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.

Continue reading

How to Create a Stellar Employee Volunteer Program

VolunteerMatch Employees Greg Baldwin and Laura Ellis volunteering at the SF Marin Food BankIf your company currently has an employee volunteer program (EVP), that’s amazing! EVPs increase employee satisfaction and retention, and can be a key tool for recruiting top talent. A formal EVP also allows you to track results, so you can easily show the world your company’s impact. And our favorite part: implementing EVP tools simplifies your tasks, so you have more time to spend out in your community.

If you don’t have a formal program set up, you may be wondering, “Is now the right time?” To find out, ask yourself the following:

  • Are our consumers or business contacts asking what we are doing for our community?
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number of employees asking each other to support a charity?
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number of employees asking to volunteer?
  • Are we losing talented employees to the job market or having trouble retaining employees?
  • Am I or my coworkers spending a lot of time on volunteer event coordination?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s time to consider a formal EVP program. We put together 5 easy steps to building a successful EVP to guide you through the process. Even if you already run a great EVP, you may find some new ideas.

Download the PDF: 5 Steps to Building a Successful Employee Volunteer Program.

Continue reading

How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Tessa Srebro, Content Marketing Associate

At VolunteerMatch, we’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). In this series of posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and how they benefit from VTO.

VolunteerMatch's Content Marketing Associate, Tessa SrebroSo, who are you?
I’m the newest member to VolunteerMatch’s Engagement Team. As content marketing associate, I make sure nonprofits, volunteers and companies know about us and how easy we make it for good causes and good people to connect.

Where do you volunteer and what do you do?
I’m a digitizer at the Internet Archive. Right now, my focus is CDs. I transfer audio files and artwork from the CDs to preserve them in the Internet Archive’s online collection.

What drew you to that particular organization and/ or type of volunteering?
Access to information for everyone is one of my core beliefs. When I met some of the Internet Archive team upon moving to San Francisco, their mission of building an all-encompassing, free virtual library was immediately appealing.

Many people see volunteering as a social activity – a way to meet people or bond with friends. And it certainly can be! However, as an introvert, I’m drawn to solitary volunteer activities, too. It’s a way for me to unwind while still making an impact. In the past, I re-shelved books at the small, quiet library in the Seattle Art Museum. At the Internet Archive, I can go into my own little world while archiving information. (This isn’t to say the people at the Internet Archive aren’t fun and amazing, because they truly are!)

What’s the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
I love feeling like I’m a part of Internet Archive. I donate money to other nonprofits, but don’t feel very connected to those organizations, no matter how many thank you emails, program updates, or event invites I receive. Volunteering at the Internet Archive regularly makes me truly feel like I’m part of their organization. I get excited at their successes, and I’m a vocal advocate for their mission… or should I say “our successes” and “our mission”?

Internet Archive's headquarters, a former church.

Internet Archive’s headquarters, a former church.

Can you share a story from your time volunteering with Internet Archive?
In alignment with their mission of open-access to information, the Internet Archive opens their doors to the public every Friday for lunch. Each employee (and volunteer!) shares what they’re working on that week, and also any off-topic updates they want to offer the team. I try to coordinate my volunteer schedule to be there on Fridays so I can be part of this fun event. If you’re in the San Francisco area, you should stop by!


Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
When I moved to San Francisco, before I started working with VolunteerMatch, I assumed I would have to stop volunteering once I found employment. (The Internet Archive is generally only open weekdays from 9-5). When I learned about VolunteerMatch’s generous VTO, I was ecstatic.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
VTO, in my opinion, is a huge draw for employee recruitment and retention. Would I still be working for VolunteerMatch if they didn’t offer VTO? Yes. But it certainly adds to both the pride and the gratitude I feel for my organization.

Continue reading

Webinar Recap: Advocate for Your EVP (With Extra Insights from Appirio!)

Photo of man in suit explaining something.You know that your employee volunteer program is valuable. But how do you show this value to others in your company to get the budget, staff, tools, etc. you need to take your program to the next level?

On January 21, 2015, Debbie Donahey of OhioHealth and Rachel Tallant of Appirio joined VolunteerMatch and shared how they were able to gain internal support for their employee volunteer programs. We were impressed by the wealth of insights Debbie and Rachel offered, as well as the thoughtful questions from our attendees.

The discussion unfortunately had to end as our allotted time ran out, and a few questions went unanswered during the session. Below are Rachel’s post-webinar answers to your questions regarding Appirio’s Silver Lining Program.

Also, if you missed this webinar, don’t worry! You can watch full recording here.

Q: Can you provide specific examples of how executive sponsors support your program?

A: Our executive sponsors provide tangible budget and program strategy support. They’re focused on making the program an integral part of the employee experience by incorporating volunteering into large company events. They also support the program in intangible ways. Hearing that the CEO or head of HR has taken part in a volunteer activity, championed a pro bono project, or posted positive feedback in response to a Silver Lining activity speaks volumes to the rest of the team.

Q: Do you have any resources for “making the business case” that you would be willing to share?

A: We calculated the cost to manage our program’s events based on our past management technology vs. the cost to use VolunteerMatch Solutions. As your program grows, and you start to manage more and more employees, you need a sophisticated management system. In addition to the other benefits, it allows for great visibility into metrics.

For example, before VolunteerMatch, we could generate a report on the hours employees had volunteered, but not which nonprofits or locations they had volunteered for. VolunteerMatch helps us build stronger relationships with nonprofits around the globe that we support, as well as making the business case for our program.

Q: What are some of the outcomes you’re focused on?

A: A big win for us is ease of use. Employees want to give back, but sometimes they don’t have the time to search out their own opportunities to volunteer. The VolunteerMatch database streamlines the process by easily connecting employees with nonprofits in their location and cause area.

Thanks again, Rachel and Debbie!

Continue reading

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