4000 dogs, cats, rabbits and birds each year. Volunteer days are catered to suit the individual or corporate group.

Corporate Volunteering Contact: Marketing & Fundraising Manager Amanda Stokes (02) 9587 9611 or via fundraising@sydneydogsandcatshome.org

Individual volunteering informationhttp://sydneydogsandcatshome.org/get-involved
Website: http://sydneydogsandcatshome.org/

The RSPCA runs corporate volunteering opportunities at various shelters in Sydney. It generally involves a shelter tour, animal socialisation and ground or building maintenance.

Contact: 9782 4486
Website: www.rspcansw.org.au/Corporates/Corporate_Volunteering

More Information

For further ideas on volunteering opportunities across a variety of interest areas visit the NSW Government's Volunteering website

The volunteer leave can be taken as a full day or half day but must fall on a workday. In order to ensure organisational demands are met, staff are to discuss the volunteer leave with their Supervisor (especially if it involves a team of staff being out of the office) and a leave application has to be signed off before the volunteering takes place.

Remember to move onto step three Apply, once you've made your decision.

Don't forget to take some photos of your volunteer experience and spread the good word amongst your colleagues!

STEP 3: Apply

Continuing professional staff members may access two days of volunteering leave per calendar year (pro-rata for part-time) to actively contribute to community-based non-profit organisations, charitable groups and groups in need of assistance.  For more information check the Community Volunteering Leave guidelines.

To apply for leave, please log on to HR Online, and complete either a whole day or part day leave request depending on how long you intend to be away from the office, stating 'Personal Leave - Other' as the leave code.  Under the 'Reason' pull-down menu, select 'Volunteering'.  For more detailed instructions, please download the guide.

Each staff member qualifying for Volunteer Leave must complete and submit a leave form prior to the day.

Once you have applied, move onto step four Act!

STEP 4: Act

Preparation:

You should receive correspondence from your chosen charity or not-for-profit, outlining what to expect on the day of your Corporate Volunteering Day.  You may have forms or an induction to complete, so ensure you leave yourself plenty of time in the morning to get there on time.

Time:

You're donating your valuable time, so it's important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It's important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you're working with in the volunteer organisation.

Ask questions:

You want to make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up. Some questions you might like to ask your volunteer coordinator include time commitment expectations, if there's any training involved, who you will be working with, and what to do if you have questions during your experience.

Expectations:

Make sure you know what's expected. Before starting, ensure you are comfortable with the organisation, know what is expected, and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don't over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.

Speak up:

Don't be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn't what you expected. Don't force yourself into a bad fit. Talk to the organisation about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.

Enjoy yourself!:

Most importantly, make sure you're having fun! The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organisation. If you're not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you're performing? The people you're working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and familiar? Pinpointing what's bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.

Share your experience:

Make sure you take a camera along to take lots of photos to remember and share your experience with others. Contact volunteering@mq.edu.au when you've finished your volunteer activity so that your day can be included with other experiences.

Need more information? 

Contact volunteering@mq.edu.au.

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