How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Laura Ellis, Client Relations 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.

Meet Laura Ellis, Client Relations Manager at VolunteerMatchSo – who are you?
My name is Laura Ellis, and I’ve been at VolunteerMatch for three years. I’m a Client Relations Manager, which means that I consult our corporations on how to best engage their employee volunteers!

Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer for the Golden Gate National Park Service (GGNPS) as a wildlife photographer. Since photographers and graphic designers can be expensive, GGNPS asks us to capture different activities at the parks for brochures, promotional material, etc. It can be anything from a trail maintenance event to an awards banquet. Even weddings!

What drew you to that particular organization and/ or type of volunteering?
I spend a lot of time hiking around the San Francisco Bay Area and wanted to find an opportunity that allowed me to explore more of the area while also giving back to a place that had given me so much. I had also recently taken up photography and was looking for a way to develop those skills.

Flowers in Jars at Golden Gate National Park

One of Laura’s Photos

What’s the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
The most fun part is getting to explore new trails and meeting people from all over the world. The most valuable part is knowing that I’m playing a part in promoting the parks that I love so much!

Can you share a story from your time volunteering with GGNPS?
I remember the first time GGNPS posted one of my photos on their social media accounts. It was a picture of a secret path I had found on a popular trail. A woman commented that this picture inspired her to get off the couch and go find that secluded spot. It is now her favorite trail! This made me realize how something so small can inspire adventure in others.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Most of the wildlife photographers can only work weekends, so there are usually a lot of open spots for weekday activities. VolunteerMatch VTO allows me to pick up those shifts and make sure the parks get the shots they need!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
VTO is one of those things that some people might say is less important than a gym membership, free lunch or some of the other fancy stuff some tech startups offer. And yes, it is less glamorous. But I would take VTO over all of those perks because it’s good for my soul. It allows me to give back and make connections with people and organizations that I care about.

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Build Support for Your Program with Employee Champions

Guest post by: Daniella Lippert

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: REorganize: Building Support Through Champions.

Photo of Wendy Hershey, Daniella Lippert, and Annalisa Amicangelo

Presenters from left to right:
Wendy Hershey – Principal, Mercer Investment Consulting, Inc.
Daniella Lippert – Program Manager, Volunteering & Engagement, CSR, Marsh & McLennan Companies
Annalisa Amicangelo – Manager, CSR, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a company’s consciousness; it brings awareness to the inner connectivity of people, communities and companies. It’s great that VolunteerMatch clients have an opportunity to share insights and best practices. The things we learn from each other help us better leverage our business resources, assets, and procedures. They also help us continue to influence the companies we work for and to increase our positive impact in the community.

During my breakout session, I covered the topic of engaging volunteer champions within a large global organization. At Marsh & McLennan Companies, our CSR department has a twofold approach. We start with a top-down effect from corporate. Then, each operating company has a grassroots approach – they can “flex their muscles and creativity” to engage colleagues in a way that’s tailored to their individual company’s brand. The main points I focused on in the session were:

  1. Establishing a clear mission, a clear strategy, and clear goals.
  2. Creating programs, policies, and platforms that can be used across the company.
  3. Implementing incentives to volunteer.
  4. Using VolunteerMatch’s reporting function for quarterly reporting, goal setting, and evaluating.

Our CSR team supports our company’s global community, which includes offices in more than 130 countries with over 55,000 employees worldwide. Because our CSR team is relatively small, we have to be thoughtful, creative, and strategic when engaging colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures.

Our company focuses on helping communities through education and disaster preparedness/ recovery. We select nonprofit partners, and then conduct strategic fundraising campaigns and employee volunteer initiatives. Our mission provides a clear direction on what the CSR department supports, as well as what we don’t support.

By focusing our energy we can see: Better alignment with our company’s brand, increased colleague engagement, and greater social impact.

It’s important to recognize employees who are taking the time to give back their community. Our company has created fun ways to recognize and reward exceptional volunteers for tracking their community involvement on VolunteerMatch. For example, this year, our company will give the top “Walk/Run for a Charitable Cause” leaders an opportunity to win a Fitness Fitbit-Activity tracker. This is a great way to encourage employees to organize walks/runs that support their local nonprofit organizations, and to include their colleagues.

In 2013, Marsh & McLennan Companies increased engagement significantly, doubling both our volunteer hours and employee participation rate. Tracking volunteer engagement has allowed our CSR team to establish metrics and internal benchmarking. Establishing volunteer goals and creating targeted communications to increase awareness can spur healthy competition that drives engagement. Another advantage of reporting is the ability to identify cause areas, types of volunteering, and programs that motivate our employees.

For more information on building support through champions, view the slides from this session.

Continue reading

Upcoming Best Practice Network Webinar: Advocate for Your EVP

Photo of man in suit explaining something.Companies today are asking more of employee volunteer programs (EVPs) than ever before – such as increasing brand reputation, recruiting talent, and increasing employees’ health, happiness and productivity.

You know that your programs are doing all of these things. But how can you show this value to others to get the budget, staff, tools, partnerships and cross-department collaboration you need to take your program to the next level?

Join Debbie Donahey of OhioHealth, Rachel Tallant of Appirio, and Julie VanDeLinder of VolunteerMatch as they share their stories of EVP advocacy. If you are stuck or overwhelmed, this webinar will give you practical tips, and lead you toward a plan to advocate for your EVP.

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

Guest Speakers:
Debbie Donahey, OhioHealth
Rachel Tallant, Appirio
Julie VanDeLinder, VolunteerMatch

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

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights:  What is Your EVP Data Saying?

At the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, we learned from experts in CSR, volunteer engagement, technology and program administration. In this series of blog posts, we’ll share with you the valuable insights offered at each session. Up today: REanalyze: What is Your EVP Data Saying?

“How are we doing?”

Picture of Jake Sanches

Jake Sanches, internal metrics and analytics guru at Palantir Technologies

This is the most common question our client services team hears from our corporate and nonprofit partners. And it should be. Employee volunteer programs, like any other business expenditure, need to demonstrate impact and value to multiple audiences. Data is critical to the success and continued support of EVPs, especially since these programs are relatively new in the corporate world and don’t yet have an established set of benchmarks.

So, how can your organization answer that oh-so-common question: How are we doing?

There are some existing guideposts, such as the number of hours employees contribute, the social value generated (a calculation based on numbers from the Independent Sector), the percent of employees engaged, and so on. However, because of the lack of public benchmarks, small sample sizes for specific company types and sizes, and the fact that companies have different cultures, priorities, and history when it comes volunteering, it’s very hard to make valid comparisons. At VolunteerMatch, we often suggest that each company, with some guidance, take it upon themselves to identify outcomes that reflect their priorities and keep an eye on these outcomes over time.

The most important thing is, if not to fall in love, then at least fall in like with data! VolunteerMatch wants to lead this charge. This summer and fall, we worked with Jake Sanches, a volunteer from Palantir Technologies. We designed and sent a survey to our clients asking what metrics are important to them, how they use data, and how VolunteerMatch can improve its reporting dashboard and quarterly reports.

During his presentation at the Client Summit, Jake discussed the survey’s findings. He demonstrated how big data has made its way into the public consciousness through sites like Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, and how data can be a significant driver in the development of your EVP. Jake then covered how to choose the right metrics for your program and brought up commonly overlooked metrics. These included: Finding volunteers based on tenure to make sure new employees are getting into the program quickly, discovering your rock star volunteers so they can help spread the word, determining the time of year most popular for volunteering, and much more. He concluded with a list of best practices for communicating data to different audiences.

In summary, if you really want your EVP to soar, data is critical. You can start small, with just a few easy metrics, and as your program evolves, you can expand. You might even find some hidden gems that reflect something unique to your company. Incorporating a metrics-centered approach will not only give you a better idea of what’s going on with your program right now, but will help you plan for the future, help you to make the case for expansion and budget increases, and will generate great storytelling material.

For more details on this topic, view the slides from Jake’s presentation. You can also watch the video from his encore Webinar.

Continue reading

What Makes ADT a Breakout Performer?

Congratulations to ADT for winning the Breakout Performance Corporate Volunteer Award!Before this year’s exciting VolunteerMatch Client Summit, you got the chance to meet some of the finalists for the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards. And then, you found out the winners.

Two award categories, however, are unique, in that they don’t have finalists – they are chosen by VolunteerMatch Client Relations Managers based on their experiences working directly with their corporate clients. These special categories are Breakout Performance and Champions of the Year.

This year, ADT was a favorite winner of the Breakout Performance Award. This award is given to a new VolunteerMatch client that has shown significant success for a newly launched program – and boy, does ADT fit the bill.

Alex Price, Community Relations Manager of ADT Corporation, accepts the Breakout Performance Award from VolunteerMatch Greg Baldwin at the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Alex Price, Community Relations Manager of ADT Corporation, accepts the Breakout Performance Award from VolunteerMatch Greg Baldwin at the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Launched in July 2013 with a pilot program focused in seven key regions, ADT developed a branded program with focus and flexibility, and produced trainings and materials that were easily scalable. During this pilot phase, over 30% of ADT’s eligible employees volunteered!

Then, to celebrate the company’s 140th anniversary in August, 2014, they expanded the program to over 200 locations. And in its first year, this program welcomed more than 14,000 unique visitors to their new VolunteerMatch site, and connected employee volunteers to more than 350 nonprofit organizations.

Core focus areas include Disaster Response and Public Safety, along with many walks and Habitat builds, but ADT employees are also encouraged to contribute as much as possible in any area, and to submit group project ideas via the Opportunity Builder feature on their VolunteerMatch site.

ADT as a company has thrown itself headfirst into the EVP world, participating in webinars and quickly learning best practices for communications, executive and middle manager support, events, and incentives, leading to one of the most impressive programs of the past year.

“ADT was so honored to be recognized with the 2014 ‘Breakout Performance of the Year’ award,” said Alex Price, Community Relations Manager of ADT Corporation. “What a wonderful way to cap off our companywide rollout of the ADT Always Cares program, and so motivating for me to expand it as we enter our second year.”

Big congratulations to Alex Price, ADT Corporation, and all your employees for winning Breakout Performance of the Year – and keep up the great work!

To learn more about the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards, click here.

Continue reading

6 Transformational Companies Honored in a Transformational City

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit - setting for the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit.Last week’s VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit was like no other conference any of us have ever attended…but more on that later. Today, we want to focus on one particular event during this year’s Client Summit: the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards.

In a city whose corporate sector is showing every day the impact that can be made by true community involvement, six socially responsible companies were honored for their commitments to their own communities – and to the engagement of their employees.

You’ve gotten to know some of the finalists over the past few months, and now we are thrilled to announce the winners.

For the third year in a row, Morgan Stanley and Old National Bank took top honors as Employee Volunteer Programs of the Year in the Large and Small-Medium Sized Business categories. Lilly and ADT were recognized for their outstanding first year of success in the VolunteerMatch network. And staff members from UnitedHealth Group and California State Library were acknowledged for being dedicated champions of employee and consumer volunteer engagement.

The winners of the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards are:

EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM OF THE YEAR – LARGE BUSINESS:
Morgan Stanley

EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM OF THE YEAR – SMALL-MEDIUM SIZED BUSINESS:
Old National Bank

BREAKOUT PERFORMANCES OF YEAR: 
Lilly
ADT

CHAMPIONS OF THE YEAR:
Jacquelyn Londo & Sue Osten – UnitedHealth Group
Carla Lehn – California State Library

Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards! May you continue to be an inspiration to your employees, your communities, and the rest of us.

Continue reading

2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards: A Look at Finalist NV Energy

On September 19, 2014, winners of the 2014 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards will be announced at our annual VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit, Mich. In this series of posts, we’ll introduce you to people and ideas behind the ten most effective employee volunteer programs in our family of corporate clients, determined by performance against four benchmark measures in 2013.

What makes your employee volunteer program special?

 Fun Day for Kids – Boys and Girls Club

Fun Day for Kids – Boys and Girls Club

NV Energy’s Employee Volunteer Program plays an essential role in bringing employees together to support causes in our community. The program is geared towards employees and their family members who participated in more than 1,400 volunteer opportunities last year, choosing to concentrate on causes that they are passionate about, including: health and human services, hunger, seniors, homelessness, animals, veterans, education and the environment. The NV Energy team creates programs and volunteerism opportunities that address emerging issues and promote healthy and vibrant communities. These engagement activities create opportunities to partner with local organizations, and empower employees to make a positive difference.

NV Energy has a strong commitment to engage employees as volunteers in community service, and employees are encouraged to support their communities through the company’s volunteer program. The key components of the Employee Volunteer Program are the Community Relations staff, Employee Volunteer Council, and Project leads. Through regular communication and feedback from surveys, employees help the staff determine the types of activities everyone participate in.

NV Project – Assemble care packages for the military

NV Energy employees assemble and ship care packages to the military as part of NV Project.

Some favorite activities are:

  • The Senior Energy Assistance Expo, a community event where seniors age 62 years of age or older can come out to get help with their power bill.
  • Goodie Two Shoes – outfit low-income children with a pair of new tennis shoes and socks.
  • Three Square Backpack program – fill backpacks with kid-friendly food for students on free and reduced lunch programs.
  • NV Project – assemble and ship packages to the men and women serving our country overseas.
  • Other events include a lunch hour event, Day at Dorostkar Park clean-up, Safe Haven Rescue Zoo, United Way Golf Tournaments, and department/team volunteer projects that create camaraderie.

Additionally, the senior management team and other employees serve on the boards of more than 100 nonprofit organizations throughout the state of Nevada.

What are some key accomplishments from 2013 you’re especially proud of?

Despite challenging economic times, NV Energy employees are still committed to giving back, because they recognize that giving back to our communities is critical now more than ever. The company’s goal is to improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in its service territory. In 2013, over 2,500 employees gave more than 44,000 hours as volunteers at various organizations in this service territory. Employees surpassed their goal of 42,000 hours by logging in an impressive 44,834 hours. With the estimated value of a volunteer hour at $22.14, the company’s volunteering contributions are estimated at close to $1 million for 2013!

How do you get employees excited and involved in volunteering?

Dorostkar Park Clean-up

Dorostkar Park Clean-up

NV Energy launched the VolunteerMatch tool in 2008, with employees logging 393 hours, and concluded 2013 with employees logging over 44,000 hours. Their success can be attributed to communication and carefully selecting projects to match their resources.

Their recruitment strategy varies from episodic to large projects so that they are flexible enough to match skills and interests to fit each project. They also determine how to reach and engage the right volunteers for establishing a consistent volunteer team to help meet the needs of each project during various stages.

NV Energy supports employee volunteers by helping them find community service opportunities, recognizing and rewarding their work, and providing grants to the nonprofit organizations they volunteer with through a Dollars for Doers Program. In 2013, The Dollars for Doers Program awarded 38 – $250 grants, totaling $9500, to local nonprofit agencies on behalf of employees giving their time.

Senior Energy Assistance Expo

Senior Energy Assistance Expo

Last year, they held a volunteer challenge among departments. The Volunteer Challenge is a friendly competition that pits teams within the company against each other to earn the most number of volunteer hours. The hours are logged between January 1 and December 31, and are ranked by average of team member hours. The team with the most hours during that period earned a $2,000 grant for a nonprofit of their choice, recognition and bragging rights.

The Community Relations team at NV Energy maintains excellent communication with any nonprofit organization the company partners with so that everyone has a clear understanding of what is expected of them. They also explain the benefits of volunteer work to employees and use examples to show the many benefits to the larger community.

Kudos to NV Energy for being a leader in employee engagement and inspiring social impact!

Stay tuned for more finalist profiles in the coming weeks, and announcement of the winners on September, 2014 during the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

Continue reading