Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Deirdre White & Amanda MacArthur, PYXERA Global

VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement.

In post, get to know two of the #35experts (along with their expertise): Deirdre White, CEO, and Amanda MacArthur, VP of Global Pro Bono & Engagement, PYXERA Global.

Corporate Volunteers

First of all, what is your chapter about?
Over the past few years, pro bono has grown across sectors. In order for it to be an effective resource, it’s important to understand why pro bono is different from traditional “hearts-and-hands” volunteering.

Hearts-and-hands volunteering is when people give back through non-job-related skills, such as serving at a food kitchen or cleaning a park. With traditional volunteering, quantity over quality is usually okay.

With pro bono, quality is more critical. Pro bono asks volunteers to use job-related expertise to build capacity at an organization, and is grounded in a mutually beneficial experience for the volunteer and organization. Our chapter explains how recognizing the mutual benefits of pro bono can help a nonprofit get the expertise it needs.

Why is this topic important?
In order for pro bono to work, there needs to be an exchange of resources – a skill or expertise the volunteer can contribute along with a matching need for the nonprofit. To succeed, both need to develop trust.

Corporate pro bono programs can be very powerful. According to a study on skills-based volunteerism by True Impact, 142% of volunteers were more likely to report job-related skills gained than traditional volunteers. In addition, pro bono can be a very successful leadership training experience.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)

Deirdre White, Contributor to VolunteerMatch's book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldDeirdre White: I serve as the CEO of PYXERA Global, where I lead a team that creates and executes best practices in Global Pro Bono to benefit global corporations, local government, and nonprofits worldwide. PYXERA Global recently received the CECP Director Award of Excellence for JIVA, an integrated community development program made possible by pro bono work. I have several decades working on the ground, virtually, and overseeing pro bono projects with an emphasis on mutual benefit, sustainability, and inclusion.

Amanda MacArthur, Contributor to VolunteerMatch's book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldAmanda MacArthur: I am Vice President of Global Pro Bono and Engagement at PYXERA Global. I lead the Global Pro Bono team along with PYXERA Global’s MBAs Without Borders division. I specialize in designing, implementing and measuring the impact of skills-based volunteer programs with a focus on leadership development, as well as creating sustainable impact.


What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
At times, it can be difficult to determine how our extensive work in international settings is applicable to US nonprofits. We reflected on how to take our process of designing and implementing programs for companies and local clients, and make it applicable for nonprofits not working within the framework of a larger pro bono program – who might be looking for pro bono expertise independently.

We thought about the way PYXERA Global acts as a neutral third party to assess an organization’s needs and how to customize that to help nonprofits do this for themselves. We also had an absolutely wonderful editor, Robert Rosenthal, who helped us clarify our thinking and approach in these areas.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Always practice purposeful engagement. In other words, enter into relationships with individuals and organizations across sectors intentionally and with the understanding that you are both on equal footing. When looking for pro bono volunteers, be strategic and don’t compromise. Know what you have to give, but also know what success will look like.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldTo read Deirdre and Amanda’s full chapter, How to Get the Right Pro Bono Expertise for the Job, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

 

 

 

How VolunteerMatch Volunteers: Stephanie Hong, Engagement Manager

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.

VolunteerMatch employee Stephanie Hong and the puppies she's helping by volunteering.So, who are you?
Hi there – my name is Stephanie Hong and I am the Engagement Manager at VolunteerMatch! I am a Bay Area transplant who loves giving back to the place I now call home. Volunteering has been part of my life since I was 7 years old, and I am proud to work at an organization that promotes volunteerism.

Where do you volunteer?
With a background in marketing, I wanted to put my skills to good use. Many animal shelters in California are short staffed, especially for the City of Stockton Animal Shelter. In my spare time, I help manage their SEM (search engine marketing) and act as webmaster to keep their website up to date. It is extremely fulfilling to provide my expertise when they otherwise would not have staff for it.

And with a love for animals, I recently just started at Rabbit Rescue as a rabbit socializer! I spend 2 hours a week hanging out with rabbits to make them perfect pets. From just sitting with them to get them used to humans or playing with them to give them exercise, it is the perfect excuse to get out of the office and help animals in need!

What drew you to these organizations?
As you can tell, I have a soft spot for animals. Even as a young child, I wanted to be the voice for them. As I grew older and gained more professional talents, skilled volunteering is where I found the greatest reward. Utilizing my marketing skills for good AND playing with rabbits – now that’s volunteer heaven!

Parker the rabbit, from Rabbit RescueHave any fun stories to share?
At Rabbit Rescue, a handful of rabbits reside at the Petco in San Francisco. It is our duty as volunteers to get them ready to be the perfect pet. Many are sweet and outgoing, but you do get a few who are shy and afraid of humans.

One such rabbit was Jules. She would hiss whenever I tried to pick her up and there was no way she’d let a stranger pet her. One day, she escaped from her enclosure and I had to chase her around Petco like a maniac. Suddenly, a hero came along and swooped her up. I’d never seen Jules so happy to be in someone’s arms. Spoiler alert: the hero adopted Jules the weekend after.

Would you volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Since volunteering has been part of my life for so long, I would definitely still volunteer without VTO. Volunteering is something I enjoy making time for. Don’t get me wrong, VTO is amazing! It is one of the best employee benefits out there. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time as I wanted to help organizations. The ability to take 8 hours a month during work hours to help others is a perk that shows your employer really cares.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Many people do not want to bring work home. But what if you were using your “work” to help a cause? That is why I think skilled volunteering is so important. Countless nonprofit organizations do not have the budget to hire for every skill. With skilled volunteering, professionals can set aside a few hours a month for specific tasks like graphic designing, programming, marketing, writing, accounting, etc. Next time you’re looking for a volunteer gig, consider using your professional skills to make a difference!

Changing Corporate Perspectives on Workplace Volunteer Programs: Q & A, Part 2

Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, contributors to Volunteer Engagement 2.0, VolunteerMatch's new book

Angela Parker & Chris Jarvis

In last month’s Best Practice Webinar, we heard from Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth about Workplace Volunteer Programs.

A few questions from our audience were left unanswered as our allotted time came to a close. Angela and Chris were kind enough to answer these questions offline. In part two of this two-part series, I’m pleased to share these additional insights from Angela and Chris.

Q: How aligned does volunteerism need to be with a company’s funding focus areas? We have employees who want to volunteer for causes the company does not fund. Does this matter?

A: Most people in your company are not involved in the community. In fact, only 25% of Americans formally volunteer. If you limit volunteer opportunities strictly to your company’s desires, you make the tent smaller than it already is.

Generally, providing three tiers of volunteer opportunities can help satisfy the company, your employees, and the community. Here’s one way to structure that:

  • Tier 1: Signature Programs – Big events that match a specific cause with the company’s strategic focus. For example, a bank’s signature program could be financial literacy.
  • Tier 2: Community Programs – Smaller, community-focused events that match a specific cause with a social or environmental issue in a community. Many large companies have offices all over the world. Community programs need not be related to the company’s giving focus, but should have direct local proximity to the cause.
  • Tier 3: Employee Choice – Causes that matter to employees.

When you allow employees to follow their passion/pet causes, they will more likely want to get involved in events featuring the company’s focus. Generating this “quid pro quo” could end up boosting support for your signature programs.

Q: Do measurements such as Social Return on Investment (SROI) look at the impact of volunteering?

A: There are a number of measurement experts in the field. Two that come to mind are VeraWorks and True Impact. Strong SROI measurement tools do include the impact volunteering has on the beneficiaries and the community. We encourage you to explore some of these models and adapt them to what you need.

One recent advancement in the measurement space is determining the benefit volunteering has on the company. A group of companies in Canada recently launched a project to tie volunteering to retention rates and employee satisfaction scores; the hope being that knowing the financial impact of volunteering can help boost internal budgets and support for more community activity.

Q: How can you maximize the passion of really engaged employees?

A: A key attribute of transformative volunteer programs is the role of the “third-stage volunteer” (aka “Champion”, “Ambassador”, “Guide”). In any given company, approximately 6% of employees fit this model – and you can tell them a mile away! They are always passionate about volunteering, always supporting local causes, and always asking you to sponsor the next run, walk or bikeathon.

The best way to maximize the passion of these individuals is to elevate them to a leadership position. Their highest level of contribution may, in fact, be bringing others along for the ride. And they want nothing more than to share the transformative experiences they have had already. They’ll love you for it – and they’ll return the favor by digging deeper into their “passion” reserves!

Thanks, Angela and Chris!

Missed the webinar? You can still watch a recording of the webinar, and browse the slide deck.

Angela and Chris also contributed a chapter on this topic to VolunteerMatch’s new book. Learn more.

You Have a Great Employee Volunteer Program? Prove It.

VolunteerMatch reportingVolunteerMatch has been in the employee volunteer program (EVP) space for quite a while. Over 15 years, actually.

From our time here, we’ve seen a lot. We’ve talked to a lot of people out in the field, we’ve held a lot of Q&A sessions (both online and off), and we’ve read a lot of articles and research. Through all this, one thing has been painfully clear:

Getting internal buy-in for your EVP is one of the most challenging – and most important – parts of a running an EVP.

VolunteerMatch allows us to track the participation metrics for our programs in one system – hours, employees, projects – all of this data paints a picture of our impact.
-Erin Dieterich,
NetSuite

We’ve discussed in the past how reporting features are the most powerful, and often under-utilized, tool your EVP has. YourMatch™, VolunteerMatch’s EVP software, makes it easy to prove your program’s impact with quick, customizable reporting features and personalized dashboard. Why? Because we’ve seen firsthand how important it is.

YourMatch™ comes with a handful of “classic reports”, which include a super-easy way to pull the data that most EVP managers care about. With a few clicks and just a few seconds, you’ll know:

  • The total volunteer hours your company donated in a given time period
  • Who your most active volunteers are
  • Which departments or locations are having the biggest impact
  • Which cause areas are most popular with your employees
  • Much, more more.

You can also create your own custom reports, and determine what data you’re even recording, all customizable based on your company’s individual priorities.

Remember: Reporting is not only the best way to showcase what your program is already accomplishing, it can shine light on the path ahead. Getting to know the ways in which your employees choose to volunteer is great intel for shaping your future EVP strategy.

Want to learn more? Watch a demo of our tools. And never wonder again how you’re going to answer the question, “What’s the impact of our employee volunteer program?”

Corporate Social Responsibility Food For Thought

CSR Food for ThoughtThe “Food for Thought” series is a roundup of recent CSR-related news, presented to you in one bite-sized post.

Millennials Respond Better to Peers than Bosses When Asked to Give
From The Chronicle of Philanthropy:
New research in the form of The 2015 Millennial Impact Report shows co-worker relationships are very important to millennials.

(Also, check out our blog post inspired by this report: Why More Companies Should Offer Skilled Group Volunteer Opportunities)

Global Report Sheds Light on Employee Engagement Practices in Five Countries
From CSRWire: Check out the new report from Silicon Valley Community Foundation on how global companies are expanding their CSR around the world- and how your company can follow suit.

JetBlue’s CSR Report Proves It’s a Leader in the Industry
From Triple Pundit: Read about JetBlue’s 2014 CSR successes, and learn why VolunteerMatch is proud to have them as a client.

Three Ways Companies Build Better Leaders with Global Pro Bono
From New Global Citizen: Find out why some top companies are sending their top staff abroad – and what benefits they’re seeing.

Effective CSR Communication: What Tactic and When?
From Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship: CSR professionals need to work with all departments in a company to design, implement and grow their programs. Review these best practices for the marketing/ communication collaboration.

(On a similar topic, I recently wrote about 4 Simple Language Changes to Grow Your Employee Volunteer Program.)

Hope you enjoyed this Food for Thought! Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Changing Corporate Perspectives on Workplace Volunteer Programs: Q & A, Part 1

In last month’s Best Practice Webinar, we heard from Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth about Workplace Volunteer Programs.

We discussed the trends and challenges they’re seeing in their work, recommendations on how to inspire employees to volunteer, and the corporation’s role in a higher calling. The webinar was full of great content and discussion, but a few questions from our audience were left unanswered as our allotted time came to a close.

Angela and Chris were kind enough to answer these questions offline. In part of this two-part series, I’m pleased to share these additional insights from Angela and Chris.

Chris and Angela of Realized Worth

Chris Jarvis & Angela Parker

Q: What do you do if your company’s CSR Manager wants to implement a volunteer program, and the CEO says, “Our employees don’t want that.”?

Imagine he’s not open to seeing CECP studies, ROI studies, etc. Is it time time for a coup??

A: This is a great question – and one we hope never comes up! The answer is actually quite simple: there is no substitute for experience. Your employees can only be convinced of the true impact of volunteering when they experience it themselves.

This begs the next question: How do you give the CEO a meaningful experience? One way is to use good old-fashioned peer pressure, by leveraging the social capital of the people around him. This includes trusted advisors, peers and even family/ friends. If the event is run well – with clear linkages to the beneficiary of the cause – transformation can occur. And when that happens, the CEO can realize the influence the company plays in helping everyone achieve that.

This may take awhile, but it’s an essential step in ensuring you have buy-in from executives.

Q: Any advice on how to shift focus from quantity of volunteer events to quality of events? And can you communicate this to get buy-in?

I believe if the markets in my company– we have about 60– directed their focus to fewer, higher quality events per year, we would see more participation from employees. Right now, we’re experiencing volunteer fatigue because there is just too much going on– some markets have 2-3 events per month!

A: There are many answers to this great question. Without knowing your specific circumstance, here are a few tips to prevent volunteer fatigue:

  • Ensure you have diverse opportunities available covering many different causes. If the events are only driven by the company (helping to achieve a “signature” cause), you may be alienating some people. Find out what people care about and encourage people to follow their passion.
  • Meet people at their highest level of contribution – find the volunteers that may be “fatigued” and ask them to play a leadership role for the people in their department. Give them the tools to plan 2-3 meaningful events that match the interests of their colleagues.
  • Focus your measurement on engagement instead of participation. This includes measuring leadership development, skills development, and manager support. You may find that higher engagement happens with less (but more meaningful) events.
  • Involve non-traditional players. Find out what HR, marketing, finance and others would want to see from a volunteering program.

Q: How can we take desk-based or lunchroom-based volunteering efforts (because of our business need, folks can’t leave the office) and make them transformational?

A: This is an excellent question, and a common issue for many practitioners. Ryan Scott outlined some interesting ways to involve on-site employees in volunteering. His article Help, I Can’t Get Up!’ Volunteering From Your Desk covers this exact topic.

Thanks, Angela and Chris! Check back next week for part 2 of this Q&A series. In the meantime, you can watch a recording of the webinar, and browse the slide deck.

Note: Angela and Chris also contributed a chapter on this topic to VolunteerMatch’s new book. Learn more.

Why More Companies Should Offer Skilled Group Volunteer Opportunities

Evidence from Cause, Influence & the Next Generation Workforce: The 2015 Millennial Impact Report.

Yes, I am a millennial. Not only that, but after reading the recently-released 2015 Millennial Impact Report, I realized: I am the spitting image of a typical millennial.

Tess Srebro

Spitting image of a typical millennial.

And I’m here to tell you what I –and my generational peers- want from our corporate volunteering.

But first, let me take you back. In 2008, I eagerly accepted my first full-time, non-summer-break job, in a field only vaguely related to what I studied in school.

The job itself was high pressure, leading to many sleepless nights. The hours were long: 50+ office hours per week; tied to the blackberry 24/7. However, I had the most amazing group of co-workers, whom I loved dearly and who made my day fun.

Yes, I had the constant, nagging feeling that I wanted to do something else, something… more meaningful. But I ended up staying at that job for 3 years, before finally seeking out that meaningfulness.

Why? My awesome co-workers, that’s why.

 “Bonds with co-workers was one of the biggest factors that made Millennials want to stay at their company for more than three years.”- The 2015 Millennial Impact Report

Co-worker BFFs_1

Me with my co-worker BFFs.

The report goes on to show that the influence of co-workers might be deeper than we once thought. Check out these surprising stats:

  • “27% of millennial employees said they are more likely to donate to a cause if their supervisor does; while 46% of employees are likely to donate if a co-worker asks them to.
  • 77% of millennial employees prefer to volunteer with groups of fellow employees, rather than doing cause work on their own.”

The report goes on to say that during its studies; it found that “Co-worker relationships not only influenced cause participation, but that these relationships also contributed to long-term happiness at work.”

The report also backs up what many of us have been saying for some time: Corporate volunteers want to use their specialized skills to make a difference.

I was recently speaking with a friend, who works for a successful tech company, about his company’s volunteerism. “It’s a waste to have people who are making $50 an hour spend their time packing boxes at a food bank,” he says. “If we could find a way to donate our skills to an organization, everyone gets more value out of the interaction,” he says.

While that may be true, I’ve also heard from others at this same company that doing team activities like food bank sorting offers valuable team-building and bonding opportunities.

How do employers reconcile this push for skilled volunteer opportunities with the parallel desire for group and team-building opportunities?

It’s actually very simple. Group volunteer projects that use your employees’ specialized skills.

There are plenty of opportunities for group volunteer activities that involve skills. If they don’t already exist, you can create them. For example, skilled-volunteer employees at Appirio complete pro bono tech projects. And employees at MUFG Union Bank venture out together to teach financial literacy.

If you’re struggling to find your company’s fit, start by offering variety. Offer volunteer time off so that employees can choose their own ways to get involved with their skills. Offer company-led group volunteer outings to get people’s minds off work for the afternoon, even if it’s not skills-based. Most importantly, listen to employees. Find out how they want to get involved, and make that possible.

Remember, co-worker bonds lead to employee happiness and retention. Both the Millennial Impact Report and my personal experience show this. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this easy way to build co-worker relationships?

Learn how VolunteerMatch Solutions can support your company’s group volunteerism.