A VTO Success Story: What One VolunteerMatch Employee Learned in Chile

At VolunteerMatch, we like to practice what we preach, which is one of the many reasons I feel lucky to work here. Last month, I was able to take a week off from my normal duties supporting our nonprofit community and join 11 other volunteers from around the U.S. on a week-long trip to Santiago, Chile with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program.

Shannon David ready to shovel cement.

Me in my cement-shoveling look.

When I started at VolunteerMatch just over a year ago and learned about the paidvolunteer time off (VTO) benefit offered to employees, I knew I had to make the most of it. A friend recommended Global Village, and before I knew it, I had completed a phone interview with the volunteer team leader and signed up for the trip. That was in early 2014, so I had nearly a full year to fundraise for Habitat Chile, learn a little Spanish, and talk up the trip to anyone who would listen.

We worked on a program called Nuestros Hijos Vuelven a Casa (Our Children Return Home), which supports families with children who have catastrophic illnesses or serious disabilities. Habitat Chile gets referrals from the hospital and screens the families to make sure they comply with program requirements. Then, they develop a plan to improve their existing home to better meet the physical and medical needs of the child. My team spent a week at the home of Patricia, a 17-year-old suffering from cancer. She lives with her parents and two little sisters in a very small apartment…

Read the rest of Shannon’s story.

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Mobilize Employee Champions for #GivingTuesday

It may come right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but #GivingTuesday is all about giving back to the causes we care about most. And volunteering can be a great way to do that. And engaging employees in #GivingTuesday initiatives is a great project to add to your company’s calendar.

Building on the buzz and energy of #GivingTuesday can help your company increase impact and support for the causes you support. This webinar discusses ways for you to do exactly that.

Join speakers from #GivingTuesday, Salesforce Foundation and VolunteerMatch for this special webinar to talk about ways you can organize your networks of family, friends, or coworkers to make a big difference for your cause on #GivingTuesday.

You are more powerful than you realize – and by mobilizing your employees to be volunteer champions, you can harness that power to help the causes your company supports, and that you care about.

Watch the webinar on YouTube.

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How to Design a Volunteer Program for Your Small Business

Guest post by Scott Huntington

Tips for designing a volunteer program for your small business.As a small business, finding ways to give back is important. Volunteering is a way to do something “better” for the community your business is in. It allows your employees to cooperate in a new way and creates a sense of empowerment.

However, creating a volunteer program for your business might not be the easiest task in the world. With thousands of choices available, how do you decide in which direction to proceed?

Why Choose a Cause?

Even though the benefits for giving and volunteering in the workplace are hard to dispute, many small business struggle to choose a specific cause to support. It’s difficult; you may have employees with a variety of causes close to their hearts, or have hesitations about aligning with one specific cause. When these barriers exist, volunteering efforts fall short, never take off or become scattered. None of these help your mission to give back. Choosing a cause and committing to it is a good way to stay focused and effective in your volunteer program.

5 Questions to Consider When Designing a Program

Below are a few questions and factors to consider when creating a volunteer program for your small business:

1. Does my business already donate to something?

Does your business already donate to a specific cause? If so, developing a volunteer program can be a no-brainer; simply align your actions with your giving. It’s likely your employees are already engaged in the cause and would be enthusiastic if volunteer opportunities would become available. If they’re not engaged, it may be time to find something that they’re more likely to care about.

2. Is there a natural relationship between our products/services and a specific cause?

Think about the products and/or services your business provides. Is there a natural link between those services and ways you could volunteer? For example, a shoe retailer could donate shoes to an underprivileged country – like TOMS has been doing for years. From there, the company could create mission trips and other ways for employees to become involved in the giving process.

Smaller companies like Mr. Rooter or AquaPhoenix, where clean water is the entire point of their business, could find a charity that is dedicated to providing the world with clean water. Food business or wholesalers could donate food to local food kitchens and employees could volunteer on a rotating schedule. Is there a natural link between your products and a volunteering opportunity? If so, that’s a perfect place to start.

3. Is there a local charity you could become involved with?

Sometimes the biggest movements start locally. Local initiatives are likely to be important to your employees and make excellent starting points for volunteerism. Run a search on a site like VolunteerMatch.org or reach out to your local Chamber to find out what charities surround your business’s physical location. Find out if there’s a way to get involved.

When you volunteer locally, you’re able to see the results first hand, and this could raise the excitement factor among your employees. It also can create a little positive buzz about the company and maybe even get your name in the local paper, which is always a plus. That shouldn’t be your motivation, but it’s a nice perk of going local.

4. Does my business have past ventures or partners that could have available volunteering opportunities?

Look back over the history of your business. Have any of your past clients been nonprofit organizations or charities? If so, you could revive the relationship by looking for ways to volunteer with those past clients. It adds a personal factor that highlights the fact you value your past clients and customers.

5. What matters to my employees?

While your employees may change from time to time, it’s still important to empower them to get involved in the design of a volunteer program. Set up a meeting to announce your company’s new focus and let them know their input matters. From there, put together a survey and encourage all employees to participate. You could provide a list of 5 potential charities, or ask employees to submit their own ideas. Look for overlap and narrow it down to two. From there, hold a vote. When your employees feel as though they’ve been a part of the process, they’re more likely to take ownership and to become involved in the volunteering process.

Creating a volunteer program is an essential aspect of giving back to and becoming part of your business’s community. If you’re unsure of where to start inside your company or organization, consider the 5 questions above prior to moving forward.

Has your small business implemented a volunteer program? Tell us about it!

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger with a passion for volunteering. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or check out his blog, blogspike.com.

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How Corporate Volunteer Programs Increase Employee Engagement

Guest post by Scott Huntington

Volunteers from Whirlpool pose with school supplies during the company's 2012 Volunteer Week.

Volunteers from Whirlpool pose with school supplies during the company’s 2012 Volunteer Week.

Business magazines and blogs frequently discuss how important it is for employees to work together in teams, but have you ever thought about whether your workplace may be suffering from a lack of overall employee engagement?

When employees are not committed to their jobs, they may not be as productive and might even start looking for other places to work. Fortunately, corporate volunteer programs could remedy the common problem of low employee engagement and help your workers learn to progress towards common goals, as well.

Volunteering Creates a Sense of Purpose

Most people want to be able to feel they’re doing something good with their time and their lives. It can be hard to come to those conclusions if a person feels like he or she is stuck in a monotonous job or is just uncertain of how particular work duties fit into the overall scheme of what the company is trying to achieve.

However, volunteerism offers a great way for people to remember just how valuable their time is, especially when it is used for the benefit of others. Eventually, that could translate to people being more willing to pitch in and go above and beyond what their job titles dictate that they should do while on the clock at work.

Employee Retention Could Increase

There is also evidence to suggest employees expect workplaces to offer volunteer opportunities. A recent article from Forbes discussed an in-depth survey performed by America’s Charities, which found how 68 percent of respondents looked to employers to provide ways to give back. In some cases, that meant instituting a workplace giving program, and in others, employees wanted permission to use work hours for volunteer purposes.

Clearly, volunteerism is becoming more and more important for today’s workers. If a workplace doesn’t meet the desire its employees have to do good for others, it makes sense why some people might start looking for workplaces that are built around more generous-hearted ideals.

Volunteering Builds Good Leaders

Employees who volunteer are also often willing to frequently lead others, even if they are not in supervisory positions. There are several reasons why this is the case. For starters, volunteerism helps people expand their perspectives, which can often mean they become much more in tune with things happening outside of the workplace.

Additionally, being a volunteer often causes a person to discover new talents. That’s especially true if he or she has a very open mind and is willing to pitch in wherever it is necessary, even if that means going outside a comfort zone.

Acquiring skill sets tends to make a person feel more self-confident. Plus, once that individual enjoys the kind of broader worldview volunteerism can cultivate, he or she may feel compelled to not only leap into action and improve the world, but make the work environment better, too. Often, colleagues notice that attitude and want to follow suit.

Case Study

WebpageFX, an internet marketing company, has seen a huge jump in employee engagement since they started their Pencils of Promise program. The employees call their volunteer project “#FXBuilds” and are working to raise $25,000 to build a school in rural Guatemala. They’ve been working hard and feeling extremely rewarded at their progress so far. Their excitement is spreading and other local businesses like Bortek Industries have decided to look into Pencils of Promise and other employee volunteer programs as well.

These are just a few reasons why increased employee engagement and volunteerism can go hand-in-hand. When employees are not engaged, the workplace could suffer in ways ranging from loss of profits to higher turnover rates. Consider giving your employees ways to volunteer and see if they become more engaged as a result.

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger with a passion for volunteering. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington or check out his blog, blogspike.com.

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People Make the Difference: Fueling the Rise of Corporate Volunteering

Whirlpool employees spend some time building houses with Habitat for Humanity during the company's 2012 Volunteer Week.

Whirlpool employees spend some time building houses with Habitat for Humanity during the company’s 2012 Volunteer Week.

Social good in our world – and this includes the VolunteerMatch network – is powered by people who want to make a difference. People who work at nonprofits, people who care about their communities, and people who participate in employee volunteer programs at their workplaces, just like your employees.

We recently, and very proudly, released the 2013 Annual VolunteerMatch Impact Report, showcasing the difference that can be made when people give their time, passion and skills over the course of a year. One of the most interesting sections of this report each year is always the “Workplace Impact” section.

People WANT to Do Good at Work

In 2013, 38% of the activity in the VolunteerMatch network happened via workplace volunteering programs. This means more than a third of folks signing up to volunteer on VolunteerMatch did so through their jobs! Cool!

Clearly, employees WANT to be able to volunteer through their employers. In fact, according to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, more than 50% of Millennials are influenced to accept a job based on that company’s involvement with causes. And since by 2020, Millennials will make up roughly 50% of the U.S. workforce, smart companies are taking notice of this. And smart companies are building strong, engaging employee volunteer programs.

Workplace Impact in the VolunteerMatch network during 2013.

People are Taking Things to the Next Level

But there’s more. You’ll notice that employees in the VolunteerMatch network volunteered an average of 36 hours in 2013. Yet, according to the 2012 VolunteerMatch EVP Client Insights Survey, companies provide full-time employees an average of about 8 hours paid time off. So where are the other 24 hours coming from??

Employees are so motivated and empowered by their company’s engagement programs, they are taking the opportunity provided and running with it. Even when volunteering on their own time, their workplace programs inspire them to give back, and often to get their friends and families involved, too.

We hope seeing the Workplace Impact of the VolunteerMatch network inspires you to take a look at the impact of your own company, and consider how you can do even better during the second half of 2014 and beyond. And if you need any help coming up with ideas, well, we’re always here for you.

How do you measure and report the impact of your employee volunteer program? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Volunteering Does the Body (and Your Employees) Good

Discovery Communications employees gardening and volunteering together.

Discovery Communications employees gardening and volunteering together.

In the past 10 years, we’ve seen more and more corporations developing employee wellness programs. And it is no longer just about having an office gym or healthy snacks in the kitchen.

Many corporations are now using their own money, time, and other resources to incentivize their employees to be healthy. From dental cleanings and discounts on gym apparel, to personal training sessions, companies are starting to take a serious look at how to improve the physical and mental condition of their employees.

Employers are finding that motivating their workers to be healthier makes them happier people, and consequently, happier employees. And while volunteering may not help you lose all that holiday weight in time for bikini season, it can still be a big contributor to your overall wellbeing!

In 2013, UnitedHealth Group conducted a study on the link between health and volunteering named “Doing Good is Good For You.” With all their expertise in the healthcare field combined with years of research, they found that volunteering makes employees feel better physically, emotionally and mentally. An astounding 76% of participants said that volunteering made them feel healthier and 94% said that volunteering improved their mood.

Volunteering managed and lowered employee stress levels, making them more engaged with their companies and eager to work. By integrating volunteering into your wellness program, your company shows that you care not only about your employees’ physical wellbeing, but also their mental!

Many corporations are using a third party to help with their wellness programs, such as Limeade or Healthways, these platforms allow employees to record and track their healthy activities. Employees can earn points which then equate to money that they can use to buy wellbeing-related items such as running shoes, water bottles, etc.

Humana, a VolunteerMatch client, uses volunteering as one of the activities to count towards Healthways points. As an employee tracks hours on VolunteerMatch, they are a few dollars closer to earning a reward that encourages them to keep being healthy! By placing the same value on volunteering as other physical activities, employees see that a company not only values but pushes well-rounded workers who give back!

As an employee engagement leader, you can encourage your company to volunteer in a healthy way: From coaching and sports related activities for a great cause, to getting your hands dirty with gardening, there are lots of volunteer opportunities that benefit your physical health. And with 15,000 opportunities related to health, 7,500 related to sports & fitness, and 2,500 related to gardening and plant restoration in the VolunteerMatch network, your employees are sure to find something that will get them outdoors and active. These opportunities get employees out of their chairs and collaborating with other employees, boosting moral.

If your company already utilizes an employee wellness program, think about all of the ways that you can reengage your employees by adding volunteering to the mix! It creates even more ways for your employees to be involved in both company programs, while keeping them happy and healthy!

Curious how you could easily roll volunteering into your company wellness program? Sign up for a demo of VolunteerMatch Solutions to get the wheels turning!

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Touch Your Employee Volunteers’ Hearts to Engage Their Bodies and Minds

Touch your employee volunteers' hearts to engage their bodies and minds.While your company has a Corporate Social Responsibility program for many reasons (retention, team building, employee engagement, brand reputation), your employees usually volunteer for one reason: because they care.

Most of the time, your employees are volunteering for intrinsic and personal reasons – they are connected to a cause, inspired by the work of a nonprofit, or believe it is everyone’s duty to give back to their communities. There is a great amount of power in this intrinsic motivation; it can even help you to build a company culture and employee volunteer program that is authentic and inspiring.

It’s all about balancing your business reasons for employee engagement with your employees’ personal motivations. Step back from your program and ask yourself if you have the right mixture of encouraging employees to volunteer with the causes that align with your business, and empowering your employees to volunteer for the causes they care about. If not, here are a few easy ways to connect to the personal values of your employees. I guarantee it will increase engagement:

Tell the Story

When you talk about your employee volunteer program, don’t just talk about the numbers – tell the story of volunteering. Don’t be afraid to pull on heartstrings and highlight the emotional side of the great work you’re doing.

Understand Your Employees’ Interests

While your program may focus on education, animals or financial literacy, it’s important to understand if there are other key causes that your employees care about. There are a plethora of tools at your disposal to glean this information:

  • Add a registration question to your VolunteerMatch site or put a survey out to all your employees to ask what causes are most important to them.
  • Check out the popular causes feed on your site’s impact tab to see what causes folks are signing up for most.
  • Run a report to see what causes folks are tracking hours for outside of the events you host.
  • Once you have that information, think about planning a few events that more directly align with your employees’ passions – see if it increases your traction or attracts volunteers you wouldn’t often see at your events!

Empower Champions!

Let your employees lead by becoming champions. As locals themselves, they’ll be able to tap into what’s most meaningful for their local communities. You can even use VolunteerMatch’s Opportunity Builder to have employees propose projects they want to lead – it’s easy for you, and has a huge impact!

Encourage Employees to Find Their Causes

One of the benefits of working with VolunteerMatch is the tremendous network of close to 100,000 vetted nonprofits that need volunteers. Shout it from the rooftop: your employees can use this tool to connect to what they’re passionate about!

The Best Benefit: VTO

Giving your employees Volunteer Time Off (VTO) means your company is sending a clear message: we care about our employees, and by extention we care about what they care about. It’s a no brainer.

Remember this: Volunteering shouldn’t feel corporate, it should feel personal and authentic. So find what excites your employees and mobilize their energy. Soon you’ll have more than a volunteer program: you’ll have a volunteering movement that will shape a richer culture for your business.

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