People Make the Difference: A Sure Thing in the World of Social Good

People Make the Difference: A Sure Thing in the World of Social GoodInvesting in social good can often feel like educated guessing. At the very least, there’s risk involved. After all, nonprofits are businesses, and even though their bottom lines are more focused on cause-based missions than profit-based ones, success of any kind is not guaranteed.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it – risk is an essential element of innovation. Imagine what the world would be like if we only ever invested in the “sure thing” business opportunities (or life opportunities, for that matter). It’s critical that we take chances to make a difference just as readily as we would to make a profit.

Every once in a while, though, there’s an exception that proves the rule, and VolunteerMatch is that exception. It’s a matter of some simple math, really: In our recently released 2013 VolunteerMatch Annual Impact Report, we revealed that for every $1 invested in the VolunteerMatch network, $190 of social value is created in our communities.

For every $1 invested in VolunteerMatch, $190 of social value is created.

$1 invested. $190 returned. Holy cow.

Imagine a business opportunity that showed that kind of ROI. And in this case, the benefit is not just to you, the investor, but to the entire world.

That’s the impact model the VolunteerMatch network is built on, and as it continues to grow, we’ll see this number getting even more impressive. Social good in the VolunteerMatch world, one might say, is a bull market.

Getting in on the Opportunity

As with any great business opportunity, you probably are wondering how your company can get a piece of the action. Why not? We’re as tantalized by these numbers as you are. Fortunately, there are a number of great ways you can get involved with VolunteerMatch and invest in the amazing social good being created:

Employee Volunteer Solutions

A unique, customized, personalized, localized, powerful set of tools that will enable you to run the best employee volunteer program for your company – no matter what that looks like.

Cause Solutions

Looking for a way to build purpose and volunteering into your brand, and create great relationships with your consumers? Look no further.

APIs

Harness the crazy power of the VolunteerMatch network, but have it YOUR way. Our most flexible option.

Sponsorship

Build visibility and awareness around your brand’s support of a cause by sponsoring it on VolunteerMatch.org. Reach out to millions of nonprofits and volunteers to get them involved with your initiative.

Intrigued? Want to learn more about investing in a sure thing for social good? Check out a product demo or fill out this quick form and we’ll be in touch!

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Reporting: Are You Shying Away from the Most Powerful Tool You’ve Got?

Reporting on your employee volunteer program is one of the most under-utilized tools.Isaac Newton revolutionized our understanding of physics by proving that “What comes up must come down” and that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Here at VolunteerMatch, we hope to transform your appreciation of employee volunteer reporting with a truth I think Newton would appreciate: “Anything that’s been put into the system can be drawn back out.”

The Under-Appreciated Tool

If you are an administrator for your employee volunteer program, you’ve probably been asked to show some numbers, or have at least noticed that Reporting tab hanging out on your YourMatch admin toolbar – go over and shake its hand! Newton worked with “potential energy” – energy yet to be released, such as what’s stored in a coiled spring. Your reporting tool is your program’s biggest untapped source of power, and we’re here to help you release what’s inside.

From a metrics standpoint, “Newton’s Law of Reporting” enables you to pull hard data that provides a valuable snapshot of your program. With it, you can answer questions such as how many employees activated their account the day of a major communication; which cause area brought in the most sign-ups this quarter; or whether the accounting department logs the most hours in all states, or just one. By using filter and column options as you build your reports, you have hundreds of lenses through which to view your program’s personality.

By using filter and column options as you build your reports, you have hundreds of lenses through which to view your program's personality.

Once you realize how powerful the tool is in its ability to summarize and breakdown who is doing what, inspiration can strike in two ways:

  1. You have new ideas for questions to ask the system to get even more robust data.
  2. You see what the data you’ve pulled is telling you in terms of how to make your program more impactful.

Building Better Data

Any question you have about your program, reporting is your fast track to an answer. Just remember “Newton’s Law” here: If it’s put into the system, it can be drawn back out. The opposite is also true – if it’s not in the system to begin with, you can’t build a report on it. Bottom line: Talk to your Client Relations Manager at VolunteerMatch about adding new fields and questions to capture information you’ll want in your reports.

So what else could you be asking your employees? What about collecting feedback by building in survey questions when they sign up for projects or track their hours? You could ask what theme they’d be most excited about for this year’s Month of Service, if they are aware of the volunteer time off policies, or if they have a compelling story for the company newsletter.

You can also customize questions to pull in data on metrics your company is prioritizing, such as whether the volunteering activity used their professional talents, or related to financial literacy.

Reporting can be just as useful to figure out what’s not happening as what has happened. You can filter to see all those who have not yet signed up or tracked hours, then send a reminder email, or look for trends.

Make Those Numbers Mean Something

Once you’ve got the report, don’t let the numbers just sit on a page – use them to improve your program! Have 50 people who tracked 150 hours this year? Nominate them for an award such as the President’s Volunteer Service Award, ask them to be volunteer champions in their departments, or invite them to a brainstorming session on how to increase engagement.

Hoping to develop a partnership with your local Red Cross chapter? You can filter by organization to find everyone who has volunteered there in the last year, and then reach out to those folks to get stories and recruit them as potential liaisons and project leaders.

Laura Ellis, a VolunteerMatch Client Relations Manager, emphasizes that the steps you take before and after running your reports are equally important. On the front end, says Laura, “Know which metrics are important to your company, such as department, location, and any groupings that could spark friendly competition.”

Then, Laura explains, use the reporting tool to get to know your program more fully and gain data-driven insight into what types of projects are drawing volunteers. Bring it home by using this understanding to shape next year’s partnerships and campaigns, and watch your impact grow.

Reporting is not only the best way to showcase what your program is already accomplishing, it’s an unbeatable source of intel for where you should head next. The cleaner and more complete your data is going in, the better your results and findings will be – so talk to us today about taking your reporting to the next level.

How are you using reporting to improve your employee volunteer program? Learn how VolunteerMatch Solutions can help out.

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How To Make Volunteerism Shine in Your CSR Report

Compelling photos from Arbor Day Foundation’s Community Report

This summer, we conducted an in-depth review of employee volunteer programs by analyzing the corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports of more than 40 large domestic and internationally recognized businesses.

Our research had us thinking through the techniques used to effectively communicate the impacts of corporate volunteer initiatives, and which of these help produce clear, eye-catching reports. We unearthed a few examples of companies doing this well, and offer the following tips to organizations looking to highlight volunteerism in their next CSR reports:

Build an Experience
AT&T has designed a wonderfully interactive site packed with great insights into their philanthropic endeavors. Their community initiatives are represented by a cartoon neighborhood with clickable animations that unfold to give you a look inside recent achievements. External links are also provided to connect the viewer to more detailed reports.

This interactive style keeps the audience entertained with information that may be hard to absorb from dense text alone. It also helps express the company’s pride in their efforts; they are willing to create an accessible site that deeply involves viewers and wholly illustrates the corporate mission.

Be Bold
Another easy and effective technique is to include highlights of striking program accomplishments. Genworth Financial’s community report provides an excellent example of this volunteer reporting style. Statistics describing annual hours donated, projects completed and nonprofit partnerships are boldly displayed as extra-large section dividers. The sections following the bold statistics contain a variety of case studies, stories and quotes to corroborate report findings.

Adding these personal insights allowed Genworth to transform a modest PDF into a riveting account of corporate community involvement that any audience can relate to.

Picture It
Infographics have conquered the bar chart, and for good reason. Skimming through FedEx’s interactive Community & Disaster Relief Metrics is all the viewer must do to gain a clear perspective on the company’s engagement efforts. The graphics provide an easy interpretation of otherwise overwhelming data and add a contemporary feel to the report. Take a look at how we at VolunteerMatch put this technique to use with our annual report infographic.

Another example is Arbor Day Foundation’s attention-grabbing community report, which is loaded with vibrant images of volunteerism. The document is pleasing to the eye, which might not seem like much, but really goes a long way in a 30+ page report. The photographs help to take pressure off the text and give the reader a firsthand glimpse into company projects.

Giving back to the community is an important aspect of a healthy business, and reporting on goals and accomplishments is just as significant. However you choose to portray company engagement is up to you, just make sure to share your story! We would love to hear more about your reporting tips, and what you’re doing to communicate to and engage your audiences.

Elyse Bernstein is a Marketing & Insights Intern at VolunteerMatch.You can find her on Twitter @aleafbsting.

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Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship to Moderate Panel on Impact Measurement at 2011 VolunteerMatch Client Summit

The 2011 VolunteerMatch Client Summit, May 12-13th at The Art Institute of Chicago, is coming up and we are excited to share with you the speakers and events of the day.  Here are a few details about our main panel discussion, which takes place in the morning, before the networking luncheon.

This year’s panel discussion will focus on “Measuring The Business Impact of Community Involvement Programs”, with moderator Vesela Veleva, Sc.D., Research Manager, from the Carroll School of Management at the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College. Dr. Veleva will present corresponding research from BCCCC and lead a discussion with two VolunteerMatch client companies.

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6 Ways to Report on the Social Impact of a Cause Campaign

Whether the currency is time or money, it’s essential for anyone who is engaging supporters, donors or volunteers to be able to illustrate the social impact of their campaign.

While debate might always rage as to how best to show off the social return on any cause investment, over at Cone Inc. the team has published a list that neatly summarizes six types of SROI reporting. The list is a great entry point for newbies who are planning and budgeting for an upcoming cause marketing, employee volunteering, or crowdsourced fundraising campaign.

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Report from Justmeans: CSR Social Media Strategies

How can companies more effectively communicate not just their social responsibility commitments, but also their successes? On November 1, some 200 business leaders and organizations gathered at the Justmeans Social Media, Technology and Change conference in New York City to discuss the risks, rewards and best practices.

For companies and organizations that are committed to communicating their social responsibility efforts, several challenges run in parallel to each other.

  • Companies need to be able to distribute news and reports about their sustainability efforts to targeted audiences who care about those issues – be they journalists or activists.
  • They need to create transparent platforms for community involvement and feedback in their CSR reporting.
  • And they need to join and be part of wider community of committed companies to benefit from the halo effect.

A niche social network with sophisticated news and content distribution tools, Justmeans.com is a part of a growing list of Web communities that specialize in serving the communicators, PR pros, and sustainability program administrators of the Fortune 1000.

Perhaps the most engaging session was also the first panel. Dell’s Director of Social Media Adam Brown joined Matthew Bishop of The Economist and Kevin Grandia, new Online Strategy Director for Greenpeace, for a conversation on the “rules” of social media engagement, and how leading companies and effective NGOs can leverage the tools to accomplish core objectives around social impact.

Four Rs of Social Media for CSR Professionals

At Dell, Brown leads their global activities in online communities. He outlined several core principles of social media strategy. First, social media is communication, not broadcast. “The ‘Moses’ method doesn’t work,” he said. “You’re not bringing a message down from on high.” Also, he suggested, fish where the fish are. Dell, he said, participates in conversations not only on their own properties but also as invited guests on others. “And do remember you have been invited,” he cautioned.

It’s ALL about authenticity, said Brown. To help stay on track, he suggested that companies and brands follow “4Rs”:

  • Review (listen first)
  • Respond (participate with authenticity, genuineness and correct context)
  • Record (Make content that truly inspires)
  • Redirect (Leverage search engine marketing to make sure people can find it, even as social media.)

VolunteerMatch is a Justmeans member, and we use the service to raise awareness about corporate volunteer engagement. While corporate volunteering is a growing but still little recognized field of CSR, the fundamentals of how to share and report on all CSR programs share much in common.  We’ll keep you posted on ideas from the Justmeans community.

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The Limits of Celebrity Endorsement in Volunteer Engagement

Editors note: This article was first published this week at onPhilanthropy.com.

These days, when a trend is at its fever pitch, it’s trendy to say it “jumped the shark.” That’s from the 1977 Happy Days episode where Fonzie water skis over a giant great white. Since then, the scene has become synonymous with absurd developments that signal the beginning of the end. The show may have limped along for years more, but creatively speaking it was all downhill from there.

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