The two-way benefits of volunteer roles

CIMA President David Stanford on the impact of those who volunteer

It is well known anecdotally that volunteer roles create a beneficial two-way street — for organisations and for those giving their time.

The benefit for those who take on this work has also been acknowledged in research. According to Deloitte, 30% of the CVs that come across the desks of those influencing hiring decisions in the US mention the candidate’s volunteer work. At the same time, 82% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to choose candidates with volunteer experience, and 85% said they would be prepared to overlook CV weaknesses in those with that experience.

The research – the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey – also shows that nine out of ten influencers of hiring decisions believe that professional skillsets and leadership skills, including communication, accountability, and commitment, are improved by volunteer work.

While this benefit might seem self-evident, those who are active volunteers are often unaware of the personal benefit they are gaining, according to further Deloitte research from 2017. It found that of those in the US already volunteering, strikingly few (18%) regard this work as enhancing their career prospects. In addition, Millennials in particular say they would give time more often if they better understood the overall impact they were making.

CIMA members give much time in serving on a range of governance committees, which are vital for the health of our organisation and profession. However, many members are unaware of the broad range of opportunities to contribute to our work.

Some of these projects don’t require a long-term commitment — in my experience it is good to start small and then explore further how your skills can be used.

A good example of how our members can add value was a recent one-hour research roundtable for young management accountants who had qualified in the past five years. They were asked about the major risks that businesses face and what competencies they thought they needed to manage those risks. They were also asked about their perceived barriers to acquiring those skills.

The discussion was revealing. Members identified three main barriers: a lack of soft skills, a lack of time to acquire skills, and the uncertainty about how to assess their own competencies around risk.

While these members probably didn’t see themselves as making a valuable contribution to our work, this is exactly what they were doing. In this case, the research was done as part of an IFAC project, which will inform our development of learning resources for members.

Our members who volunteer receive opportunities to get to grips with interesting and sometimes new areas of work. The skills and experience they develop can help them look afresh at challenges they may come across in their daily working lives.

Meeting fellow professionals in a social setting is another benefit of active involvement with CIMA and the Association. Particularly at the local level, meeting and talking to other members of the profession can be inspiring, especially if you are the only management accountant working in a small company, for example.

Organisational culture benefits from the fresh perspectives provided by a wide range of volunteer talent, something I have observed throughout my career.

Over my many years of involvement with CIMA, I have always appreciated those active in volunteer roles. Now, as CIMA president, I have seen even more examples of how these members help advance our organisation, profession, and, ultimately, the communities we serve.

CIMA members can put themselves forward for governance opportunities through the volunteer talent pool by emailing corporate.affairs@aicpa-cima.com. The Global CGMA Leadership Academy, which aims to build future leaders of the accounting profession, takes place 3–6 April 2018 in London.