2015 Corporate Volunteer Awards: A Look at Finalist Independent Bank

On December 1, 2015, winners of the 2015 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards will be announced at the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit in Oakland, CA. In this series of posts, I’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 2014.

What makes your employee volunteer program special?

Employees from Independent Bank’s Bay City, MI region at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Saginaw Walk, 2014

At Independent Bank, we pride ourselves in being 24-hour bankers. Our employees embrace this and give their time to better their communities.

Some causes and events we’ve volunteered for include: Financial Literacy, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, Relay for Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events, Humane Society fundraisers, and so much more.

We knew our employees were generous with their time and talent, but we didn’t realize how much they were doing until we started using VolunteerMatch Solutions.

What impact has your program had on your office or company as a whole?

Independent Bank_FeedingAmerica

Independent Bank’s President & CEO, William B. Kessel (front left), with employees from various departments while volunteering for Feeding America, 2014

Prior to using VolunteerMatch Solutions, we knew that our employees were dedicated to and involved in their communities, but we had no idea to what extent. Our program, Community Connection, has helped us to not only understand all of the time and energy we spend giving back, but has also allowed us to properly showcase those efforts by providing us with accurate metrics and reporting.

What are some specific volunteer-related accomplishments that you’re especially proud of?

To celebrate our 150th year in business in 2014 we launched a campaign called “150 Ways in 150 Days.” This campaign, while designed to encourage volunteer participation, went above and beyond our expectations and truly brought our branches and departments together.

Each Independent Bank branch and/or department was charged with accounting for two days throughout the year in which they would give back to their community.  Therefore, over the course of 150 days, we were able to contribute to our communities in 150 different ways. In addition, we hosted optional “Jean Days” every Friday. Employees were able to wear jeans with logo apparel for a nominal fee. The bank matched employee contributions, and we were able to contribute a total of $55,000 to various Michigan-based charitable organizations.

Do you have an inspiring or fun volunteer-related story you’d like to share?

Independent Bank volunteers at soup kitchen fundraiser

Employees from Independent Bank’s East Beltline branch in Grand Rapids, Michigan volunteering for a soup kitchen fundraiser, 2014.

As part of our “150 Ways in 150 Days” campaign, one of our offices volunteered for a soup kitchen fundraiser, an event which historically raises nearly $100K. The Independent Bank team worked a 4- hour shift, helping with registration and serving soup.

One of the staff members, who had never volunteered before, left the event asking the leader if they could participate again next year, citing how rewarding of an experience it was. The leader had this to say in closing:

“All in all, our day was extremely rewarding. I hope the rest of the corporation enjoys their giving back as much as we did!”

Stay tuned for more finalist profiles in the coming weeks, and announcement of the winners on December 1, 2015 during the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit.

Meet Angela Parker, 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit Speaker

In December 2015, CSR professionals, employee engagement enthusiasts, VolunteerMatch clients, and national nonprofits will come together at the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit (#VMSummit15). In this series of blog posts, I’ll introduce you to the numerous experts who will make an appearance as Summit speakers.

Angela Parker, 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit SpeakerName: Angela Parker

Title: Co-founder and Senior Partner

Organization: Realized Worth

What is your session about?

Basically, it’s about how corporations and nonprofits can work better together. There are some simple understandings and practices that quickly increase the capacity of employee volunteering and giving programs while simultaneously increasing the competencies of the employees who are involved.

Companies and nonprofits are becoming savvier partners as corporate social responsibility becomes an expected element of business operations, but we’re still too far away from the results we should be seeing. Companies, communities, and employees should be experiencing measurable benefits from corporate volunteering and giving programs. The information and suggestions in this session will get attendees one step (or hopefully several steps!) closer to realizing those benefits.

There are some simple understandings and practices that quickly increase the capacity of employee volunteering and giving programs while simultaneously increasing the competencies of the employees who are involved.

Why should attendees care about this topic?

Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan of the word “should.” People don’t care about things just because they should. If that were the case, we would all be fit and thin and never drink too much and watch less TV. Instead, we care about the things that trigger certain rewards. We eat cookies because sugar releases a chemical concoction in our brains that makes us feel good. We watch movies because they connect us to a sense of story and a greater purpose. One thing’s for sure: We don’t care about things we’ve never experienced. If you have never personally experienced the transformative power of volunteering, you probably don’t care about this topic.

So, let’s back up. Here are some reasons you might care about this topic already – even if you don’t know you do:

Have you ever wondered why companies volunteer at all? Or how many companies have volunteering giving programs now? Or how volunteering can influence employee engagement? We’ll get into all of these topics in the session.

Curious about the latest volunteering and giving trends across nonprofits and corporations? Definitely something we’ll cover.

How about this: Do you want to laugh a little, get a little smarter, and hear some great stories? The best part of this session might simply be that you’ll enjoy yourself. And when we talk about the difference between transactional and transformative volunteering, you might even find yourself inspired.

Hope to see you there!

What is a professional achievement you are particularly proud of?

I suppose I can’t claim this as my own achievement, but I’m proud of my team’s commitment to Realized Worth. There was a time that it felt like “my” company, but now it feels like “ours.” Everyone carries the mission of the company as their own – they believe on a very personal level in the power of corporate volunteering. Each team member contributes significantly to making the work more effective and the company more efficient. Like I said, it’s not really my accomplishment, but I’m proud. Believing in something together is so much easier than believing alone.

To learn more about Angela, check out her biography on our Summit speakers’ page. And if you haven’t yet, register today for the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit!

Meet Darcy Brown-Martin and Ebony Frelix, 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit Speakers

In December 2015, CSR professionals, employee engagement enthusiasts, VolunteerMatch clients, and national nonprofits will come together at the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit (#VMSummit15). In this series of blog posts, I’ll introduce you to the numerous experts who will make an appearance as Summit speakers.

DarcyBrown-MartinHeadshot

Darcy Brown-Martin
National Director of Corporate Relations, Playworks

EbonyFrelix

Ebony Frelix
Vice President of Programs, Salesforce Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



What is your session about?

CSR leaders and nonprofit staff alike are wrestling with the movement in corporate philanthropy to “go beyond the check.” CSR staff grapple with the need to create authentic impact through volunteerism without disrupting workplace priorities, while nonprofits that don’t rely directly on volunteers to fulfill their mission battle for funding in a corporate arena leaning hard on employee engagement. Learn how Salesforce and Playworks arrived at a replicable solution to this set of dilemmas, built on mission alignment on both sides.

Why should attendees care about this topic?

Darcy: Whether you’re on the for-profit or nonprofit side of the CSR equation, finding practical ways to repeatedly engage volunteers is key in building successful corporate partnerships in the current market. After this session, participants will be able to look at their organizational assets with fresh eyes. Respectively, they will be able to plan fiscally to support a robust corporate volunteer program or deploy existing program assets to secure corporate funding by helping corporations realize community impact through one‐off volunteer-group engagements.

Ebony: Gone are the days when corporate philanthropy was simply writing a check to a charity of choice at the end of the year. Today’s employees–and millennials in particular–expect a robust and integrated corporate citizenship program. Yet at the same time, CSR practitioners compete for attention, time and effort of employees. Hear about both top-down and bottom-up strategies that can drive impactful employee engagement.

What do you love about your work?

Darcy: Stewarding corporate partnerships for a national nonprofit allows me to engage in mission-driven work while continuously learning about the methods and cultures of significant for-profit companies. I love that blend.

Ebony: I love that every day when I go to work, I’m helping make a difference. Sometimes it’s in a big way, like our partnership with the San Francisco Middle Schools and the Mayor’s Office which, through $8+ million in grants and 5,000+ hours of Salesforce employee volunteering, is helping prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow. Or in small ways, like mentoring last year our amazing YearUp intern–who now, I’m proud to say–is a full time employee of the Salesforce Foundation.

To learn more about Darcy and Ebony, check out their biographies on our Summit speakers’ page. And if you haven’t yet, register today for the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit!

Changing Corporate Perspectives on Workplace Volunteer Programs: Q & A, Part 2

Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, contributors to Volunteer Engagement 2.0, VolunteerMatch's new book

Angela Parker & Chris Jarvis

In last month’s Best Practice Webinar, we heard from Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth about Workplace Volunteer Programs.

A few questions from our audience were left unanswered as our allotted time came to a close. Angela and Chris were kind enough to answer these questions offline. In part two of this two-part series, I’m pleased to share these additional insights from Angela and Chris.

Q: How aligned does volunteerism need to be with a company’s funding focus areas? We have employees who want to volunteer for causes the company does not fund. Does this matter?

A: Most people in your company are not involved in the community. In fact, only 25% of Americans formally volunteer. If you limit volunteer opportunities strictly to your company’s desires, you make the tent smaller than it already is.

Generally, providing three tiers of volunteer opportunities can help satisfy the company, your employees, and the community. Here’s one way to structure that:

  • Tier 1: Signature Programs – Big events that match a specific cause with the company’s strategic focus. For example, a bank’s signature program could be financial literacy.
  • Tier 2: Community Programs – Smaller, community-focused events that match a specific cause with a social or environmental issue in a community. Many large companies have offices all over the world. Community programs need not be related to the company’s giving focus, but should have direct local proximity to the cause.
  • Tier 3: Employee Choice – Causes that matter to employees.

When you allow employees to follow their passion/pet causes, they will more likely want to get involved in events featuring the company’s focus. Generating this “quid pro quo” could end up boosting support for your signature programs.

Q: Do measurements such as Social Return on Investment (SROI) look at the impact of volunteering?

A: There are a number of measurement experts in the field. Two that come to mind are VeraWorks and True Impact. Strong SROI measurement tools do include the impact volunteering has on the beneficiaries and the community. We encourage you to explore some of these models and adapt them to what you need.

One recent advancement in the measurement space is determining the benefit volunteering has on the company. A group of companies in Canada recently launched a project to tie volunteering to retention rates and employee satisfaction scores; the hope being that knowing the financial impact of volunteering can help boost internal budgets and support for more community activity.

Q: How can you maximize the passion of really engaged employees?

A: A key attribute of transformative volunteer programs is the role of the “third-stage volunteer” (aka “Champion”, “Ambassador”, “Guide”). In any given company, approximately 6% of employees fit this model – and you can tell them a mile away! They are always passionate about volunteering, always supporting local causes, and always asking you to sponsor the next run, walk or bikeathon.

The best way to maximize the passion of these individuals is to elevate them to a leadership position. Their highest level of contribution may, in fact, be bringing others along for the ride. And they want nothing more than to share the transformative experiences they have had already. They’ll love you for it – and they’ll return the favor by digging deeper into their “passion” reserves!

Thanks, Angela and Chris!

Missed the webinar? You can still watch a recording of the webinar, and browse the slide deck.

Angela and Chris also contributed a chapter on this topic to VolunteerMatch’s new book. Learn more.

You Have a Great Employee Volunteer Program? Prove It.

VolunteerMatch reportingVolunteerMatch has been in the employee volunteer program (EVP) space for quite a while. Over 15 years, actually.

From our time here, we’ve seen a lot. We’ve talked to a lot of people out in the field, we’ve held a lot of Q&A sessions (both online and off), and we’ve read a lot of articles and research. Through all this, one thing has been painfully clear:

Getting internal buy-in for your EVP is one of the most challenging – and most important – parts of a running an EVP.

VolunteerMatch allows us to track the participation metrics for our programs in one system – hours, employees, projects – all of this data paints a picture of our impact.
-Erin Dieterich,
NetSuite

We’ve discussed in the past how reporting features are the most powerful, and often under-utilized, tool your EVP has. YourMatch™, VolunteerMatch’s EVP software, makes it easy to prove your program’s impact with quick, customizable reporting features and personalized dashboard. Why? Because we’ve seen firsthand how important it is.

YourMatch™ comes with a handful of “classic reports”, which include a super-easy way to pull the data that most EVP managers care about. With a few clicks and just a few seconds, you’ll know:

  • The total volunteer hours your company donated in a given time period
  • Who your most active volunteers are
  • Which departments or locations are having the biggest impact
  • Which cause areas are most popular with your employees
  • Much, more more.

You can also create your own custom reports, and determine what data you’re even recording, all customizable based on your company’s individual priorities.

Remember: Reporting is not only the best way to showcase what your program is already accomplishing, it can shine light on the path ahead. Getting to know the ways in which your employees choose to volunteer is great intel for shaping your future EVP strategy.

Want to learn more? Watch a demo of our tools. And never wonder again how you’re going to answer the question, “What’s the impact of our employee volunteer program?”

Changing Corporate Perspectives on Workplace Volunteer Programs: Q & A, Part 1

In last month’s Best Practice Webinar, we heard from Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth about Workplace Volunteer Programs.

We discussed the trends and challenges they’re seeing in their work, recommendations on how to inspire employees to volunteer, and the corporation’s role in a higher calling. The webinar was full of great content and discussion, but a few questions from our audience were left unanswered as our allotted time came to a close.

Angela and Chris were kind enough to answer these questions offline. In part of this two-part series, I’m pleased to share these additional insights from Angela and Chris.

Chris and Angela of Realized Worth

Chris Jarvis & Angela Parker

Q: What do you do if your company’s CSR Manager wants to implement a volunteer program, and the CEO says, “Our employees don’t want that.”?

Imagine he’s not open to seeing CECP studies, ROI studies, etc. Is it time time for a coup??

A: This is a great question – and one we hope never comes up! The answer is actually quite simple: there is no substitute for experience. Your employees can only be convinced of the true impact of volunteering when they experience it themselves.

This begs the next question: How do you give the CEO a meaningful experience? One way is to use good old-fashioned peer pressure, by leveraging the social capital of the people around him. This includes trusted advisors, peers and even family/ friends. If the event is run well – with clear linkages to the beneficiary of the cause – transformation can occur. And when that happens, the CEO can realize the influence the company plays in helping everyone achieve that.

This may take awhile, but it’s an essential step in ensuring you have buy-in from executives.

Q: Any advice on how to shift focus from quantity of volunteer events to quality of events? And can you communicate this to get buy-in?

I believe if the markets in my company– we have about 60– directed their focus to fewer, higher quality events per year, we would see more participation from employees. Right now, we’re experiencing volunteer fatigue because there is just too much going on– some markets have 2-3 events per month!

A: There are many answers to this great question. Without knowing your specific circumstance, here are a few tips to prevent volunteer fatigue:

  • Ensure you have diverse opportunities available covering many different causes. If the events are only driven by the company (helping to achieve a “signature” cause), you may be alienating some people. Find out what people care about and encourage people to follow their passion.
  • Meet people at their highest level of contribution – find the volunteers that may be “fatigued” and ask them to play a leadership role for the people in their department. Give them the tools to plan 2-3 meaningful events that match the interests of their colleagues.
  • Focus your measurement on engagement instead of participation. This includes measuring leadership development, skills development, and manager support. You may find that higher engagement happens with less (but more meaningful) events.
  • Involve non-traditional players. Find out what HR, marketing, finance and others would want to see from a volunteering program.

Q: How can we take desk-based or lunchroom-based volunteering efforts (because of our business need, folks can’t leave the office) and make them transformational?

A: This is an excellent question, and a common issue for many practitioners. Ryan Scott outlined some interesting ways to involve on-site employees in volunteering. His article Help, I Can’t Get Up!’ Volunteering From Your Desk covers this exact topic.

Thanks, Angela and Chris! Check back next week for part 2 of this Q&A series. In the meantime, you can watch a recording of the webinar, and browse the slide deck.

Note: Angela and Chris also contributed a chapter on this topic to VolunteerMatch’s new book. Learn more.

Why More Companies Should Offer Skilled Group Volunteer Opportunities

Evidence from Cause, Influence & the Next Generation Workforce: The 2015 Millennial Impact Report.

Yes, I am a millennial. Not only that, but after reading the recently-released 2015 Millennial Impact Report, I realized: I am the spitting image of a typical millennial.

Tess Srebro

Spitting image of a typical millennial.

And I’m here to tell you what I –and my generational peers- want from our corporate volunteering.

But first, let me take you back. In 2008, I eagerly accepted my first full-time, non-summer-break job, in a field only vaguely related to what I studied in school.

The job itself was high pressure, leading to many sleepless nights. The hours were long: 50+ office hours per week; tied to the blackberry 24/7. However, I had the most amazing group of co-workers, whom I loved dearly and who made my day fun.

Yes, I had the constant, nagging feeling that I wanted to do something else, something… more meaningful. But I ended up staying at that job for 3 years, before finally seeking out that meaningfulness.

Why? My awesome co-workers, that’s why.

 “Bonds with co-workers was one of the biggest factors that made Millennials want to stay at their company for more than three years.”- The 2015 Millennial Impact Report

Co-worker BFFs_1

Me with my co-worker BFFs.

The report goes on to show that the influence of co-workers might be deeper than we once thought. Check out these surprising stats:

  • “27% of millennial employees said they are more likely to donate to a cause if their supervisor does; while 46% of employees are likely to donate if a co-worker asks them to.
  • 77% of millennial employees prefer to volunteer with groups of fellow employees, rather than doing cause work on their own.”

The report goes on to say that during its studies; it found that “Co-worker relationships not only influenced cause participation, but that these relationships also contributed to long-term happiness at work.”

The report also backs up what many of us have been saying for some time: Corporate volunteers want to use their specialized skills to make a difference.

I was recently speaking with a friend, who works for a successful tech company, about his company’s volunteerism. “It’s a waste to have people who are making $50 an hour spend their time packing boxes at a food bank,” he says. “If we could find a way to donate our skills to an organization, everyone gets more value out of the interaction,” he says.

While that may be true, I’ve also heard from others at this same company that doing team activities like food bank sorting offers valuable team-building and bonding opportunities.

How do employers reconcile this push for skilled volunteer opportunities with the parallel desire for group and team-building opportunities?

It’s actually very simple. Group volunteer projects that use your employees’ specialized skills.

There are plenty of opportunities for group volunteer activities that involve skills. If they don’t already exist, you can create them. For example, skilled-volunteer employees at Appirio complete pro bono tech projects. And employees at MUFG Union Bank venture out together to teach financial literacy.

If you’re struggling to find your company’s fit, start by offering variety. Offer volunteer time off so that employees can choose their own ways to get involved with their skills. Offer company-led group volunteer outings to get people’s minds off work for the afternoon, even if it’s not skills-based. Most importantly, listen to employees. Find out how they want to get involved, and make that possible.

Remember, co-worker bonds lead to employee happiness and retention. Both the Millennial Impact Report and my personal experience show this. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this easy way to build co-worker relationships?

Learn how VolunteerMatch Solutions can support your company’s group volunteerism.