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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Lessons from the Road: Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

This article is part of a special series penned by VolunteerMatch leadership focused on the changes we all need to make to our programs and strategies to shape the future of employee volunteering and corporate social responsibility. How will you innovate your employee volunteer program? Here are some ideas we picked up on the road.Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Through the conversation, we reviewed a few frameworks that can help companies “reinvent the road,” including:

  • Go back and review the core reasons that your company has a volunteer program – other than for the community benefit. And be honest.
  • Look at the overlap between your employees’ passions, your corporate strategy and your communities’ needs. Think about the shared value between your company’s strategy and society’s needs.
  • Constantly adapt, assess and evolve using the program change model.

Towards the end of the presentation, we shifted to brainstorming specific program components. There were some great insights!

Communications Trends

We discussed communications, and two trends became clear:

  1. People are overstimulated with messages, so we have to think about creative, new ways to reach them, particularly focused on social, inclusive, lively, fashionable, and visual methods.
  2. We have to go back to basics. Sometimes the least efficient mode of communication is the most effective (meaning, sometimes you have to go back to face-to-face interactions).

Measurement Challenges

One area where most companies struggle is measurement. Everyone in the room agreed that the silver bullet is tracking impact, but we have not yet developed a way to successfully track this. By the end of the discussion, the trending idea was that corporations need to invest in nonprofit infrastructure to build open-source tools to track metrics that are mutually beneficial for corporations and nonprofits. VolunteerMatch loves this idea – who is up for helping us achieve this project?

Incentives that Work

Finally, we brainstormed on creative incentives. While we all agreed that awards, competition, dollars for doers and VTO are effective, there was one major idea that emerged: incentives need to be carefully implemented to feel authentic. The culture of philanthropy is not something that can be forced or created through incentives, as the true motivation to volunteer is inherently intrinsic. You want to create incentives that match this ethos: Make it easy and rewarding for the volunteers who already engage, and don’t try to force employees to volunteer who aren’t naturally drawn to it. In an ideal world, what if you could flip incentives on their heads, and instead recruit and hire employees based on their community-minded drive? So now our challenge for you – how can you innovate on your EVP to increase your impact? Think about how your program is unique, and what value your employees can bring to the community. Think critically about why you do what you do, and start to challenge your company to do more. We’re here to help if you need us! Let us know how you want to innovate on your EVP – connect via Twitter at @VM_Solutions, and check out the rest of the blogs in this special series.

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Are Employee Engagement Programs Still Evolving?

This article is part of a special series penned by VolunteerMatch leadership focused on the changes we all need to make to our programs and strategies to shape the future of employee volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Are employee engagement programs still evolving?The VolunteerMatch Solutions team has advocated for a new view of employee engagement for quite some time. Specifically, why are these programs often operating in a silo compared with a company’s other growth plans?

For example, if a company designs a new product—a sneaker or a lotion or technology—they don’t stop working on it once it’s on the market. That would be crazy. They keep innovating and designing the next version. Are corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners actively doing the same for their programs?

This isn’t a new idea by any means, but I’m not seeing any incredible CSR programs coming to “market” the same way I see tons of awesome new mobile apps, services and consumer products. Are you?

Assess, Evolve, RepeatDuring a presentation I gave back in 2012 with Discovery Communications and UnitedHealth Group, I used the simple instructions on shampoo bottles to try to drive home the point: Assess, Evolve and Repeat (not quite as catchy as wash, rinse and repeat, but apt nonetheless). And that’s still true today—manage your employee volunteer program (EVP) or CSR programs the same way your other business functions manage their products!

I started to think again (and again, and again…) about some of the basic theories out there that might hold the key to the next generation of change, and was reminded of Shared Value. Many are still confused about what it is, and what it isn’t. So perhaps unwrapping the idea with fresh eyes could unlock ways for all of us to design the future of CSR.

The principle of Shared Value involves creating economic value in a way that ALSO creates value for society. Here’s a quick summary of some of my favorite bits from Harvard Business Review’s “Creating Shared Value,” by Michael E Porter and Mark R Kramer back in 2011:

Companies have continued to value short term financial performance versus longer term success. Porter & Kramer write, “How else could companies overlook the wellbeing of their customers, the depletion of natural resources vital to their businesses, the viability of key suppliers, or the economic distress of the communities in which they produce and sell?”

Companies are the key to bringing business and society back together and must get unstuck from the “social responsibility” mindset where societal issues are at the periphery and not at the core.

“Businesses acting as businesses, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face.”

Consider a company where Shared Value is the guiding principle—it almost immediately changes the face of CSR and creates all kinds of ripples in your business. Skilled volunteering could unlock new and emerging markets, and philanthropy programs might restore the resources your business uses, and your vendors and partners could become your best allies in the community.

So whether you begin to recalibrate your EVP and CSR programs around Shared Value or some other larger structure of change, please do something new this year. Here are a few simple ideas that may give you a whole new view on your status quo:

  • How are other departments in your company evolving? Talk to your employees. Are they using a certain methodology to keep them fresh? How do they measure those decisions?
  • Break your program into its key components and take a look at each individually. It’s much less daunting than reviewing your program as a whole. VolunteerMatch Solutions Consulting can help you do this, too.
  • Think BIG. Global firm IDEO incorporates human behavior into product design. Strech your mind to see how the same process can impact your work. View “How to design breakthrough inventions” from 60 Minutes.

Innovation is all around us. So what’s the future for your program?

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CSR Tip of the Month: Use Filtering Functionality to Keep Your Volunteers Organized

Each month our rock star team of Client Relations Managers shares one tip related to employee engagement, using VolunteerMatch Solutions tools, and running a great volunteer program. Apply these tips today to improve your program! (You can also learn more about how VolunteerMatch can help your company’s CSR activities.)

Tess Marstaller, Client Relations Associate at VolunteerMatchThis month’s tip comes from Tess Marstaller, Client Relations Associate.

If you’re running a big service event for your company (or even a small event), sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of all of your participants. What if you need to know who has given you their T-shirt size? What if you want to view by RSVP status? After the event, how do you easily see who has tracked hours?

On VolunteerMatch’s newly updated Manage Participants Page, each column in the Participant table can be filtered. This lets you get a clear picture of the status of each attendee, without having to do any manual downloads into Excel.

For example, on the Tracked Hours column, you can see those who have or have not tracked hours. Use this filter to prevent double-tracking when you add hours on participants’ behalf.

You can also filter by Attendance Status, to see who has not confirmed they’ll be attending. You could use this list to easily send a reminder email to the group by checking all names and clicking the email icon.

Use the new filters on the Manage Participants Page to keep your employee volunteers organized on the VolunteerMatch Employee Solutions Platform.

Filtering by Signup Method will let you see guests who were signed up someone else, and you can put a name into the “Signed Up By” filter to see everyone signed up by a specific person.

Whether it’s ordering your list of names alphabetically, checking who has not completed the sign-up questions, or reviewing who’s tracked hours so you can send a thank-you note, filters make managing your participants a snap!

You can use the filters by clicking on the grey arrow at the top of each column on the Manage Participants Page.

Click here to learn more about how the Manage Participants Page and other VolunteerMatch tools can help your employee engagement efforts.

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Upcoming Best Practice Network Webinar: Lessons from the Field – Employee Volunteer Program Managers’ Top Tips for Success

Join VolunteerMatch and some of our great clients for a free webinar sharing top tips for employee volunteer program success.If you are launching a new employee volunteer program, or taking over an existing one, you probably have a million questions: “How should I scale my launch?” “What tactics should I use to win over key leaders?” “How can I keep my program focused on what’s important to my company while still engaging all of my employees’ interests?”

Don’t worry! We’ve got the answers for you.

Join some of VolunteerMatch’s superstar clients for a conversation to answer these burning questions. Folks from ADT, NetSuite, Prometheus Real Estate Group and JetBlue will share insights and advice about how they overcame common obstacles and learned from experience to design and launch successful programs.

Lessons From the Field: Employee Volunteer Program Managers’ Top Tips for Success

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro, you’ll walk away from this webinar more prepared than ever to take your company’s employee engagement to the next level.

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VM_Solutions and #VMbpn.

Our Speakers:

Erin Dieterich

Kate Wetzel

Alex Price

Jessica Johnson
Prometheus Real Estate Group

Register for this free webinar now.

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CSR Food for Thought: From Boring to Cool

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.

Messaging Sustainability: From Boring to Cool

Today’s world of technology and innovation is exciting – we’re rushing through life with big strides, constantly looking for that next big thing. Sustainability, say Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi, co-founders of fashion and lifestyle start-up Zady, is the opposite of all that. At least that’s how we communicate it currently. In this article they share their plan to change all that.

Case Study: Volunteering Index

There’s hard evidence, says this post on Co-operative News, that staff volunteer programs create real business benefits – in the forms of greater retention rates (and lower recruitment costs), higher productivity and increased community awareness about the company’s work, among others. Several businesses provide their tips for running the most successful volunteer projects.

Haiti Four Years Later: SAP Technology, Funds and Volunteers Create Jobs

Learn about the investment SAP has made to bring entrepreneurs in Haiti funding, training, and business advice to support long-term regrowth. Disaster relief is not just about an immediate response –  the real measure of support is whether or not it improves people’s lives over time.

Shaking Up the Corporate Structure to Go Beyond the Profit Motive

As benefit corporations – which are required to consider their impact not just on shareholders, but on the environment, workers, and the community – become more accepted in the business world, when will we see the first public corporation convert to benefit corporation status? What hurdles must be overcome, and how would this resonate among the rest of the corporate world? This Fast Co.Exist article presents some thoughts, given what has already been achieved.

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MLK Day of Service: Creating a Blueprint for Employee Volunteer Program Success

You want to get your employees more involved in the volunteer opportunities available to them through your nonprofit partners. But you keep running into obstacles: a lack of motivation, time, or participation.

How do you solve these issues and successfully engage both the nonprofit and your employees?

We asked questions like this on Monday, January 20th, the National Day of Service commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Volunteering came to VolunteerMatch when twenty New Sector fellows lent their time to help create a strategy to better engage volunteers, nonprofits, and business leaders in the new year.

But before we answer the question of employee volunteer engagement, what is New Sector?

At the heart of New Sector Alliance’s mission is empowering young leaders while strengthening the social sector. Partnered with Americorps, New Sector’s Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellowship program allows 25 talented individuals to hold full-time positions at nonprofits of their interest. The fellows also meet as a group to learn how to professionally apply their unique skills to address social dilemmas. This Service Day event at VolunteerMatch was an example of the diverse activities that the young leaders get to experience for the duration of their fellowships.

So how can this Service Day event serve as inspiration for leading your successful Employee Volunteer Program (EVP)?

Identify Your Needs 

The idea to invite twenty New Sector fellows for a Day of Service arose from VolunteerMatch’s need to design a strategy to engage skilled volunteers in 2014. Unlike past Service Days spent going out into the community to serve, we decided to take an innovative approach and bring volunteering to us. By gaining the perspectives of talented young leaders, we spent the holiday refining our strategy in order to better execute our goals in the new year.

Listen to the Nonprofit’s Needs

Maintaining a dialogue with the nonprofit at which your employees will be volunteering is crucial. By understanding what the nonprofit seeks to accomplish, you can align your employees’ skills and unique qualities with appropriate volunteer roles that will benefit both parties. Your employees will be motivated to serve because of their interest in the volunteer work, and the success of the event will reflect highly on your leadership.

While the Service Day event was designed for tackling future goals, it was a great model for the benefits of listening to a nonprofit’s needs. With New Sector seeking a professional environment for its fellows, VolunteerMatch was able to provide a hands-on experience addressing the need to get people to volunteer.

The participating VolunteerMatch staff members were able to facilitate discussion groups relevant to their specific departments: big picture engagement, global expansion, technology, and marketing. The event thus exemplified the rewards of employee volunteering, where the VolunteerMatch team members were provided fresh insight into improving their strategy to engage skilled volunteers.

Fill Those Needs with an Event

With so much to be learned from an event like this, why not try it yourself? Invite a nonprofit to the office and with your employees create a strategy to better engage with that nonprofit. Not only will your employees be exploring skills that can be applied to their actual work, but you will create a stronger and more personable relationship with that nonprofit.

Held a similar successful event with a nonprofit? Have additional ideas to engage employees in volunteering? Please share your thoughts and comments below!

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