At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: A Swedish REflection.
Guest post by Anna Snell, Volontärbyrån
Two months have passed since the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit, but Detroit stays with me. What an inspiration it was to be bused around the city, seeing what we are capable of achieving when we come together, devoting time and passion in the effort to create a better life for ourselves and each other.
Detroit’s journey back on track reminds me of the history of volunteering in Sweden, where I come from. It goes back to the 19th century, when Sweden was a very poor country. A third of the population emigrated (most of them to the United States), and the people that were left behind took it upon themselves to create a brighter, healthier and more equal society.
Initiatives like dental care, libraries, health care for children and home visits for the elderly came about around this time – things that volunteers and nonprofit organizations created. Responsibility for things have since been taken over by the state and are now largely tax-funded, but the appetite for organizing ourselves and volunteering has remained.
Volontärbyrån is VolunteerMatch’s Swedish cousin, and we have been exchanging insights from our respective countries for years. Volontärbyrån rests on the same firm foundation as VolunteerMatch, the drive to make it easy for people to volunteer and to support nonprofits in finding volunteers.
In Sweden, corporate volunteering isn’t as widespread as it is in the U.S. However, volunteering in general in Sweden is very popular, with every other Swede devoting on average 16 hours per month to volunteering. Companies are catching on to the fact that encouraging volunteering among their staff isn’t just a great way of involving staff in the company’s CSR activities and employer branding, it’s also beneficial to the well-being of each individual who participates.
I manage Volontärbyrån’s corporate partnerships, and came to the VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit in order to get inspired, take home some ideas and to network. And I wasn’t disappointed! I met some really great people, from the dedicated VolunteerMatch staff to passionate company coordinators as well as inspiring nonprofits. I took home lots of ideas and advice to our partners about what a successful internal infrastructure for a volunteer program looks like, how to create visibility around volunteering, and different ways to measure the success of a volunteer program.
Thank you, VolunteerMatch, for enabling all of us to network and exchange insights and ideas like this, in our joint efforts to connect people with great causes!