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Volunteers’ work ‘more important than cash’

PricewaterhouseCoopers donates employees instead of money to community projects, and community groups say this is more helpful than federal funding.

Jenny Horsfield, director of the Minders of Tuggeranong Homestead group, a Canberra based environmental group, says that hands on the ground are much more useful than federal funding.

The group recently received a federal grant as part of the Caring for our Country Community Action Grant scheme, and although appreciative, Ms Horsfield says that the contribution that volunteers make is far greater than the work that is paid for by grants and government funding.

“It’s really more important to get hands and feet on the ground,” she said. “We are able to do our own fundraising, but getting volunteers is a lot more challenging.”

Although the Federal Government is willing to give money to environmental causes, the private sector is leading the way by providing volunteers to help community projects.

PricewaterhouseCoopers encourages its employees to participate in community initiatives by paying the employees their salaries while they take a day out of the office. The donation comes in lieu of money.

The donation of time and labour by the company results in a loss of productivity for the company but does not require the company to set aside any particular funds in addition to salaries and wages already being paid. Volunteering improves morale within the company and employees say that it is an opportunity not normally given to them in the corporate arena.

Jaan Whealden, a volunteer from PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that helping the community is always positive, and agreed that more people would be willing to volunteer if their employers paid them for their time.

“I think it’s great to get out into the community,” he said. “I know my team and I really enjoy being out on a beautiful day. [Volunteering] is not something we would normally do, and to be paid to be here, it really is a great scheme.” Mr Whealden said.

Another reason for the government to provide financial incentives to volunteers is the blatant unpopularity of its current environmental funding scheme – Caring for Country.

The scheme, introduced in 2008, bureaucratised existing environment programs and undermined local expertise.

The government introduced the Community Action Grant program due to public demand for a change to the grant system, but community groups are again looking for change to the system, for the benefit of community projects.

By re-directing the funding from a grant program to a program that subsidises salaries of employees willing to volunteer it may mean greater advances in environmental conservation.

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