2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: From Lackluster to Stellar: Re-imagining Your EVP

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: RE-imagine Your Program, summarized by Julie VanDeLinder.

Photo of Julie VanDeLinder

Julie VanDeLinder, Vice President of Client Services, VolunteerMatch

As a client relations manager, I see a variety of employee volunteer programs (EVPs).Whether big or small, EVPs all seem to have the same opportunity: To turn a lackluster program into a stellar one. Sometimes, however, companies get stuck in a routine and fail to evolve.

Many lose sight of what is called the sweet spot: A place where a program is perfectly aligned with company focus, employee passions, and the needs of the community. Our goal in this session was to challenge clients to re-imagine their program by looking at seven elements of successful programs:

  1. Communication
  2. Strategic Focus & Brand Alignment
  3. Measurement
  4. Leadership Engagement
  5. Partnerships
  6. Organizational Development
  7. Recognition & Incentives

I asked attendees to look at these elements and think about which ones they struggle with. I also asked them to think about each element as if it had no restraints, forcing them to think outside the box with creative solutions. We asked each other how we have benefited from innovation in the past, and how we defined success for the future.

We then conducted a fishbowl brainstorm: We asked four attendees to come onstage, but had five chairs. We picked one of the seven elements and asked the attendees onstage to talk about how their company handles that particular element. If someone in the audience wanted to contribute, they could come up on stage and take the fifth seat, but a current participant would have to step down. This forced the conversation to stay lively and evolving, with new ideas and speakers constantly shuffling through.

Many attendees said that discussing these seven elements forced them to think about their weak spots, and even more importantly, the things that weren’t working well but had been tradition for so long that they never thought to question it. We talked about the difficult realization that a nonprofit partner is no longer a good fit, or perhaps was not a good fit from the start. Many said that using surveys or interview techniques helped them pick a valuable partner. Others said they were brave enough to ask a nonprofit “What do you need from us?” instead of proclaiming “This is what we can give you.”

Overall, our session was small, yet very interactive. Participants had the chance to pose questions to some of the best program leaders around, as well as reflect on how to become more innovative, evolving and successful.

You can view the slides from this session here, or download all the session insights here.

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Building Nonprofit Partnerships that Work

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: Pool Your REsources: Building Cross Sector Collaboration for High Impact.

Photo of Jamie Wagner

Jamie Wagner, Senior Communications Specialist & Project Leader, ConAgra Foods

I’m always amazed by the breadth and depth of our partners’ CSR programs. In this session, Jamie Wagner of ConAgra Foods, Sabin Blake of GM, and Hannah Hoskins of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan took us on a dive deep into the inner workings of their programs. We learned about different ways companies and nonprofits work together to organize resources and address community needs.

Jamie showed us how ConAgra strives to decrease astoundingly high child hunger rates in the U.S. through a partnership with Feeding America. In 1993, ConAgra began supporting the Kids Café program which helps feed children during summer breaks from school. Today these kinds of efforts are integrated into the company, and many ConAgra employees volunteer at hunger-related organizations.

Photo of Sabin Blake

Sabin Blake, Marketing Manager – Cadillac Global Marketing, General Motors

While ConAgra has a singular focus, GM focuses on four areas: Education, environment, health, and community. Because of this, they have many nonprofit partnerships. At this session, they showcased their work with the United Way of Southeastern Michigan in Detroit. To quote the United Way, “We have a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG): To be a driving force in making Greater Detroit a top-five place to live and work by the year 2030.” In Detroit, a city that went from population of 2 million to 800 thousand, everyone you meet seems to be behind that goal.

As with many forward-looking goals, schools are a great place to start. Sabin and Hannah talked about how GM donated $27 million to the United Way’s Network of Excellence School program. The objective? To increase high school graduation rates from 50% to 80%. They are currently on track to achieve this by 2015. Sabin also helped start GM’s first official volunteer program, teamGM Cares, to assist the United Way. GM employees and retirees support the Network of Excellence program by volunteering to tutor and mentor students, as well as help them develop valuable life and professional skills.

In summary, this session showed attendees that corporate and nonprofit collaboration works. VolunteerMatch is lucky to work with such great organizations and individuals like Jamie, Sabin and Hannah. You can view the full slides from this session here.

Continue reading

Upcoming Best Practice Network Webinar: More than Writing A Check

Two people shaking hands.Successful corporate philanthropy requires more than a donation. You need brand-alignment, foresight and strategy, employee engagement, and measurable results.

During our December Best Practice Network webinar, More than Writing A Check: Creating Successful, Multi-faceted Corporate/ Nonprofit Partnerships, Susan McPherson, founder and CEO of McPherson Strategies, will explain how to create lasting impact through partnerships with nonprofits while avoiding common mishaps.

She’ll share examples of companies that have done it right – and those that have fallen short. You’ll also learn why employee volunteering is a key part of a sustainable corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, and how you can get your employees on-board. Finally, Susan will underline the importance of social media and transparency in corporate philanthropy, sharing examples of how companies have elevated the impact of their programs through social media and providing actionable tips that any organization can put into place.

Register for this free event.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

Guest Speaker: Susan McPherson, McPherson Strategies

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VM_Solutions and #VMbpn.

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: A Swedish REflection

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: A Swedish REflection.

Guest post by Anna Snell, Volontärbyrån

Anna Snell chats with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch staffer and emcee of the VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Anna Snell (left) chats with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch staffer and emcee of the VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Two months have passed since the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit, but Detroit stays with me. What an inspiration it was to be bused around the city, seeing what we are capable of achieving when we come together, devoting time and passion in the effort to create a better life for ourselves and each other.

Detroit’s journey back on track reminds me of the history of volunteering in Sweden, where I come from. It goes back to the 19th century, when Sweden was a very poor country. A third of the population emigrated (most of them to the United States), and the people that were left behind took it upon themselves to create a brighter, healthier and more equal society.

Initiatives like dental care, libraries, health care for children and home visits for the elderly came about around this time – things that volunteers and nonprofit organizations created. Responsibility for things have since been taken over by the state and are now largely tax-funded, but the appetite for organizing ourselves and volunteering has remained.

Volontärbyrån is VolunteerMatch’s Swedish cousin, and we have been exchanging insights from our respective countries for years. Volontärbyrån rests on the same firm foundation as VolunteerMatch, the drive to make it easy for people to volunteer and to support nonprofits in finding volunteers.

In Sweden, corporate volunteering isn’t as widespread as it is in the U.S. However, volunteering in general in Sweden is very popular, with every other Swede devoting on average 16 hours per month to volunteering. Companies are catching on to the fact that encouraging volunteering among their staff isn’t just a great way of involving staff in the company’s CSR activities and employer branding, it’s also beneficial to the well-being of each individual who participates.

I manage Volontärbyrån’s corporate partnerships, and came to the VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit in order to get inspired, take home some ideas and to network. And I wasn’t disappointed! I met some really great people, from the dedicated VolunteerMatch staff to passionate company coordinators as well as inspiring nonprofits. I took home lots of ideas and advice to our partners about what a successful internal infrastructure for a volunteer program looks like, how to create visibility around volunteering, and different ways to measure the success of a volunteer program.

Thank you, VolunteerMatch, for enabling all of us to network and exchange insights and ideas like this, in our joint efforts to connect people with great causes!

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Refreshingly Awesome Employee Volunteer Programs

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: REfreshingly Awesome Programs.

Lauren Keeler of Apollo Education Group and Tyler Butler of GoDaddy make awesome look easy. At VolunteerMatch’s Client Summit, they shared some creative projects they developed for their employee volunteer programs. They’re not afraid to step out of the box, and you shouldn’t be either!

Picture of Lauren Keeler

Lauren Keeler, Director, Community Engagement, Apollo Education Group

Picture of Tyler Butler

Tyler Butler, Director, Community Outreach, GoDaddy

Lauren started a 10-person pilot volunteer program that has grown so big employees are on a waiting list to participate! How did it become so successful? Lauren changed things up. Apollo previously participated in a one-on-one reading program on location at an area school. Realizing people’s busy schedules, transport time, and also taking into consideration Apollo’s culture, Lauren implemented a virtual tutoring model. This new flexibility attracted many more volunteers and increased excitement about the program.

One of the programs Tyler manages is the Hope for Soap drive. Employees are encouraged to donate toiletry items to families across the country. In 2014 alone, employees donated over 5,000 items. But it’s not just the families that benefit. GoDaddy incorporates prizes to boost involvement in the Hope for Soap drive, as well as other volunteering campaigns. For example, in certain annual giving challenges, employees can win tickets to exclusive events and one-on-one time with senior leadership in the form of bike rides and lunches. Tyler showed us how a little incentive and some healthy competition can go a long way.

Thanks again to Tyler and Lauren for sharing such inspiring insights. They reminded us that it’s okay to challenge the status quo when it comes to developing employee volunteer programs. For more on their awesome programs, check out the slides from their session.

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: How to Turn Transition into Opportunity for Your EVP

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: REalign: Managing Your EVP During Turning Points & Transitions.

Transitions and turning points in companies can be painful and scary, but they can also open up possibilities and create new efficiency. Alex Price of ADT Corporation and Bill Egan of United Airlines both offered advice on managing an employee volunteer program (EVP) through challenging times at this year’s VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Picture of Alex Price

Alex Price, Community Relations & Corporate Responsibility, ADT Corporation

Alex explained how he led EVP initiatives during ADT’s spin-off from Tyco. They changed from a huge company headquartered far away to a sizable, but much smaller, organization headquartered at home. This created some serious cultural challenges as well as some excellent opportunities. For example, ADT had the chance to reinvent itself. Alex made sure the employee engagement programs were the center of this culture change. ADT has gone on to create an award-winning EVP that continues to grow and improve.

 

Picture of Bill Egan

Bill Egan, Manager, Corporate & Community Affairs, United Airlines

United Airlines faced a similar, yet opposite, situation. They were a large company that got much larger when they merged with Continental. The merger created the opportunity to create a program with the best of both worlds, but the transition had to be managed delicately. The atmosphere was tense as people navigated the transition in an uncertain and changing environment. Bill and his team were able to use their EVP as a way to inspire employees to a purpose, work together, and feel better about the new company.

Alex and Bill shared five key steps to create an EVP that not only survives change, but also helps smooth the bumps that are common with any transition.

 

1. Assess Your Situation

Take a look at your workplace structure, including the culture, programs, workforce and current partners. Whether you are starting from scratch like ADT, or merging like United Airlines, you must evaluate your current situation and pinpoint your own unique needs before moving forward.

2. Develop a Plan Based on Your Situation, Aimed at a New Definition of Success

While change can be unnerving, it allows you to redefine what success means for your newly changed company. Both Alex and Bill recommended plotting your course before acting, determining program focus & branding, making sure focus aligns with the company brand, and deciding which department will house the program.

3. Involve Company Leadership, Obtain Senior-Level Buy-in

Both Alex and Bill could not stress this point enough. They explained that the best way to be successful at this critical step is to get feedback from senior leaders. Learn what they want for the new iteration of the company and discuss their ideas on how the EVP can help get there. Executives should also become champions of key events and connect with the leaders at partner nonprofits.

4. Embed Your EVP into the DNA of the New Entity

Include employee volunteer information in recruiting and on-boarding new employees, weave volunteer engagement into your big moments, and leverage company assets and interdepartmental relationships for your EVP.

As an example, ADT’s corporate structure lent itself to encouraging locations to form their own geographical “Always Cares Committees”. The committees are selected by local executives through an application process. The positions are prestigious and receive leadership recognition.

5. Take Time to Evaluate and Measure

To create ongoing programs that thrive and help your company meet business goals, you must create meaningful measures and metrics that you can track over time. This includes quantifying the value of your program, getting baseline metrics, conducting follow-up studies, reporting on program output, monitoring PR and social media performance, and identifying areas for improvement.

Thank you to both ADT and United Airlines for showing how employee volunteering can use transition as an opportunity to grow and smooth out issues. In both cases, two much stronger companies and brands have emerged. Want to explore this topic further? View the slides from Alex and Bill’s session.

Continue reading