Partnership principles and the stewardship potential of employer supported volunteer programs
Buck, Bronwen Suzanne
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An emphasis on citizen engagement, which has direct bearing on conservation and community organizations, is emerging within the corporate realm. Businesses are beginning to view local involvement as a strategic component of their corporate social responsibility mandates, suggesting that it provides win-win benefits in branding them as leaders in the field while advancing noteworthy causes. Concurrently, conservation groups are seeking to partner with corporations in an effort to diversify funding sources, accomplish much needed work and find creative methods for outreach to a “non- traditional” support base. This research explores employer supported volunteer initiatives, an emerging facet of corporate community engagement where businesses form alliances with community organizations to facilitate donation of staff time to carry out hands-on conservation activities. Using a literature review, a series of global case examples and data collected from key local (Ontario-based) conservation and corporate-based informants, this study assesses the challenges and opportunities associated with cross-sectoral collaboration while investigating the potential of employer supported volunteer programs to foster conservation stewardship. Respondents from both sectors face such challenges as finding or maintaining suitable contacts, organizing team volunteer opportunities with mutually beneficial outcomes and understanding each other’s frames of reference. Despite these hurdles, they also realize that employer supported volunteerism can raise awareness about stewardship and the importance of volunteerism in general, provide opportunities for enhanced collaboration and demonstrate leadership in the arena of corporate social responsibility. Collective experience from both sectors provides the basis to determine thirteen principles for effective partnerships. Accompanied by a set of best practices to forward conservation programs, these principles supply an essential “how to” guide for cross-sectoral partners to work together effectively. The implementation of these principles will assist in providing a stepping stone to tap more fully into the potential for joint partnership and even garner greater capacity for stewardship than could be achieved by civil society or corporate players alone.