Words Matter: 4 Simple Language Changes to Grow Your Employee Volunteer Program

4654424717_cf0f293c2e_bCrafting the perfect volunteer opportunity that fits with your company’s mission. Fighting for internal buy-in for your employee volunteer program. Letting the world know the good your employees are doing.

Running an employee volunteer program comes with many moving parts. That’s why it’s all too easy to overlook one important thing:

How you talk about your employee volunteer program to your employees impacts its success.

I’m not talking about mass, public communications. I’m talking about the simple, day-to-day communications you have with your employees about your program: That email you sent announcing your new program. That conversation you had with your colleague about your next event. The announcement in your internal newsletter.

In these communications, the words you use are important.

Why? They can make your message stand out from the hundreds of messages your employees receive daily. They can create a personal connection between your volunteer program and your employees. And in turn, they can increase excitement for and participation in your program.

But where do you start? Here are four tips for increasing employee engagement in your volunteer program, using simple language changes alone.

  1. Use Active Voice
    Your employees will be more interested in your program if they trust in its credibility. Credibility is implied when you speak or write confidently. And what’s the number one way to convey confidence when writing or speaking? Use an active voice.

    This means reducing your number of “to be” verbs such as “are”, “is”, “was” and “will be”. For example, “We will be cleaning up Renatska Park,” can change to, “We will make Renatska Park a cleaner space for our community to enjoy.”

  1. Involve Your Listener
    We all want to feel like we’re a part of something. Use the words “you” and “your” in your communication to make your employees feel like you’re talking to them directly. (i.e., “Renatska Park needs your help,” and “You can improve outdoor space in your community.”)
  1. Tell a Story
    You may think the facts will speak for themselves, but without a story to frame them in, people will forget them or overlook them all together. It’s in our nature as humans to enjoy and respond to stories. For example, instead of simply focusing on the number of students your employees tutored, talk about one employee who was particularly touched by one student.
  1. Keep it Short
    There’s nothing worse than an email that you have to scroll to find the bottom, or when a person talks for ten minutes about something than could have been said in two. Know the key points you want to convey, and stick to those. And rather than anticipating every, little, possible uncertainty, offer a format for people to reach you if they have questions.

Using these tips, you’ll decrease the amount of quick skims through your emails and zone-outs while you’re speaking. You’ll increase the amount of times your message actually gets read and heard.

Before you know it, more and more people in your company will also be talking about your employee volunteer program.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson

CSR Food For Thought: Mandatory Corporate Volunteering?

VolunteerMatch's CSR Food for Thought SeriesThe 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.

Should the Government Mandate Corporate Volunteering?
In the United Kingdom, it’s now mandatory for all companies to offer at least three days of paid VTO (volunteer time off). This Realized Worth post explores the common reactions to this mandate, and ponders whether or not this will have an effect on the U.K.’s volunteer rates.

Nominate a Company for Best Corporate Steward Award Today!
For 16 years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been recognizing companies that go above and beyond as corporate stewards. Finalists are chosen in eight categories based on nominations from the public. But act quickly – the deadline to submit a nomination is May 29th.

Every Sustainability Acronym, Explained
Lost in BSRs, CSRs, CDPs and SRIs? This post from Triple Pundit has you covered. They’ve compiled a long list of acronyms and abbreviations associated with sustainability to help you navigate your way through this ever-changing, and ever-abbreviating, field.

Three Ways to Engage Employees in Environmentalism
We all know that going green is more than recycling bins in the break room and carpooling to the office. So, what are some “evergreen” strategies your company can use to create real and lasting change? This Huffington Post blog post gives three suggestions, along with examples of how they worked for the company AMD.

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

CSR Food For Thought: The Case for Compassionate Business

VolunteerMatch's CSR Food for Thought SeriesThe 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.

How Giving Hugs and Showing Compassion Will Grow Your Business
Triple Pundit states the case for kindness, compassion, and yes, even hugs, in business. While the stance can be viewed as extreme, it has data to back it up. For example, when employees at one company were given a medium to express compassion to one another, their 95% turnover rate quickly fell to 30%. Check out the article for eight ways to add compassion to your business.

10 Steps to a Dynamic Corporate Responsibility Annual Report
Over the past week, I’ve seen many companies release CSR reports (CVS Health, Dunkin’ Brands, and Tom’s of Maine, to name a few.) It’s a great way to generate buzz about your program, and, as this article from Entrepreneur reminds, to help brand your CSR program. Check out the article for 10 content suggestions to include in your own CSR report.

Three Easy Cultural Shifts to Help Engage Your Employees
When more people believe in the possibility of a zombie apocalypse than report being engaged at work, well, there’s room for improvement, to say the least. This Deloitte Insights article gives three easy tips for managers to increase their employees’ engagement. Of course, I would add a fourth item to this list: Offer more ways for employees to do good and give back to their communities.

CSR is Dead, Part 3: Blazing a Trail to Business Transformation
If CSR is dead, and we should shut down our CSR departments, then what happens to all the CSR professionals who have made making a difference their expertise? Part three of this series, finally released on GreenBiz last week, answers that question. So, what do you think? Are CSR departments quickly becoming a thing of the past?

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

3 Benefits of Volunteering As a Company

Guest post by Alison Grenkie

A version of this story first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

The Company that Volunteers Together Stays TogetherPicking up garbage. Growing mustaches. Cycling for a cure. Selling baked goods. Rocking out for a cause.

And that’s just the beginning! There are all kinds of things that you can do to give back to the community and raise awareness or money for an issue you care about.

Increasingly, regular businesses are incorporating volunteering activities like the above into their company culture – and seeing some pretty amazing benefits!

1. Happier & Healthier Employees
There’s a growing body of research suggesting that those who regularly volunteer experience a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits.

For example, volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain, heart disease and depression, while also reducing stress and improving overall mental health. One 2013 study reported that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer say that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, while 78% say that volunteering lowers their levels of stress.

Why would a business want happier, healthier employees? Because health and happiness create a ripple effect of positivity that includes increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and even improved customer satisfaction!

 2. Encourage Team-Building
The company that volunteers together, stays together!

Many of the typical team-building activities are, let’s face it, a little bit hokey. Whether they have their merits is a discussion for another time. But there’s no arguing that volunteering has intrinsic value all on its own.

There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the day-to-day work environment and uniting coworkers in a common and worthwhile goal. Volunteering builds camaraderie and promotes empathy, simultaneously connecting coworkers and communities.

 3. Boost Employee Satisfaction
We’ve been talking about “work-life balance” for so long now that the phrase has lost meaning for many of us. The separation between work and life is increasingly hard to define.

The result is that both employers and employees are expecting more from each other. With mobile technology we’re constantly connected, and employers are encroaching more and more on the personal. Employees, meanwhile, are looking for employers that reflect their values and help them to express their own.

By incorporating volunteering into a benefits package that prioritizes work-life balance, companies are recognizing that their employees have passions outside of the office and are supporting them in the pursuit of those passions. Bakers and bikers alike are encouraged to show off their skills for a worthy cause. They’ll thank you for it with their loyalty – employee retention is directly tied to how people feel about their work-life balance.

The Moral of the Story
Volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving. So whether you hold direct sway over your company’s culture – as an HR employee or as a small business owner, for example – or you’re just one employee trying to make a difference, it’s time for a shift in perspective. Start thinking about volunteering as an investment: in yourself, and in your company’s success.

Alison Grenkie is a marketer and blogger who is passionate about volunteering, travel, and environmental issues. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insights.

Image Source: HubSpot Free Stock Photos

CSR Food For Thought: A Look Back on National Volunteer Week

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.

In case you missed it, last week was National Volunteer Week. I was blown away by the amount of companies that celebrated by giving back to their communities and recognizing their employee volunteers. Here is just a sample:

Celebrating National Volunteer Week by Contributing to a Better Future
This heartfelt post from AT&T employee Monique Weber illustrates how volunteering changes lives on both an individual and a global scale. AT&T has allowed her to pursue her personal volunteer passion of empowering women leaders. As Monique puts it, “I’m thankful to work for a company that promotes such important, impactful programs.”

4 Benefits of Volunteering as a Company
In this LinkedIn post, Alison Grenkie of Intelex Technologies explains why National Volunteer Week isn’t just for nonprofit organizations to recognize their volunteers. From employee happiness to enhanced company reputation, it’s easy to see why companies should get involved. After all, “The company that volunteers together stays together.”

Volunteers – A Critical Contribution to Our Communities
Microsoft used National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to thank its motivated employee volunteers, who recently spearheaded the creation of the Tech Talent for Good program with their question, “How can we do more?” This post is full of appreciation – just the way we like it!

5 Reasons Why Green Volunteering is Red Hot
Picking up trash doesn’t sound very glamourous. But when it’s done with coworkers? The benefits can be astounding. In this post, Verizon employee Abigail Ashley explains the benefits she sees from volunteering with her coworkers, both personally and professionally.

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

CSR Food For Thought: Is Your CSR Social?

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.

CSR and Social Media: How to Amplify Your Communication Efforts
Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship explores the question, “What is the key to successfully promoting your CSR efforts on social media?” One idea we especially love: Encouraging your employees to talk about the company’s CSR, especially their role in it! Check out this post for more ideas, and a recap of the who, what, how and why of social media and CSR.

Wells Fargo Offers Free Financial Education During Military Saves Weeks
Today kicks off Military Saves Week, and Wells Fargo employees will be volunteering their skills in an innovative way: By hosting free virtual webinars for military families. Topics include advice for first-time homebuyers, managing credit, and creating budgets. Oh, and Wells Fargo also offers free financial literacy courses throughout the year through their Hands on Banking program – a great example of cause-focused CSR.

Final Days to Enter the 2015 International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival
What’s your CSR story? Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship invites you to share it in a three minute video for this year’s Corporate Citizenship Film Festival. This post on 3BL Media covers all the details, but the most important thing is: The deadline is this Friday 2/27, so don’t wait!

Your #1 Stakeholder: Building a Giving Strategy through Your Employees
Your employees play a dual role: They are part of your company, and they are part of their own communities. Corporate volunteerism and giving is the bridge that connects these two roles. This post from Realized Worth looks at why it makes sense to use this connection to increase the impact of your CSR program. How? By involving your employees in your company’s CSR strategy.

CSR Food For Thought: A New Professional Norm

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The CSR Food for Thought series is a weekly roundup of relevant news from around the Web, presented to you in one bite-sized blog post. Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

This week’s roundup focuses on the shifting landscape of employee engagement, professional volunteerism, and product development.

10+ Million Professionals on LinkedIn Make Social Impact Part of Their Identity [Infographic]
Three years ago, LinkedIn added a “Volunteers and Causes” section to their user profiles. Fast forward to today: Over 10 million professionals list some sort of cause-affiliation, and 4 million indicate that they are interested in volunteer opportunities (which they can conveniently find with the help of LinkedIn’s partnership with VolunteerMatch!) Check out this infographic on LinkedIn’s blog to find out who these cause-focused professionals are.

Remembering the Value of Volunteerism
Is CSR as an industry, complete with metrics and measurements, getting in the way of the original CSR vision? In this CSRwire post, Peter Dudley of Wells Fargo posits that the best company-sponsored volunteer programs focus on the employees, not on the bottom line. The latter follows later as an added benefit.

How Millennials Are Changing Product Development for Good
In the not-so-distant past, the driving factor behind business decisions was cost. This Wired article argues that with the rise of millennials in both management and consumer roles, the status quo is shifting. Renewable energy, local patronage and employee care are no longer options; they’re simply a part of doing business. Do you agree?

The Untapped Power of Employee Engagement
This Green Biz article boldly asks, “What’s the next frontier in sustainability?” Their answer: Employee engagement. If we want to make real progress for our planet, every single member of a company needs to change their actions. The responsibility of the corporate leaders has shifted from isolated sustainable business decisions to encouraging and facilitating their employees’ sustainable decisions.