How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Tess Marstaller, Client Relations Associate

We’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). Now we want to show you. In this series of blog posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and why they love VTO.

Tess Marstaller, of VolunteerMatch, speaking about her time volunteering with the Peace CorpsSo, who are you?
I’m Tess, and I work on the Corporate Client Relations team here at VolunteerMatch. I help employees and CSR leaders use our tools to find, set-up, lead, and track volunteer activities.

Where do you volunteer?
I’m a member of the Northern California Peace Corps Association (NorCal PCA), which supports prospective, current and returned Peace Corps volunteers.

I’ve been volunteering with NorCal PCA for a couple of years. I’ve helped run workshops for newly returned Peace Corps volunteers transitioning back after two years abroad, spoken at public storytelling events about my time in Cameroon, and been on a few panels at schools and universities about what it’s like to serve in the Peace Corps.

What drew you to NorCal PCA?
Being a Peace Corps volunteer doing health education work in Cameroon was a hugely formative and direction-setting experience for me. When I heard there was a large and active association of returned volunteers in the Bay Area, it was one of the many perks that drew me to move across the country.

Tess leading a transition workshop for newly returned Peace Corps volunteers

Tess leading a transition workshop for recently-returned Peace Corps volunteers.

What is the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
In the workshops I’ve run for recently-returned volunteers, stress melts into laughter as people share their quirky stories of what if feels like to be back home.

One now-friend told me she’d spit on the floor of a Walgreens out of a habit formed while living in Peru, but luckily had some toilet paper stocked in her purse: Another habit that’s hard to lose. Meanwhile I’d been forgetting to flush toilets and inappropriately snapping my fingers to get people’s attention. I burst out laughing, gave her a hug, and knew that I’d found my people.

Also, when I volunteer with this group, I feel like I’m honoring those who meant so much to me in Cameroon, and that makes me feel less far away from them now.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO? Why or why not?
VTO has allowed me to respond to requests for volunteers during business hours, which is really helpful since our organization gets a lot of speaking requests from schools. I recently spoke at Berkeley City College on International Education day, and loved sharing photos and stories and answering questions from those interested in applying. Soon I’ll get to use VTO to speak to a group at my Alma Mater, GWU.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Sometimes I start to convince myself that I’m too busy, or too tired, to volunteer. Then I remind myself that feeling tired can be largely in my own head. Volunteering can be like a chat with a best friend; even if I was tired going into it, I come out feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

Finding a cause and a group that inspires you is truly a gift to yourself as much as to your community, which is why I’m proud to work for an organization that helps others explore how to find that joy.

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CSR Food For Thought: Is Taking a Political Stand CSR?

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized post. Takes a Stand Against Bigotry in Indiana
CSR comes in many shapes and sizes. How taking a public stance on an issue your employees and customers care deeply about? This is exactly what did when they announced their intentions to reduce investments in Indiana after the signing of a bill many believe “legalizes discrimination.” Get the full scoop in this Triple Pundit article, and let us know: Is this a form of CSR?

Loop Them In: Help Your Remote Employees Feel Like Local Volunteers
In this LinkedIn post, Laura Ellis shows us that remote or field-based employees don’t have to be out of the employee volunteering loop. Check out these strategies on how to counter difficulties faced by varying employee shifts, time zones, and locations.

How to Build an Effective CSR Strategy: Insight from Center Members
How do you prevent your CSR strategy from becoming “frozen?” BCCCC turned to their 400 member companies to answer this question. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly?) the answers were consistent: Understand your stakeholders, and integrate CSR with your company’s vision. Read this post on 3BL Media to find out what else they had to say.

Airbnb Campaign Brings Attention to NYC Homeless
A company that is criticized for contributing to apartment scarcity runs a campaign to raise money and bring awareness to the homeless population of New York City. Is this a CSR match made in heaven, an attempt to counter negative press – or maybe both? What do you think about this creative CSR campaign from Airbnb? Get the details in this article from Triple Pundit.

Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

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How Technology Transforms Workplace Volunteering

Technology Transforms Workplace VolunteeringHow can you match employees with the right volunteer opportunities – the ones that best build on their skills and interests? Technology.

Did you know that the average employee at VolunteerMatch partner companies volunteers 36 hours a year? How do we know that? Technology.

There’s no question about it: Technology has transformed the world. And it has also transformed workplace volunteering.

In this infographic, we summarize what we’ve heard from our 150+ partner companies about technology and volunteering.

From stats on the amount of time saved for employee volunteer program managers, to the number of virtual volunteer opportunities companies are participating in, find out the many ways technology transforms workplace volunteering: Check out the infographic!

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CSR Food For Thought: Give Some Life to Your CSR

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized blog post every Monday. Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Bringing CSR to Life Through Community Events
Great corporate responsibility goes beyond cash donations, and Time Warner Cable knows this well. Through their Connect a Million Minds initiative and partnerships, they get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). How? Find out in this post on 3BL Media.

Another Great 51 Sites for CSR, Volunteering & Workplace Giving
Thank you, RealizedWorth, for taking the time to put together this comprehensive list of online resources for all things CSR. Find tools, tips, news and more in each of these four categories: Corporate Volunteering, CSR News Organizations, CSR Bloggers and Workplace Giving.

Where to Start Building Your CSR Program
CSR isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. But how do small and medium-sized businesses get their programs off the ground? According to this post from Voluncruit, they start with their employees. As they eloquently put it, “No matter how motivated the CEO or senior management team is about launching a new program, CSR actually grows from the bottom.” We couldn’t agree more.

Three Grantees Transforming the World One Drop of Water at a Time
In honor of World Water Day (which took place on 3/22),  looks at three nonprofits doing great work around clean water availability. NetSuite.og, the CSR arm of NetSuite, supports the work of these amazing nonprofits through software donations.

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You’re Invited: CECP’s Giving In Numbers Survey

Logo for CECP (the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy)Would your company like to be represented in the leading research on corporate philanthropy trends?

Giving in Numbers is the leading benchmark on corporate giving and socially motivated employee engagement programs. Last year, 261 companies participated, including 62 of the largest 100 companies in Fortune 500.

This year, the theme is Making the Business Case, and CECP wants your input.

Why participate?

  • Leadership: Establish your company as a leader in corporate responsibility.
  • Data: Use the results to benchmark your company’s programs. Help make your case!
  • Peer Learning & Collaboration: Exposure to, and recognition from, leaders in global CSR.
  • Recognition: Your company name would be prominently displayed on the publication and CECP website.
  • Free copy: Participants receive a hard copy of the Giving in Numbers report in the mail.

Participants are asked to complete survey questions across 6 categories on their 2014 contributions (basic company information, total giving, international giving, employee engagement, corporate foundation structure, and impact evaluation & measurement).

The survey will only remain open until Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

Interested? Learn more.

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Employee Volunteerism: Why Not All Companies?

Guest post by Emily Rothberg

This post originally appeared on Emily’s Blog.

Office Workers in Front of a WindowIt seems easy. Why doesn’t every company offer employee volunteer programs?

More and more companies are offering paid volunteer time off (VTO), with the CECP 2014 Giving in Numbers Report showing 59% in 2013, an 8% increase from 2010. And, the business case for employee volunteerism is beyond well-documented.

So, why aren’t employee volunteer programs standard practice? Two business challenges can undermine the best of intentions: Determining what counts, and determining the end game.

What Counts?
If a company’s employees volunteer, does that a program make?

How a company decides to track and report time, or recognize and reward employee volunteer efforts, matters. If my manager allows me to leave work an hour early to prepare a meal for a homeless shelter, and I make up that hour by coming in early the next day, is that a program? If I plant trees at my daughter’s school and input those hours in the company’s volunteerism platform, should the company get credit for the activity? And, if the answer to these scenarios is yes, does any company not have a volunteer program?

On the other end of the spectrum, if what counts are only activities aligned with a company’s strategy, or managed by the corporate citizenship/ CSR staff, such as a company day of community service with a pre-approved menu of activities, and my supervisor is strongly encouraging my participation, have I been “volun-told?” Have we messed with the entire spirit of volunteerism?

What’s the End Game?
If a company hasn’t outlined its employee volunteer program goals and defined how to measure success, does that company have a strategy?

Take the practices of rewarding and recognizing volunteers with paid time off and/ or funding (“dollars for doers”). Yes, employees and their nonprofit partners are grateful, and the whole notion feels democratic, as everybody’s effort counts, and no single activity is deemed more worthy than the next. But, while $250 matching gifts surely help smaller nonprofits operate day-to-day, donations of this size don’t add up in the societal impact equation. Can a company looking to make a significant impact, or even distinguish itself with stakeholders, accomplish those goals with a basic “follow-your-passion” strategy?

For those who take on the employee volunteerism challenge, does every company deserve bragging rights? How about two criteria for assessing success:

Core Business Practice
While the cliché “it’s part of our DNA” has become ubiquitous, volunteering at top companies is truly a year-round, CEO-to-intern component of a company’s business. Beyond enthusiastic tweets on annual days of service, executives serve on nonprofit boards and lead pro bono initiatives. Employees such as line workers, who don’t typically have an easy time leaving their work place, have options for meaningful volunteerism. When HR recruits on campuses, and managers speak with customers, giving back through volunteer time is framed as a core business value.

In sum, the company’s volunteerism rules of the road for what counts and how it’s counted are spelled out clearly. The company adopts and communicates consistent standards of conduct and appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Integrated Strategy
In leading companies, the CSR department doesn’t own employee volunteerism – volunteering is everybody’s business. Rather than passive recipients of a top-down corporate strategy, employees play an active role in developing and executing employee volunteerism guidelines and programs.

In these companies, employee volunteerism is a component of a larger corporate citizenship strategy, and options range from episodic, hands-on volunteering to deep, skilled volunteerism. Companies view their employees as their greatest asset and actualize that mindset by developing their next generation of leaders through nonprofit board service or pro bono engagements. These human-capital volunteer activities also address the nonprofit sector’s most mission-critical needs and long-term viability challenges.

The reality is this: Companies face tough choices in designing and operating effective employee volunteerism programs. Best practice programs engage employees’ heads, hands, and hearts to drive business value and maximize social impact. The end goal isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s a vision worth working toward, and surely one within our grasp.

Emily Rothberg & Company helps companies thrive by donating their time, talent and treasure. It also helps nonprofits grow corporate support for greater impact. In her blog, Emily shares insights from her years inside corporate America, intertwined with thoughts from her clients, as well as long-time colleagues.

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CSR Food For Thought: Does CSR Overlook Children’s Rights?

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized blog post every Monday. Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Lego CEO: ‘if we don’t deal with children’s basic rights, we will have a difficult future’
In the CSR world, children are often overlooked. That’s the viewpoint of Lego group’s chief executive, and it’s why Lego has partnered with UNICEF. Together, they want to make protecting children’s rights the norm. This article from the Guardian looks at how they plan to take on this issue, and how they plan to encourage other companies to do the same.

How to Engage Employees in Sustainability
This report from the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) dives deep into how to make sustainability a part of your company culture. In other words, how to get your employees on board. Whether you’re a single location or global company, you’ll find tips on how to make sustainability meaningful for your employees.

Time Warner Cable Exceeds “Go Green” Goal By Reducing Its Carbon Intensity by 38 Percent
There’s one component of Time Warner Cable’s sustainability efforts that I particularly love. What is it? They put power in the hands of their employees. Last year, Time Warner Cable introduced “Green Teams”, 15 employee teams around the country who help push environmental efforts forward. It seems to be working, because in this press release on CSRwire, they announce that they’ve surpassed their goals by 15 percent. Well done, Time Warner Cable!

100 Lilly Employees Selected for Connecting Hearts Abroad
Lilly takes its employee volunteer program great distances – literally. Since 2011, Lilly has been sending employees to volunteer in various parts of the world as “Lilly Ambassadors”. As Lilly puts it, “It gets us out of the labs and from behind the computers. It allows to see the world through new eyes.” This post on their blog features an infographic which describes the Connecting Hearts Abroad program and highlights this year’s chosen volunteers.

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