Loop Them In: How to Help Your Remote Employees Feel like Local Volunteers

A Whirlpool employee works on some sporting equipment during the company's Volunteer Week.

A Whirlpool employee works on some sporting equipment during the company’s Volunteer Week.

Whether your company is large or small, many volunteer programs face the challenge of successfully communicating and implementing a volunteer program for their field-based and remote employees.

Unlike a typical employee environment, these remote employees may be working odd hours that don’t coordinate with group volunteering, or working in an inconvenient location that doesn’t allow them to volunteer with their coworkers, or even volunteer at all! Employees who don’t get to participate in the group volunteering activities put on by your company may feel out of the loop and frustrated about not being able to contribute to your program’s goal to improve the community.

However, as a program manager, you can still reinforce the importance of volunteering for both your employee’s well being and the company’s. Remind both employees and leadership that volunteering boosts morale and productivity and improves the reputation of the company. These are good reasons why your volunteer program should be designed to encourage all types of volunteering environments.

With that in mind, here are some successful ways you can “loop in” your remote employees:

Grow an Employee Forest with Arbor Day Foundation

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers plant trees

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers plant trees

The Arbor Day Foundation (an awesome member of the VolunteerMatch network) is helping companies empower their workers with the “Employee Forest” campaign. Tree saplings are delivered to the employee’s office or home, and in turn, the employee can plant the tree in their yard or local park. This gives the employee the chance to plant the tree in a special place with their family or friends on the weekend, no matter how “remote” of a worker they are.

The amazing thing about the Employee Forest campaign is how every party benefits. Companies are making an impact in multiple communities by having employees’ plant trees in different locations. Employees feel good about their employer and themselves for the chance to give back to their communities and spend time with their loved ones, no matter how far away they may be from the home office.

Pre-Shift Meetings at MGM

MGM, a stellar VolunteerMatch client, uses “pre-shift” meetings to engage employees who are working a shift on the floor. A manager debriefs a staff person before his or her shift starts on what’s going on in the world of MGM volunteering.

The managers get their staff involved by filling them in on how many hours the company tracked last year, local nonprofits that may need help on their days off, or simply opening up the floor for these employees to plan a volunteering event together. This gives these employees, who may never see each other during their shifts but still work the same hours, a way to start off their work day feeling involved and knowing their volunteering options.

Virtual Volunteering is Real Volunteering

On average, VolunteerMatch has over 4,500 virtual volunteering opportunities posted on our website at any given time. If employees feel like they can’t leave their desks, work in a remote location, or physically can’t move around too much, VolunteerMatch offers thousands of options for them to work from wherever they are! Employees can choose opportunities that match their skills, such as putting together a communications plan for a nonprofit, or something outside the box like knitting hats for premature infants. There really is something for everyone!

As a company, you want your employees to feel like a part of the team when it comes to giving back, even if they can’t attend the group volunteering outings. Empower ALL of the workers who represent your company to contribute to the volunteer program by looping them in with choices that fit their lifestyles and passions.

How does your company engage remote and non-traditional employees in your volunteer program?

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VolunteerMatch’s Corporate Volunteering Network is Now Global!

VolunteerMatch to Pilot International Expansion of Corporate Volunteering Network Using TechSoup Global TechnologyToday we announced a new partnership with TechSoup Global, an international network that leverages technology to help build the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to increase social impact across the globe.

We will leverage each other’s strengths in technologies for the greater good. The collaboration enables the growth of VolunteerMatch’s expansive network of U.S.- based nonprofits to include NGOs from around the world by utilizing TechSoup Global’s technology to validate these organizations.

This pilot project promises to strengthen the global NGO community and amplify the social impact of employee volunteer programs — no matter where they are.

Through TechSoup Global’s unparalleled international NGO partner network and its expertise in NGO validation, we will begin providing our volunteer engagement services outside the U.S. for the first time. We’ll be initially offering the service for our community of corporate clients (like you!) and will make international listings available to your employees around the world. This pilot project promises to strengthen the global NGO community and amplify the social impact of employee volunteer programs — no matter where they are.

We are piloting the initiative in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and is evaluating additional countries and regions.

To learn more about this exciting partnership, check out the full press release.

Do you work with charity and NGO partners outside the U.S.? Make sure they know they can now use VolunteerMatch to connect with great volunteers!

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It Takes Money to Do Good: Expanding our Business Model for a Win-Win-Win

Keep your remote employees in the volunteering loop.Yes, VolunteerMatch works with sponsors. It’s a good thing that helps us do even more good in the world. Over the past couple of years we have tested out ways to help companies, brands and other nonprofit organizations get their special messages in front of our massive membership of dedicated do-gooders. In exchange, these sponsoring groups help support VolunteerMatch.

This sponsored content shows up on the side of VolunteerMatch.org where folks update their nonprofit’s listings, sign up for a webinar, or search for a volunteer opportunity. They also could see a sponsored message in an email or newsletter, and in one of their personalized Opportunity Alert emails.

Why Sponsorship is Good for Everyone

Here’s a truth: It takes money to do good, and VolunteerMatch is no exception. We’ve developed a unique business model that enables us to support ourselves sustainably while also fulfilling our mission. Our work helping companies run successful employee volunteer programs not only further fulfills our mission of connecting good people and good causes by connecting large populations of corporate volunteers to the VolunteerMatch network of opportunities, it also helps support the free services we provide for nonprofits and volunteers.

Sponsorship is one more way to do that – it gets important messages about social good and giving back from companies in front of nonprofits and volunteers, and helps support the VolunteerMatch organization and network so we can continue to provide free services and better support.

The Third “Win” is Yours

We know why sponsorship is great for VolunteerMatch and for nonprofits and volunteers who care about doing good, but it can also be beneficial for your company. We are engagement experts and our members want to take action. The VolunteerMatch network is growing by leaps and bounds: we had 12 million visits to the website in 2013, and 2014 is shaping up to be even better. Hundreds of thousands of people get our emails each month.

A screenshot of the sponsorship ad space on VolunteerMatch.org.

With millions of members and close to 100,000 nonprofits using the site, we are a trusted resource and destination for anyone who cares about getting involved in their community. Where better to put messages about your company’s projects and efforts related to social impact?

We’ve got a bunch of different, flexible opportunities for you to share your company’s message with the perfect audience, inspire more people to get out and make a difference, and support VolunteerMatch’s work. Win-win-win.

Interested in sponsorship options at VolunteerMatch? Get in touch!

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Meet the Team: David Selsky, Senior Client Relations Manager

They have facilitated millions of employee volunteer hours. All they have to do is pick up the phone, and corporate executives invest in volunteering. Some claim that they came up with the term “CSR.” They are: The Most Interesting Client Relations Managers in the World.

David Selsky1. Give us your elevator speech — what do you do at VolunteerMatch?

I’m a Senior Client Relations Manager here at VolunteerMatch. I work with our corporate and academic partners on the best ways to use technology to connect with, and positively impact, their communities. We discuss everything from program branding, to involving key stakeholders, to communications plans and reports. In addition, I provide software trainings, liaise with our engineering and design teams, and offer best practices based on our team’s years of experience in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

2. What brought you to VolunteerMatch? How long have you been here?

I’ve been here almost 5 years! My parents used to take my sister and me volunteering when we were young – planting trees, working at shelters, hospitals, and local events – and that commitment to improving my community and the world has stayed with me. After working at a few nonprofits with a focus on fundraising, activism, communications, and technology, I found VolunteerMatch and was excited by its overall mission as well as the chance to help leverage the scale and skills of its corporate partners for positive change.

3. What is the most inspiring part of your job? What’s your favorite part?

It’s inspiring how volunteerism cuts across all kinds of divides in our society – political, religious, cultural – and brings everyone together in service. Tangible projects have so much potential for dialogue and understanding, between the volunteers themselves and the volunteers and the community, that might not normally occur on an average day. These connections can spark very interesting external and internal changes. It’s also inspiring helping people see how they can make a contribution to their community even if they haven’t given it much thought before.
Two favorite parts of my job – one is doing deep dives with clients on their programs and seeing changes we’ve discussed put into practice and succeed, and the other is the people I work with at VolunteerMatch – always a good time!

4. If you were to start a foundation or a nonprofit, what would its mission be?

In grad school I studied how practices like yoga, meditation, dialogue and the arts could be used to resolve and recover from interpersonal and even international conflicts. I’d imagine my organization could train people working on social change in some of these models which could then inform their work, while also teaching them how to take better care of themselves to prevent burnout and do what they’re called to do most effectively. I’d probably also have a separate but related program about vegetarian or vegan diets, which can have a huge impact on improving health, conserving natural resources and reducing animal suffering.

5. Where will the Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) industry be in 5 years?

I’d like to think that almost every company will have an employee volunteer program and a well-defined CSR strategy aligned with their business model, with a dedicated CSR staff. I also think that business will become more open to learning from nonprofits than they are now. Nonprofit leaders need to have comprehensive skill sets and wear many hats to help their organizations survive difficult financial and social situations, all while keeping their enthusiasm for their mission alive and being involved in the day to day life of their communities. Companies could learn from such passionate and skilled people, see things in new and different ways, and perhaps even change their ways of doing business to make a bigger social impact without impacting their bottom line.

6. Tell us a story (or two) about something that happened in your work that you consider to be a success, something that you’re proud of, and explain why.

I work with a number of companies in the New York City area, and in December 2013 I arranged a happy hour for them to meet and share thoughts on volunteerism and CSR. This led to a number of follow-up conversations and deeper local relationships. I’m proud to be able to facilitate conversations like these, especially for new clients who want advice from those who have been around the block, and especially between those who are local, which can lead to more information sharing and a concerted impact.

Want to learn more about how David and VolunteerMatch help companies engage employees in volunteering? Get 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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Join Us for a Week-Long FestiVOL

Volunteering is the best, right? So this year, in honor of National Volunteer Week, we’ve decided to celebrate volunteers and the difference they make by launching a spectacular week-long FestiVOL – and we want YOU to join us!

Why FestiVOL?

Join VolunteerMatch for FestiVOL, a week-long celebration of volunteering in honor of National Volunteer Week.At VolunteerMatch, we hope FestiVOL will help you, your company and your employees make the most of National Volunteer Week. Whether it‘s appreciating your volunteers, demonstrating impact, or building out new projects, VolunteerMatch will be providing tips on how you can increase engagement.

Each day we will release three “nuggets” just for you: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. We hope you’ll share these with your community members, learn from them, and encourage everyone to get more involved.

Join FestiVOL!

FestiVOL will run from April 6-12. You can see all the nuggets as we release them on the FestiVOL landing page.

You and your employees can join FestiVOL by following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the hashtag #FestiVOL. We hope FestiVOL gives you the energy, passion and ideas to make our communities stronger and our world happier all year long!

How will YOU celebrate volunteering during FestiVOL?

Gorgeous FestiVOL graphic designed by Katy Roby.

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