I was invited to attend the conference on behalf of both HFVC and Works4U, our employer supported volunteer brokerage social enterprise, by the president of the European Volunteer Centre, Cristina Rigman. My place was funded by the European Union under the Erasmus plus programme.
The event was jointly organised by the European Volunteer Centre (CEV) and a Romanian national volunteering organisation, Pro Vobis. The event took place over two days in Bucharest and participants came from organisations across Europe. The focus was on different kinds of volunteer management.
There was a good mix of presentations by expert speakers, as well as interactive sessions and workshops where people could talk and contribute. A particular interesting learning method used in the conference was the World Café. This involved a series of tables in which each table discusses a different topic, and everyone contributes. Participants moves from table to table to discuss different issues.
I delivered a workshop on how NGO’s can work with businesses to build productive relationships. I outlined the practical steps organisations can take to engage with businesses. This included the terminology they need to use to promote volunteer support in the community and the practical aspects of preparing and planning a team volunteer event for a business. Building and maintaining the relationship and ensuring the business would return to use the brokerage services is also an important part of the work. Works4U, though not a big organisation, is considered to be one of the leaders in developing this kind of work.
In terms of employer supported volunteering the UK is ahead of many other countries in Europe, however, European organisations are catching up quite quickly. Their desire to do this has increased quite significantly in the last couple of years. Previously NGO’s had been cynical about working with businesses, whereas now they tend to be more pragmatic and see the advantages of involving businesses. NGOs increasingly recognise that corporate partners have access to resources that can help them to realise their mission, deliver services and support the community.
To sum up, it was one of the best conferences I’ve been to. We very much hope that by showcasing Works4U as an expert the conference will open up the possibility of Works4U delivering consultancy work for charities and NGO’s in Europe. Lots of organisations are experiencing cuts in funding and as a result are considering targeting businesses for support. The organisations nevertheless lack the skills or the experience to know how to build that relationship. Without guidance they could spend year’s unsuccessfully approaching businesses if they fail take the right approach or use the right kind of methodology. Through consultancy we aim to support organisations to get it right from the start and make a success of business involvement in their organisation.