Companies looking for ways to support youth volunteerism

Considering the interdependence between business and social development, companies can be strategic in their efforts to support both their business goals and the communities in which they operate. In doing this, they must identify the social issues that matter both to the company and the community. The better the match, the greater the opportunity to leverage company resources and benefit society[1]Strassburg, S. 2011. How can companies foster volunteer action for development in the SADC region?. As with human health challenges (e.g. HIV and Aids), youth employability is an area where there is a significant overlap.

“When a well-run business applies its resources, expertise, and management talent to problems that it understands and in which it has a stake, it can have a greater impact on social good than any other institution or philanthropic organization” Porter & Kramer 2006:14

We have already explained why youth volunteerism is a significant opportunity to make young South Africans more employable.

How can companies support youth volunteerism in South Africa?

Essentially for-profit support for youth volunteerism must happen in the context of business-NGO partnerships, which might involve any or all of the following:

  1. Sponsoring costs associated with hosting volunteers
    NGOs need to fundraise for everything they do. Although there is an enormous need in South Africa, and companies regularly benefit from the work done by NGOs in communities, funding is limited.
  2. Creating opportunities for volunteers to get workplace exposure and/or experience
    Any employability and/or personal development curricula offered through a volunteership, will be greatly enhanced with once-off or regular opportunities for exposure to an actual workplace, interaction with employees and possibly short technical skills development and/or work-experience opportunities.
  3. Provide mentorship opportunities for volunteers through employee volunteerism initiatives
    Mentorship is a very powerful tool to support young people’s ability to successfully move through the big transitions that impact their life outcomes.

According to a survey by the National Mentorship Partnership in the US, young adults who had mentors, were more likely to report engaging in productive and beneficial activities than youth without a mentor. These activities translate into higher self-esteem and self-confidence that are necessary traits for youth to engage in teamwork and community work, and to be successful in life.

Internationally and also in South Africa, many companies are supporting ‘employee volunteerism’ and creating opportunities for such action. There is of course a business case for this strategy. Read here why they are doing it.

Mentoring and coaching of youth volunteers placed at non-profit organisations by ‘employee volunteers’ can add value to the volunteership, as well as to the lives of both the mentor and mentee. Companies or businesses can work with non-profit organisations to create a mentorship programme or if you are a small business, you could consider using our simple coaching and mentoring guidelines.


In summary, there is a business case for companies to invest in increasing the employability of young people and to stand behind the work of civil society – supporting youth volunteerism caters to both of these. Businesses can assist youth volunteerism by partnering with NGOs around the following:[2]Before partnering with an NGO on youth volunteerism, ensure that the volunteership opportunity is structured in a way that would ensure that the opportunity prepares them for work. See the ‘For non-profit organisations/community initiatives looking to host volunteers’ section.

  1. Sponsoring costs associated with hosting volunteers;
  2. Creating opportunities for volunteers to get workplace exposure and/or experience;
  3. Providing mentorship opportunities for volunteers through employee volunteerism initiatives – this can be done through an ‘employee volunteering’ initiative (for which there is a business case as well).

References   [ + ]

1. Strassburg, S. 2011. How can companies foster volunteer action for development in the SADC region?
2. Before partnering with an NGO on youth volunteerism, ensure that the volunteership opportunity is structured in a way that would ensure that the opportunity prepares them for work. See the ‘For non-profit organisations/community initiatives looking to host volunteers’ section.

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