How Influencer Marketing Can Strengthen Your Employee Volunteer Program

How Influencer Marketing can strengthen your employee volunteer program.Sometimes, the job of an employee volunteer manager can feel daunting. You’re a small team, challenged with a huge goal: get everyone in your company excited about the employee volunteer program (EVP). Sometimes you have executive support to get this message out, but more often you just have your own team’s resources. So how do you continue to grow your program?

VolunteerMatch works with more than 150 companies, so we’ve seen many of you take on this challenge in different ways. One trick we’ve learned through our 13+ years of experience in CSR is targeted, smart communications. It all boils down to this: find your program’s influencers.

There is a well accepted marketing theory focused on influencer marketing – the idea is that to sell products, businesses strive to find, engage and learn from their influencers. These influencers are “wavemakers” and, according to Traackr, “are the most effective partners for sharing your messages and driving business your way.” This same theory can help spread the word of your employee volunteer program internally.

How Can Influencers Help?

It’s all about finding who will evangelize your program. These influencers can have two large impacts on your EVP: 1) They can be advocates, and help to spread the word of your program across your company. 2) They can propel and change your program. Influencers are usually trendsetters, which means they are a great learning tool for you to adjust your program or communications.

Who are They?

The biggest hurdle to influencer marketing is finding the right influencers. As Traackr points out, “to create or raise awareness, you need to discover who has the greatest ability to support your messages and relay your news to the right audience.” – So how do you identify these wavemakers?

Our research has shown that most companies have committees and champions to help manage their programs at local offices. Many of our clients have recruited champions to act as local influencers and plan projects: for instance, Prometheus recruits PORCH Leaders to engage each property in volunteering, and UnitedHealth Group developed a broad network of volunteer councils to champion their strategic direction.

Strategies to identify influencers within your company who can help strengthen your employee volunteer program.Champions are a great example of influencers, even if that may not be their core purpose. They are a great baseline to begin to grow your influencer strategy. To take your influencer tactic to the next level, you’ll have to do some research to find out who internally influences company culture and decisions. They can be difficult to find, as they are not often the usual suspects.

Start with what you already know: write down the top 50 people or groups who you feel influence the direction of your company. These may be senior executives, but they may be “groundfloor” wavemakers. They may be existing volunteer champions, or they may be someone who has never volunteered with your company. Do some initial research, using tools like social media to see who is active within your company.

Then, broaden your research by talking to others – have a few of your colleagues repeat the exercise of writing down their top influencers. Try to get coworkers from different locations, departments or executive levels to see where influence differs. Talk to decision makers across the company and ask who influences their direction.

You’ll end up with a list of influencers, many of whom may or may not know much about the volunteer program. Take this list and pick 2-3 top influencers to start with based on their level of connection or participation in volunteering/philanthropy and the potential impact on groups that you especially want to target.

Increasing Trust and Buy-In

Now that your influencers are identified, find a way to connect directly with your those at the top. You’ll want to personalize your message – find what matters to them and get them “hooked” on your EVP. Maybe this is a cause they care about, or an activity that matches their skills.

Once an influencer has given your program their “seal of approval,” you’ll see trust in your program grow gradually. Start small – build a volunteer project and see if your influencer can spread the word. Continue to nurture your influencer relationship and let it grow. Eventually, you won’t have to spend as much time trying to engage employees, as your influencers have already helped communicate your message.

Learning From Your Influencers

Influencers can also be a great tool to test your message. As the marketing firm OpenView points out, “More often than not, your influencers are on the pulse of trends within your industry.” Think of them as your focus group for program direction and communications.

Influencers can make your job easier – try it out and let us know how it goes!

Continue reading

How U.S. Bank Found a Creative Way to Motivate Employee Volunteers

Guest post by Kenna Poppler, U.S. Bank Foundation

How U.S. Bank found a creative way to motivate employee volunteers.At U.S. Bank, we have a strong base of volunteers. While they are all committed to their causes, and many volunteer regularly, they don’t always remember to record their hours on U.S. Bank Volunteers/VolunteerMatch.

Recently, funds became available in our headquarters market and we decided it was a great opportunity to meet three of our goals at once: reward our employees, provide funding to community organizations to help them continue their good works, and get more volunteer hours logged to show how committed U.S. Bank Volunteers truly are!

To accomplish these goals, we are making five $500 contributions to eligible Twin Cities nonprofits where our employees volunteer. All our employees need to do is make sure they’ve recorded at least one hour of their 2013 volunteer time. Each employee who records time will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 contribution for the organization where they volunteer.

To kick off the contest, we simply sent an email to all employees in the Twin Cities. We are anxiously awaiting the prize drawing and the opportunity to recognize both our employees and our nonprofit partners!

Does your company motivate employee volunteers in creative ways? Share with us below!

Continue reading

ADT Shows They Care On Their First Annual Day of Service

VolunteerMatch and ADT have worked together to lend a helping hand. On August 17, 2013  ADT launched their first annual day of service as part of their employee volunteer program ADT Always Cares.

Out of the 50 events ADT employees participated in, Florida employees volunteered at SOS Children’s Village near the ADT headquarters to help clean up homes and renovate the neighborhood landscape. Many other employees participated in other events from a beach clean up in Jacksonville, FL to delievering food in Knoxville, TN.

Check out the photo slideshow below to see the work Florida ADT employees did for SOS Children’s Village:

SOS is an organization that has created a foster care neighborhood where children can be a part of a stable family environment. Siblings that are often separated in the system are kept together in their neighborhood. SOS also offers many resources from tutoring to counseling to help these children succeed in life. ADT was able to help this organization by keeping their neighborhood looking great.

ADT used the VolunteerMatch tool to help rally their troops and provide them with numerous opportunities to get out there and do some good. Throughout the next 24 months ADT plans to have every one of their 16,500 employees engaged in volunteering.

Congratulations to ADT for their commitment to service and hard work!

Continue reading

2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Scaling to New Audiences

At the 2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in New York City we welcomed a handful of experts and thought leaders in the fields of CSR and employee engagement to hold “Best Practice Café” sessions with our client attendees. Stay tuned as we share the major themes and knowledge shared during these discussions.

Casey Brennan, Chris Gebhardt and Vicky Hush speaking at the 2013 VolunteerMatch Client Summit


Scaling to New Audiences
Chris Gebhardt, Participant Media
Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch
Casey Brennan, FleishmanHillard

Summary of Session

Today, CSR programs are integrated across audiences of all types. There is no longer a reason to focus on just one set of stakeholders, because as companies become more integrated and transparent, CSR programs must follow suit. For example:

  • National to global: When your company goes global, your program must keep pace and grow, too.
  • Employee to consumer: It is no longer enough to have a strong internal program – customers want to be involved, too.
  • Industry influencers to main-stream consumers: As a program becomes more strategic, there is an opportunity to go beyond the industry mucky-mucks to focus on your core consumers – they want to know what you’re doing, too.
Continue reading

Webinar Recap: Why Cause Marketing is a Good Investment in 2013

In this month’s engaging Best Practice Network (BPN) Webinar, Joe Waters, the author of the web’s #1 cause marketing blog and the co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies, leads a fascinating discussion about the ins and outs of cause marketing and the many ways it can help your business. He was joined by Robert Rosenthal, our VP of Communications & Marketing here at VolunteerMatch.

What is cause marketing?

In Joe’s experience, most people see cause marketing as either corporate giving or marketing of causes. But as he explains, it has elements of both. “Cause marketing is a partnership between a nonprofit and a for-profit, for mutual profit,” says Joe. This partnership creates revenue, awareness and an overall “mutual benefit” for both players.  However, cause marketing is not one sided; it requires a lot of work and dedication from both the company and the nonprofit.

This “win-win, work-work” scenario can be seen in the partnership between Starbucks and Product RED. For World AIDS Day, a percentage of each drink served at Starbucks goes towards Product RED, which translates into millions of dollars for the nonprofit. As Joe’s example demonstrates, a company can often raise more money for a nonprofit through consumers than by simply writing a check.

Higher consumer expectations

Cause marketing is one of the important drivers that gets people to buy, and it’s something that consumers are considering more. Company favorability with consumers is a major incentive for cause marketing. In the instance of the recent Boston Bombings, companies not only want to show support, consumers expect them to give back.

To further illustrate this point, Joe gives us some fascinating statistics: In a recent study, 64% of consumers would pay more for a brand because it supports a cause that is important to them.

Using the right cause effectively

Most companies gravitate towards what Joe calls a “garanimal connection” or working with a nonprofit that operates in a similar field, like a restaurant working with a food bank; but Joe introduces several other options that companies can consider.

Is your company passionate about a cause? There is a power in being able to share that passion with consumers. If your company doesn’t gravitate towards any cause in particular, joining a nonprofit that has an army of existing loyal supporters can be opportunity to reach a whole new audience. Additionally, a cause that has a strong emotional impact can also be a great partner.

Joe outlines several traditional cause marketing campaigns such as pinups, sponsored runs and walks and business-to-business employee engagement programs. Although these time-tested campaigns are effective, Joe points out that the future of cause marketing is digital.

Growing your digital profile

As Joe explains, companies are seeing spectacular results with cause marketing programs on digital platforms like Facebook, which can use the power of social media to significantly increase consumer participation. Although these programs can be just as effective as traditional cause marketing campaigns, Joe emphasizes that your company needs either an existing strong online presence or something to start with.

In the coming years, the digital arena is where cause marketing is going to happen. Joe predicts that we’re not going to see as much point-of-sale, purchase triggered or register programs — most of the programs will be driven by digital and mobile.

To learn more about this fascinating discussion with Joe Waters, view the full BPN Webinar on YouTube or the presentation on slideshare.

Stayed tuned for our next Best Practice Network Webinar!

Continue reading

CSR Food for Thought: Building Your Employee Volunteer Army

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.

The Network Effect: Enlisting a Brand Army

Network for Good brings us the third post in a series based on Causes’ recent webinar, ‘Enlisting an Army of Brand Advocates.’ Allison McGuire and Kate Olsen do a good job at summing up the steps involved, and provide some great insights of their own.

Volunteering 20 Minutes at a Time
Realized Worth gives some great insight on micro-volunteering, which can leverage employees’ skills for small-scale and often virtual volunteer projects. They explain how the crowdsourcing platform is a great tool for companies whose employees may not have the time to be involved in longer projects. VolunteerMatch also has some great virtual volunteering opportunities that could be excellent for your time-strapped employees.

Webinar Recap – A Billion + Change: What’s Behind the Movement to Inspire More Pro Bono in America?
In our March Best Practice Network Webinar, Jennifer Lawson, Executive Director of A Billion + Change, was in conversation with VolunteerMatch’s Robert Rosenthal. They discussed how any individual business can make a difference—but 500 companies, working together, can change entire communities through pro bono and skill-based volunteering.

Continue reading

CSR Food For Thought: Inspiring Employee Engagment

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.


Employee Votes Count in Donating $100,000 to Local Charities: Allianz Life Contributes Money and Supports Volunteerism Based on Employee Input

Allianz Life Insurance Company gives employees the power to vote on CSR employee engagement initiatives. In this truly inspiring story, employees decide to donate $100,000 to local charities, showing that employees can take the initiative and make a positive difference in the community.

Employee Engagement Gets Dirty

The Stanford Social Innovation Review shares a great example of creative CSR employee engagement by Levi’s. As part of their #gowaterless challenge, they asked employees to wear the same pair of jeans for a week without washing them. We can learn a lot from their creative campaign, including how to make our own Impact at Work programs and engage employees when they’re in the office and out volunteering in their communities. It’s also a great example of how to connect employee engagement with a popular marketing campaign.

2013 VolunteerMatch Corporate Volunteer Awards: A Look at Finalist City National Bank

City National Bank employees participated in an exceptional employee volunteering program called Reading is the Way Up®, which offers grants to K-5 public and private schools and books to school libraries while providing employees with ways to volunteer. The versatile program was an awards finalist in VolunteerMatch’s 2013 Client Summit Awards.

Three Business Reasons for Employee Engagement Programs

We’ve collected some inspiring stories of employees taking part in causes and campaigns, but what is the real business impact for your company? Network for Good’s recent blog post is a great source for why your company should have an employee involvement program. While there, make sure to check out their eGuide with even more details about employee engagement and tips from VolunteerMatch’s Robert Rosenthal.

Continue reading