How VolunteerMatch Volunteers: The Power of Teams

The VolunteerMatch Team at Baker Beach

My VolunteerMatch volunteer team at Baker Beach

At VolunteerMatch, we work full-time on volunteerism. But we also like to get out of the office and volunteer ourselves!

That’s why we’ve split up our staff into small volunteer teams, each led by a team captain.

Mainly, this is for encouragement. We want our staff to feel like they’re supported in their volunteer efforts. A team gives them a place to go to share what they’re working on, generates suggestions from coworkers for new volunteer opportunities, and builds momentum for volunteerism within our organization.

Recently, the volunteer team I lead volunteered at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (GGNPC). It’s one of my personal favorite organizations to volunteer with in the Bay Area. The staff are incredibly friendly and organized, and I feel great giving back to a place that allows millions of San Franciscans to enjoy its services every year.

Another reason why I love volunteering with the GGNPC is their amazing group volunteering activities. With summer coming, I was looking for a volunteer project that would get me and my coworkers outside for the afternoon. I emailed GGNPC letting them know the size of my group and the dates we were available. They quickly put together a project plan for us with directions to the project site, details on what we would be doing and some information on the impact we would be making to their organization.

Our group arrived at a wooded area next to Baker Beach with a warm welcome from the GGNPC staff. They told us some amazing facts about the area (such as, San Francisco used to get its water from a stream running into Baker Beach) and the types of plants we would be seeing during the day. They instructed us on how to pull weeds and plant flowers correctly, along with how to most efficiently use each of the gardening tools.

After three hours of work, our team had worked so diligently that the GGNPC team rewarded us with a guided Nature Walk. Taking us through the woods, they showed us how volunteers like us make a difference in the natural habitat. Without our weeding and gardening, the beautiful California poppies wouldn’t be able to survive! Our nature hike ended at Baker Beach where we were rewarded with a spectacular view.

I encourage anyone – companies, organizations/ clubs, families, groups of friends – to seek out opportunities such as this.  Group volunteering is a great way to get people out of their chairs and interacting with one another. (And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, check out the GGNPC!)

VolunteerMatch Volunteers! An Afternoon at the SF-Marin Food Bank

Rice. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of it. Scooping, weighing, packing. Talking, singing, laughing.

Such was the afternoon for VolunteerMatch staff a few weeks ago at the SF-Marin Food Bank. At least once a quarter, VolunteerMatch chooses a group volunteer activity to bring its employees together for a common cause.

Group Photo Food Bank

The VolunteerMatch Team at the SF-Marin Food Bank.

It was my first time volunteering at a food bank, and also, as a new employee at VolunteerMatch, my first time participating in an organization-wide volunteer day. Nervous about spending so much time with my new co-workers, and not knowing what to expect at the food bank, I arrived with slight hesitation.

We were immediately greeted by friendly staff, who thanked us for being there. We were trained on rice packing by a man full of jokes and good cheer. He turned the music on (an eclectic assortment of hits from the last 50 years) and we all got to work.

Measuring out rice doesn’t seem like a glamorous task. But the welcoming atmosphere ofTwo VolunteerMatch Staff volunteering at SF-Marin FoodBank the SF-Marin Food Bank paired with lively conversations with great people I’m just getting to know – well, the afternoon seemed like it ended too soon. We finished up by hearing stories about the families we were helping, and were sent off hailed as “superheroes”.

This opportunity showed me firsthand the value of employee volunteer programs. I had the chance to bond with my coworkers, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that practices what it preaches. It also showed me the value of a well-run volunteer program, such as the one at the SF-Marin Food Bank. I will certainly be back.

Jeff Bautista, one of our Senior Client Relations Managers, put together this short video. You can see for yourself the impact VolunteerMatch had – as well as the fun we had. Enjoy!

4 Webinar Titles in January You Don’t Want to Miss!

Learn something new. Attend a free webinar!

In December we announced our new webinar training schedule for 2013. This month we’re kicking things off by getting back to the basics! Our webinars in January will cover everything from introductory tools trainings to professional development in the realm of volunteer management.

VolunteerMatch: Getting Started

If you’re new to VolunteerMatch, or you’re looking for a refresher be sure and register for our Getting Started webinar. We’ll introduce the basics of accessing and maintaining your account. We also walk you through the opportunity posting process step by step.

Best Practices for Recruiting Online

The follow up to Getting Started, Best Practices for Recruiting Online teaches you how to make the most of your VolunteerMatch account by creating volunteer opportunities using our best practices. This webinar covers the eight simple steps to making your opportunities stand out on our website giving you all the tools you’ll need to be a VolunteerMatch expert.

The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit

If you’re also new to volunteer management be sure and register for The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit. Designed for new practitioners this webinar introduces the key components of volunteer engagement. It also covers other useful topics like risk management and volunteer retention and recognition.

The CVA Credential: A Mark of Excellence

Only hosted once a year, this popular webinar introduces the CCVA and the process for applying for and receiving your CVA. Learn about this unique performance-based credentialing program, the process for becoming Certified in Volunteer Administration and how it can benefit you and your organization. I received mine in 2009, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. I’ve also just joined the Board of the CCVA.

For more information, please visit our Learning Center.

Be sure and join us for a webinar this month. Register today!

Is Your Organization Benefiting from Corporate Volunteer Grants?

Guest post by Adam Weinger, Double the Donation

What do Verizon, CarMax, and State Farm all have in common? They all offer volunteer grant programs.

Volunteer grant programs, also known as “Dollars for Doers” programs, are charitable giving programs set up by corporations in which the company provides a monetary donation to eligible nonprofits as a way to recognize employees who volunteer. They enable corporations to give back to their communities and support organizations that employees are already passionate about.

Although volunteer grants are a relatively new form of corporate giving, they’re already widely offered among Fortune 500 companies and are catching on at smaller firms. For instance:

In fact, hundreds of companies offer volunteer grant programs with donations generally ranging from $10-$15 per hour volunteered.

How Do Volunteer Grant Programs Work?

Volunteer grant programs provide an easy way to raise money from volunteers without asking them to take out their checkbooks. They’re already actively giving their time to organizations like yours, and are glad to take a few minutes to request grants from their employers – grants that could equal hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for your nonprofit.

Volunteer Grant Process

Volunteer grant programs consist of five steps:

  1. Individuals volunteer.
  2. Nonprofits notify eligible volunteers – Program descriptions are often buried inside employee benefit books. Volunteers can’t submit grant requests if they aren’t aware of their company’s program, so be sure to ask them about it and help them find the answer.
  3. Volunteers submit grant requests – Either electronically or using a paper form.
  4. Nonprofits validate grant requests – Verifying that an individual is a volunteer and that the organization is an accredited school or 501(c)(3) organization.
  5. Corporations cut checks.

Taking Advantage of Volunteer Grant Programs

Increasing volunteer grants can be boiled down to two steps: Raising awareness, and making it easy for donors.

Raising Awareness

Most individuals have never even heard of employee volunteer grant programs. Here are some ways you can explain and advertise volunteer grants:

  • Social media
  • Email signatures
  • Newsletter articles
  • Website links

Making It Easy

You can always ask volunteers to check with HR, but investing time yourself to research employers will yield a higher percentage of eligible volunteers who actually follow through and submit a grant request. Don’t let volunteers get hung up looking for information.

Provide them with as much of the following as possible:

  • Up-to-date company policies
  • Minimum volunteer hours required
  • Printed forms or links to the online submission process
  • Your nonprofit’s contact information (Tax ID, address, fundraising contact)

Alternatively, you can sign up with a service such as Double The Donation. We specialize in increasing fundraising from matching gifts and volunteer grants. You can create a custom branded mini-site so your volunteers can immediately assess their eligibility and gain access to detailed corporate giving information about their employer.

Volunteers want to help! If you raise awareness and make it easy for them, you’ll see an increase in volunteer grants.

Adam Weinger is the founder of Double The Donation, a company focused on helping nonprofits increase the amount of money they raise from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

Corporate Volunteer Programs: What Do They Want from Nonprofits?

Guest post by Tobi Johnson

This article originally appeared on Tobi’s Nonprofit Management Blog.

What corporate volunteer programs want from nonprofitsThere’s quite a bit of buzz about corporate responsibility lately. In the midst of scandals, declining trust, and lost profits, businesses are increasingly concerned with maintaining a positive reputation in the public eye. This represents a potential windfall for nonprofits who are looking to leverage needed resources from the business community, including volunteer support.

So, what does business want?

This focus on brand reputation is a relatively new phenomenon, as chronicled in a recent Harvard Business Review post. According to the author, “People have become increasingly concerned with business’s impact on the world, and search engines…make it trivially easy to find out who makes a product and how, where they operate, who they have offended, and what causes they have supported. Social media makes it easy to learn more, and spread the word. Suddenly, a brand’s paternity is not only easy for customers to discover, it’s important to them to consider. And they have no trouble boycotting products from companies that they believe fail to live up to their standards.”

It’s a cold world for business when the public shuns you, so some companies are taking proactive steps to prevent it, including stepping up their volunteering. Despite (or maybe because of) the economic downturn, new corporate volunteer programs are popping up across the country. In the past, corporate support was offered mostly in the form of donations and grants to charities. Now, private industry is looking to donate time either in addition to, or instead of, cash.

It’s a surprising role reversal. For-profits are now turning to nonprofits for support and connecton to community. And, lest you think this is an insignificant development, just take a look at the long list of conferences this year devoted to corporate citizenship and volunteering from the Realized Worth website.

Three Corporate Volunteer Program Expectations

So what are corporate, or skilled, volunteering programs hoping for when they partner with you? Here are a few themes I’ve noticed as I listen in on webinars and read posts about corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. And, they are things to think about, if you plan to approach a business for help.

1) Impact Focus

CSR programs are deeply interested in generating concrete outcomes. They hope that the experience of volunteering will encouraging greater teamwork amongst employees, will lead to enhanced skills development, and will result in deeper job satisfaction and retention. They also hope the program will have an impact on the community and advance the cause they are investing in.

2) Strategic Alignment

Corporations are also keenly aware of how they use their valuable resources. They seek to form strategic partnerships with nonprofits that align with their own corporate culture, values, and organizational objectives. And, more and more, they are looking to build a portfolio of volunteer opportunities that are in direct alignment with their brand. If their brand is about kids, they’ll most likely look to help programs that benefit children. But, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the focus is in helping the community refresh it’s economic vitality which, in turn, will make it a better place to do business.

3) Efficiency

Coordinators of corporate volunteer programs are also under pressure to make the most of their employee’s time. Many are experimenting with different models of episodic, or short-term, volunteering that give the best “bang for the buck.” Their staff are working under time constraints that make volunteering a potentially expensive proposition, so they want to be sure their investment in time is well spent.

If nonprofit volunteer programs are aware of these needs, find ways to meet them, and are able to find private partners who are closely aligned with their cause, a fruitful mutually-beneficial collaboration can be forged.

It’s an interesting proposition — the private-public partnership. And, although it’s not new, it appears to be making a comeback. Is this an opportunity your organization can take advantage of?

Have you had experiences with corporate partnership? How have they worked out? Do you have any wisdom to share?

Tobi Johnson is a nonprofit and volunteer management consultant with decades of experience creating and expanding impactful programs. You can benefit from her expertise by reading her blog.