How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Susan Briggs, VP of Product Management

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.

Photo of Susan BriggsSo, who are you?
I’m Susan Briggs, and I recently joined VolunteerMatch as the Vice President of Product Management. As a committed volunteer, it’s fitting to work for something which allows everyone to find a volunteer opportunity and to give back to their communities. Working here allows me to focus my professional skills of managing product and design teams on a cause near and dear to my heart.

Where do you volunteer?
I have been volunteering regularly for the last 17 years. Currently, I sit on two boards: one for the education foundation at my daughters’ public high school and the other for the nonprofit One Millions Lights.

In my most recent volunteer activity, I participated in a trail day for Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation in the San Francisco Bay Area, an opportunity I found out about through VolunteerMatch!

Do you have any stories to share from your volunteer day?
The day I chose to volunteer with Santa Clara County Parks happened to be in the middle of several weeks of torrential rain that the Bay Area received. My task was to dig channels on the trail to remove puddles of standing water. Because of the rain, there were so many puddles, and it was exhausting! But that made it even more rewarding to complete.

What drew you to that particular organization and/or type of volunteering?
I wanted a push to get me outside on a Saturday. This type of activity is something I always thought about trying, and finally did it!

Photo of Susan volunteering at her son's school.

Susan volunteering at her son’s school.

What is the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
Volunteering allows me to have new experiences while doing something to help out a good cause. I also enjoy the people I meet while volunteering.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Because I enjoy volunteering so much, I would do so even without the added benefit of volunteer time off (VTO). However, I do greatly enjoy having VTO and regularly use it to help out at local schools and with community projects.

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Forget Candy – How to Show Your Employees You Really Care

Heart outline made from red candies.It’s that time of year – love is in the air. Many cringe at the thought of Valentine’s Day, calling it an over-commercialized, high-pressure holiday for couples.

But I choose to look at it differently. I choose to celebrate love in all forms, including the love I have for the organization I work for, VolunteerMatch. And the love it has for me.

What better time than now to take a close look at what you’re doing to show your employees you love them? (Again, I don’t mean you should be in love with your employees. Chances are, your Human Resources department has some policies around that.) But your employees should feel important, appreciated, respected, and cared for.

Why? The phrase “employees are a company’s greatest asset” is so widely used, it’s basically a cliché. So, to use another cliché, why not “put your money where your mouth is?” Employee appreciation goes beyond candy bowls, birthday cards, and an occasional free lunch (although those are nice, too!) Here’s how to spread long-term TLC to your employees, not only on Valentine’s Day, but throughout the year, with your employee volunteer program (EVP).

Listen to Them
EVP doesn’t stand for executive volunteer program; it stands for employee volunteer program. So, why would you want executives making all the decisions? Ask your employees what they would like to see in your EVP. Fewer group volunteer activities? More skill-building volunteer options? How about a method for recognizing stand-out employee volunteers?

Also, continue to get feedback on how you’re doing at all stages of your EVP. Honest critique will help your program grow. When your employees are happy with your program, they’ll engage more.

Honor What’s Important to Them
Your company probably has some cause focus areas that align with your mission. For example, ConAgra Foods aims to end child hunger, and 1st Source Bank teaches financial literacy. But that doesn’t mean your company can’t help in other ways with causes that are important to individual employees. Offering volunteer time off (VTO) lets employees choose the causes they donate their time to. But don’t stop there. Encourage employees to share their volunteer stories at company meetings, events, or even on your company blog. Show them that their time is important, and you care about how they’re spending it.

Thank Them
Candy heart that reads, "You're Fab."From increased productivity to attracting more customers and talented new employees, your company sees many benefits from your EVP. Even though you’re managing the program, you can’t take all the credit. Your employees are out there making positive change in their communities (while giving positive publicity to your company). Don’t forget to say thank you, and say it often.

Which reminds me: Thank you for the work you do with your CSR program. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: A Rewarding Discussion on VTO

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. In this post: REwards: The Ins and Outs of VTO.

This past year, our Client Summit REwards session on paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO) was, well, rewarding. Thought leaders from Time Warner Cable and Brooks Brothers shared valuable insights and tangible takeaways for companies either hoping to launch or already fostering a VTO program for their employees. Jennifer Reed Holick and Hannah Nance walked us through different approaches for how VTO can be used, the ins and outs of pitching a VTO policy, and how to ensure robust participation while keeping the company’s best interests in mind.

Photo of Hannah Nance

Hannah Nance, Senior Specialist, Social Purpose at Brooks Brothers

The benefits of a VTO program are numerous and compelling, not just for the employee, but for the company as a whole. Hannah from Brooks Brothers explained that by giving employees the freedom to choose where they volunteer, a company is making a donation to that organization: The employee’s time, which might not have been available otherwise. While the organization an employee chooses to volunteer for might not fit into the company’s core cause areas, it means the company can have a broad presence and impact in its community. It will also prove it cares about its employees by supporting causes near and dear to its employees’ hearts.

For those employees who don’t have much volunteer experience, or don’t yet have a favorite charity, paid time off to volunteer provides a risk-free trial for them to check out a new organization or new type of volunteering. Presumably, some of your employees will go on to volunteer regularly outside of their VTO. The idea that VTO is just the foundation is core to how Brooks Brothers views the ideal commitment to service.

Photo of Jennifer Reed Holick

Jennifer Reed Holick, Community Investment Manager at Time Warner Cable

Jennifer from Time Warner Cable then dove further into how VTO can fit into a company’s volunteer program. She believes that while VTO is not critical to employee retention, it’s the “secret sauce that can take a strong volunteer program to new heights”. Her “must haves” for starting a program include: Oversight from a senior management task force, an involved legal and HR team to work out important logistics, a review of the cost implication and ROI, a strategy for maximizing results, and use of a strong management tool to support employees’ efforts, such as VolunteerMatch’s corporate toolset.

Jennifer presented deliberate and convincing formulas around the cost and return of implementing a VTO program. She shared how she opted to use conservative data when pitching her program, in order to drive home just how clear it was that the program would have positive payback.

Both Jennifer and Hannah emphasized the importance of asking key questions at the outset, such as how the program will be communicated and how much time off will be given in the policy. They agreed that it’s important to have strong, visible support from leadership. They also emphasized how important it is to “do your homework” around legal or impact issues specific to your industry, such as if employees on commission will participate, or what risks are being assumed by the company during team outings.

During this session, audience engagement and participation were high. It seemed that everyone walked away with renewed enthusiasm about the role VTO can play as the “cherry on top” of employee engagement efforts.

Interested in learning more about VTO programs? Check out the slides from this presentation.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: From Lackluster to Stellar: Re-imagining Your EVP

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: RE-imagine Your Program, summarized by Julie VanDeLinder.

Photo of Julie VanDeLinder

Julie VanDeLinder, Vice President of Client Services, VolunteerMatch

As a client relations manager, I see a variety of employee volunteer programs (EVPs).Whether big or small, EVPs all seem to have the same opportunity: To turn a lackluster program into a stellar one. Sometimes, however, companies get stuck in a routine and fail to evolve.

Many lose sight of what is called the sweet spot: A place where a program is perfectly aligned with company focus, employee passions, and the needs of the community. Our goal in this session was to challenge clients to re-imagine their program by looking at seven elements of successful programs:

  1. Communication
  2. Strategic Focus & Brand Alignment
  3. Measurement
  4. Leadership Engagement
  5. Partnerships
  6. Organizational Development
  7. Recognition & Incentives

I asked attendees to look at these elements and think about which ones they struggle with. I also asked them to think about each element as if it had no restraints, forcing them to think outside the box with creative solutions. We asked each other how we have benefited from innovation in the past, and how we defined success for the future.

We then conducted a fishbowl brainstorm: We asked four attendees to come onstage, but had five chairs. We picked one of the seven elements and asked the attendees onstage to talk about how their company handles that particular element. If someone in the audience wanted to contribute, they could come up on stage and take the fifth seat, but a current participant would have to step down. This forced the conversation to stay lively and evolving, with new ideas and speakers constantly shuffling through.

Many attendees said that discussing these seven elements forced them to think about their weak spots, and even more importantly, the things that weren’t working well but had been tradition for so long that they never thought to question it. We talked about the difficult realization that a nonprofit partner is no longer a good fit, or perhaps was not a good fit from the start. Many said that using surveys or interview techniques helped them pick a valuable partner. Others said they were brave enough to ask a nonprofit “What do you need from us?” instead of proclaiming “This is what we can give you.”

Overall, our session was small, yet very interactive. Participants had the chance to pose questions to some of the best program leaders around, as well as reflect on how to become more innovative, evolving and successful.

You can view the slides from this session here, or download all the session insights here.

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CSR Food For Thought: #MakeTodayMatter for a Better Tomorrow

Stack of NewspapersThe 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.

 

 

Bank Pays for Customers’ Volunteer Projects to Inspire More Good Deeds
We’ve all heard about companies aiding and encouraging their employees’ volunteer efforts. But what about their customers’? This Huffington Post article highlights TD Bank’s creative way to give back – by funding the community projects of selected customers. The stipulation? They had to complete their projects in 24 hours to #MakeTodayMatter.

Corporate-Giving Effort Aims to Expand Giving Tuesday
If your company participated in #GivingTuesday this year – that’s wonderful! Many great nonprofits are truly thankful for the support they receive on this new(ish) holiday. There are some companies, however, that are pledging to take #GivingTuesday even further, according to this feature in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. By 2015, will 500 companies make the pledge to donate 1-1-1? That’s 1% of their equity, 1% of their employees’ time, and 1% of their products. What do you think?

November Corporate Citizenship Highlights
Happy December! While we look ahead to the holidays, let’s also look back on the CSR accomplishments from last month. From Google’s matching donations for fighting Ebola to companies staying closed on Thanksgiving to give employees time with their families, November was certainly an eventful month in the world of CSR. In this post, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship discusses some of the accomplishments. What would you add to the list of November corporate good deeds?

CVS Celebrates #GivingTuesday and Colleague Volunteerism by Awarding $100,000 to 50 Nonprofits Nationwide
The employees at CVS Health volunteer for some great community organizations. So, when #GivingTuesday rolled around, it was a perfect fit to donate to the organizations company employees hold dear to them. Employees were invited to nominate an organization they volunteer for to win one of 50 grants from the CVS Health Foundation. Read their press release on 3BL Media for more information and the full list of grantees.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Refreshingly Awesome Employee Volunteer Programs

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: REfreshingly Awesome Programs.

Lauren Keeler of Apollo Education Group and Tyler Butler of GoDaddy make awesome look easy. At VolunteerMatch’s Client Summit, they shared some creative projects they developed for their employee volunteer programs. They’re not afraid to step out of the box, and you shouldn’t be either!

Picture of Lauren Keeler

Lauren Keeler, Director, Community Engagement, Apollo Education Group

Picture of Tyler Butler

Tyler Butler, Director, Community Outreach, GoDaddy

Lauren started a 10-person pilot volunteer program that has grown so big employees are on a waiting list to participate! How did it become so successful? Lauren changed things up. Apollo previously participated in a one-on-one reading program on location at an area school. Realizing people’s busy schedules, transport time, and also taking into consideration Apollo’s culture, Lauren implemented a virtual tutoring model. This new flexibility attracted many more volunteers and increased excitement about the program.

One of the programs Tyler manages is the Hope for Soap drive. Employees are encouraged to donate toiletry items to families across the country. In 2014 alone, employees donated over 5,000 items. But it’s not just the families that benefit. GoDaddy incorporates prizes to boost involvement in the Hope for Soap drive, as well as other volunteering campaigns. For example, in certain annual giving challenges, employees can win tickets to exclusive events and one-on-one time with senior leadership in the form of bike rides and lunches. Tyler showed us how a little incentive and some healthy competition can go a long way.

Thanks again to Tyler and Lauren for sharing such inspiring insights. They reminded us that it’s okay to challenge the status quo when it comes to developing employee volunteer programs. For more on their awesome programs, check out the slides from their session.

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The Cloud’s Silver Lining

Picture of Appirio employee volunteers

Appirio employees volunteer with the East Bay Youth Consortium.

To use the company’s time, talents and technology for social good.

That’s the straightforward mission of Appirio Silver Lining, the corporate responsibility arm of the global cloud services provider Appirio. VolunteerMatch is thrilled to welcome Appirio as a partner; they are aiming for the sky, and they are reaching it: Since its launch in 2010, the Silver Lining program’s employee participants have donated over 15,000 hours, $350,000, and helped over 400 different nonprofits. How do they do this? Three things…


Read the rest of Appirio’s Volunteer Spotlight
 to learn the three things Appirio does to make this magic happen, and the amazing things they have in store for #GivingTuesday.

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