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.

CSR Food For Thought: Is Shared Value Really the New CSR?

VolunteerMatch's CSR Food for Thought SeriesThe CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized post.

Can Shared Value Surpass the Promise of CSR?
Is shared valued doomed to become just another buzz word? Or is it on its way to becoming a groundbreaking concept that changes business everywhere? This article from New Global Citizen (co-written by John Holm and Volunteer Engagement 2.0 contributor Deirdre White) eloquently, thoughtfully, and realistically reflects on these questions and more, borrowing from the recent Shared Value Leadership Summit.

Deloitte Kicks Off Year-Round Citizenship Commitment with 16th Annual Nationwide Day of Service
Deloitte sees Impact Day, their annual day of service, as a celebration. Why? Impact Day is just a small part of the volunteerism Deloitte employees do year-round. On Impact Day, which coincides with the start of their fiscal year, they take time to celebrate the accomplishments of the previous year, and get excited for the coming year’s activities. All while spending the day giving back. We love this model of employee volunteerism, don’t you? Let us know what you think by tweeting to us @VM_Solutions.

Volkswagen Puts Forests on the Ledger
We all know that cars aren’t exactly good for the environment. However, for right now at least, people still need cars. So, what’s a car company to do? If you’re Volkswagen, you take steps to offset the carbon emissions of your vehicles. Check out this Triple Pundit article for the full details on this large CSR undertaking from Volkswagen, and the partnerships that are making it possible.

Do Corporate Mega Mergers Inhibit Social Responsibility?
“Frequent mega mergers are the antithesis of strong, sustainable corporate culture,” boldly states this article from The Guardian. Using a case study of Coca-Cola vs. PepsiCo to back up its claims, it looks at how mergers can distract, leading to both major mishaps and lack of focus on CSR strategy. Without multiple examples, it’s hard to tell if mergers and weak CSR are actually linked. What do you think? Share your thoughts by tweeting to @VM_Soltuions.

Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Words Matter: 4 Simple Language Changes to Grow Your Employee Volunteer Program

4654424717_cf0f293c2e_bCrafting the perfect volunteer opportunity that fits with your company’s mission. Fighting for internal buy-in for your employee volunteer program. Letting the world know the good your employees are doing.

Running an employee volunteer program comes with many moving parts. That’s why it’s all too easy to overlook one important thing:

How you talk about your employee volunteer program to your employees impacts its success.

I’m not talking about mass, public communications. I’m talking about the simple, day-to-day communications you have with your employees about your program: That email you sent announcing your new program. That conversation you had with your colleague about your next event. The announcement in your internal newsletter.

In these communications, the words you use are important.

Why? They can make your message stand out from the hundreds of messages your employees receive daily. They can create a personal connection between your volunteer program and your employees. And in turn, they can increase excitement for and participation in your program.

But where do you start? Here are four tips for increasing employee engagement in your volunteer program, using simple language changes alone.

  1. Use Active Voice
    Your employees will be more interested in your program if they trust in its credibility. Credibility is implied when you speak or write confidently. And what’s the number one way to convey confidence when writing or speaking? Use an active voice.

    This means reducing your number of “to be” verbs such as “are”, “is”, “was” and “will be”. For example, “We will be cleaning up Renatska Park,” can change to, “We will make Renatska Park a cleaner space for our community to enjoy.”

  1. Involve Your Listener
    We all want to feel like we’re a part of something. Use the words “you” and “your” in your communication to make your employees feel like you’re talking to them directly. (i.e., “Renatska Park needs your help,” and “You can improve outdoor space in your community.”)
  1. Tell a Story
    You may think the facts will speak for themselves, but without a story to frame them in, people will forget them or overlook them all together. It’s in our nature as humans to enjoy and respond to stories. For example, instead of simply focusing on the number of students your employees tutored, talk about one employee who was particularly touched by one student.
  1. Keep it Short
    There’s nothing worse than an email that you have to scroll to find the bottom, or when a person talks for ten minutes about something than could have been said in two. Know the key points you want to convey, and stick to those. And rather than anticipating every, little, possible uncertainty, offer a format for people to reach you if they have questions.

Using these tips, you’ll decrease the amount of quick skims through your emails and zone-outs while you’re speaking. You’ll increase the amount of times your message actually gets read and heard.

Before you know it, more and more people in your company will also be talking about your employee volunteer program.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson

4 Steps to Finding the Right Employee Volunteer Program Management Tools

VolunteerMatch Solutions Corporate ToolsIn our 5 Steps to Building a Successful Employee Volunteer Program download, we said that it’s important to track and report the volunteer activity taking place in your company.

Why?

Seeing results helps keep your employees engaged with and excited about your employee volunteer program (EVP). It shows the world the generous ways your company is giving back. And it proves the impact of your program to corporate leadership.

Having a system in place to capture and report this information is a must. Some companies opt for tools like spreadsheets to manage all of this data, but spreadsheets can get messy and are labor intensive. Having an EVP management system like VolunteerMatch can take the pain out of EVP reporting AND make it easier for your employees to find volunteer opportunities. All of this means more time for you to be out in the community making a positive impact rather than sitting at your desk crunching numbers!

There are no set criteria for when you should purchase an EVP management system, but clients tell us the following issues made it essential:

  1. Collecting data is too difficult, takes too much time, or exceeds the tools in place.
  2. Volunteer activity information is being stored in multiple places making it difficult to quantify.
  3. Reporting is no longer timely because it takes so long to aggregate the information.
  4. Employees want more volunteer opportunities in their community than can be managed manually.
  5. Projects become very complex, requiring things like waivers, reminders and waitlists.
  6. The internal website cannot be easily maintained, or becomes obsolete in a short period of time.
  7. Volunteer managers find themselves spending all of their time just managing signups.
  8. Recognition is difficult, as the participant lists are often inaccurate.

If a couple of these statements sound painfully familiar, it might be time to explore EVP management tools.

Fortunately, there have been a lot of improvements to the tools and resources
that are available. We’ve put together some steps you can take to find the technology solutions that will fit your specific needs.

Download the PDF: 4 Steps to Finding the Right Employee Volunteer Program Management System