Celebrate the Fun Side of Volunteering with #FestiVOL15

Celebrate National Volunteer Week with VolunteerMatchEmployee volunteer programs have a myriad of benefits. One of the top, and often overlooked, benefits? They’re fun.

This National Volunteer Week (April 12-18, 2015), VolunteerMatch is celebrating the fun side of volunteering with our second annual FestiVOL. Time to put on those party hats, dig out those noisemakers, and shout with us, “Volunteering is AWESOME!”

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. One of our #FestiVOL15 goals is to help you, your company, and your employees strengthen and get creative with your employee volunteer program. We want you to get the most out of National Volunteer Week.

To help reach this goal, each day of the week we’ll post three nuggets of information: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. Check out our #FestiVOL15 webpage to follow along as they’re posted. You and your employees can also follow the hashtag #FestiVOL15 on Twitter to see everything as it’s released, and to join in the fun yourself!

Whether you run a great employee volunteer program, volunteer through your company, or volunteer on your own time, here’s to you!

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ConAgra Foods: Fighting Child Hunger One Voice at a Time

ConAgra employee Rajan Taylor volunteers at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

ConAgra employee Rajan Taylor volunteering at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Guest Post by Kori Reed

I am a child of the ’80s whose mom played Barry Manilow’s albums throughout my formative years. So, what does this have to do with April’s National Volunteer Month?

Rajan Taylor, a security contractor at the ConAgra Foods’ St. Louis office, makes me want to break out into song. Specifically, Manilow’s One Voice, which he also performed at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. It’s inspired by the idea that if one person stands up for what he believes in, the rest will follow.

Rajan read about ConAgra Foods’ long-standing commitment to take action against child hunger and that generated an idea. He’ll humbly tell you he simply called a few friends and sent an email, but he ultimately sparked the largest, single-day, citywide food drive in history to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank – a member of the Feeding America network. He called the event, held on March 20, 2015, “Spring into Giving,” which is an appropriate phrase to describe his actions to engage more than 75 St. Louis companies to raise more than 50,000 lbs. of food, or rather more than 40,000 meals in one day.

Rajan embodies ConAgra Foods’ spirit of taking and catalyzing action to eradicate child hunger, a big problem. Nearly 16 million children in the U.S. struggle to get enough to eat, and this can hold them back from the opportunities they deserve — education, hope and a thriving future. Hunger will not be solved by one organization alone; we value our partnership with Feeding America, friends and even competitors, but we need more people like Rajan to join in, spark change and give hope to our neighbors. (For even more inspiration see youth Making a Mark on Hunger.)

In April, we celebrate National Volunteer Month and work to fight hunger through ConAgra Foods’ Child Hunger Ends Here campaign. Rajan is one of many champions in the company, across office locations and facilities, who are inspired to engage in the annual, coordinated hunger-service event. During last year’s month of service, employee efforts lead to packing more than 1 million meals and contributing more than 7,000 hunger-service hours in more than 25 U.S. cities in a single month.

This year we will do it again – only on an even larger scale. On April 1, ConAgra Foods officially launched its fifth-annual, coordinated hunger-service event. Throughout the month, employees will pack meals, organize fundraising events and may even apply skills, like project management, to enhance efficiencies at food banks and pantries. This year, our goal is to reach 10,000 hunger-service hours by volunteering in our respective communities.

Rajan is doing his part. He tells us he is excited that ConAgra Foods will be known throughout St. Louis as a company that acts on its belief to end hunger; and we tip our hats to Rajan. To borrow from Barry, “We need just one voice facing the unknown, and then that one voice would never be alone.” Thanks, Rajan, for being the One Voice and inspiring the rest of us to join you.

Kori Reed is vice president, Cause and Foundation, at ConAgra Foods.

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CSR Food For Thought: Corporate Volunteerism Done Right

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.

The Power of Corporate Volunteerism
In response to a recent Boston Globe article that framed corporate volunteerism as a “burden for nonprofits,” Danielle Holly of Common Impact published this LinkedIn post explaining why this isn’t the case – if corporate volunteering is done right. And there are so many companies doing it right.

The Impact of Skills-Based Volunteering
This article from America’s Charities is full of great stats. For example, did you know it can cost a company $2000 per year for each employee not engaged with their company? The solution? Skills-based corporate volunteerism. An example comes from our client NetSuite, who runs the employee volunteer program SuiteVolunteers. Find out how this program has successfully improved their employee engagement.

Volunteerism and Community Engagement Tops Climate Change in 3BL Media Study of Most-Read CSR Content
This press release from 3BL Media shows an interesting trend: Out of all the topics on their CSR news distribution site, “volunteerism and community engagement” has the highest readership. Why? As 3BL Media’s CMO puts it, “It’s clear that corporations are proud of the volunteer work their employees are doing in the communities where they do business.”

Ten Characteristics of the World’s Best Corporate Sustainability Programs
CSR has been around long enough now that we can finally start to see some real trends. This CSRwire post looks at what companies that are doing it right have in common. Whether it’s ramping up CSR transparency, rewarding internal CSR champions, or one of the other eight commonalities, you just might find a new strategy to take back to your own company.

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

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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.

SalesForce.com 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 SalesForce.com 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 NetSuite.org Grantees Transforming the World One Drop of Water at a Time
In honor of World Water Day (which took place on 3/22), NetSuite.org  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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