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Sep 6, 2017  Düsseldorf / Germany

A guest article by Dr. Sandra Schöneborn, responsible for corporate partnerships at Habitat for Humanity Germany

4 benefits of corporate volunteering

Dr. Sandra Schöneborn

Dr. Sandra Schöneborn, responsible for corporate partnerships at Habitat for Humanity Germany

Corporate responsibility means that companies voluntarily integrate social and environmental interests into their business practices. The aim is to reach a shared value, for the company and for society, that is greater than what could be attained if both sides operated separately. This is also the goal that Habitat for Humanity pursues with its corporate partners: We want our core competency – safe and affordable shelter for those in need around the world – to overlap with that of our partners. The cooperation with Henkel, in the course of which we have been able to jointly support construction projects in many different regions, is a good example of this.

Henkel has supported our work since 2014, mainly through the engagement of volunteers in the context of corporate volunteering missions. Six teams of employees have already built houses for families in need with Habitat for Humanity Germany: Five teams completed their mission in Romania, one team went to China and a seventh team will soon be traveling to Macedonia. These missions are additionally supported with donations in kind from Henkel, including construction materials. We were also able to count on Henkel’s support in the aftermath of Haiyan, the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013, when the ruined houses of many local people had to be rebuilt.

Corporate volunteering – how does it work?

Under professional guidance and in collaboration with the beneficiary families, Henkel employees travel abroad for one week at a time to build houses. By integrating volunteers into these sustainable projects, the building costs are kept to a minimum for the beneficiaries. We give the teams professional preparatory training and organize support for them onsite, so they don’t need to have any prior experience in construction.

volunteers at a construction site in Romania

A team of volunteers at a construction site in Romania.

Why it pays to get involved

We have been evaluating our volunteering missions for many years, so we know that they create real added value for employees, companies, families in need, and society as a whole.

1) Benefits for employees
The main benefit to participating employees is the team-building experience. The change of perspective, the hands-on involvement and the families’ gratitude are also enriching experiences that stand out from the participant surveys, which show that these missions leave a lasting impression on the employees that complete them. In these surveys, they also describe the pride they feel about having made a difference, how fantastic the project was, the emotional experience they had, the intensity of it, the way it raised their awareness and the sense that it was “one of the greatest adventures” of their lives.

2) Benefits for companies
The added value for a company is directly derived from this: The satisfaction it brings to employees, their strengthened connection to the company, the boost to their motivation, the enhancement of their team spirit and the immediate sense of appreciation it gives them are just a few of the benefits. They will both improve their social skills and broaden their horizon during this intercultural experience.

3) Benefits for project beneficiaries
For the local families, and for the project, working with volunteers provides enormous financial relief. Nonetheless, all of Habitat for Humanity’s projects are about helping people to help themselves. The beneficiary families get involved in the planning, take part in the construction work and have to contribute to the aid projects financially to the extent that they are able to. Microcredit and so-called “sweat equity” – the effort invested into the projects, for example in the form of work hours – make that possible. This way, Habitat for Humanity and its volunteers only support the families’ own efforts, similar to the founding of a startup, and their collaboration takes the form of a partnership on equal footing. The repayments, in turn, go into a fund that continually invests in new projects. As a result, the effect of this sustainable aid keeps increasing and an ever-greater number of people in need can benefit from it.

4) Benefits for society
The added value for society, therefore, is self-evident. Anyone who takes on a volunteering mission with Habitat for Humanity comes back with a different outlook, and hopefully spends the rest of their life advocating for a more solidary world. This effect is surely the most important of all.

About Habitat for Humanity:

Habitat for Humanity is an international aid organization with projects and offices in more than 70 countries. Since its founding in the USA in 1976, it has worked with volunteers to build simple and financeable housing for and with people around the world in sustainable projects. The goal of its aid is to combat precarious living conditions worldwide and give people access to a decent home regardless of their origin, religion or nationality. In addition to building houses around the world, the organization contributes to disaster prevention with its extensive expertise in disaster-proof construction, and participates in long-term, sustainable rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters.