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

3 Benefits of Volunteering As a Company

Guest post by Alison Grenkie

A version of this story first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

The Company that Volunteers Together Stays TogetherPicking up garbage. Growing mustaches. Cycling for a cure. Selling baked goods. Rocking out for a cause.

And that’s just the beginning! There are all kinds of things that you can do to give back to the community and raise awareness or money for an issue you care about.

Increasingly, regular businesses are incorporating volunteering activities like the above into their company culture – and seeing some pretty amazing benefits!

1. Happier & Healthier Employees
There’s a growing body of research suggesting that those who regularly volunteer experience a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits.

For example, volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain, heart disease and depression, while also reducing stress and improving overall mental health. One 2013 study reported that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer say that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, while 78% say that volunteering lowers their levels of stress.

Why would a business want happier, healthier employees? Because health and happiness create a ripple effect of positivity that includes increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and even improved customer satisfaction!

 2. Encourage Team-Building
The company that volunteers together, stays together!

Many of the typical team-building activities are, let’s face it, a little bit hokey. Whether they have their merits is a discussion for another time. But there’s no arguing that volunteering has intrinsic value all on its own.

There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the day-to-day work environment and uniting coworkers in a common and worthwhile goal. Volunteering builds camaraderie and promotes empathy, simultaneously connecting coworkers and communities.

 3. Boost Employee Satisfaction
We’ve been talking about “work-life balance” for so long now that the phrase has lost meaning for many of us. The separation between work and life is increasingly hard to define.

The result is that both employers and employees are expecting more from each other. With mobile technology we’re constantly connected, and employers are encroaching more and more on the personal. Employees, meanwhile, are looking for employers that reflect their values and help them to express their own.

By incorporating volunteering into a benefits package that prioritizes work-life balance, companies are recognizing that their employees have passions outside of the office and are supporting them in the pursuit of those passions. Bakers and bikers alike are encouraged to show off their skills for a worthy cause. They’ll thank you for it with their loyalty – employee retention is directly tied to how people feel about their work-life balance.

The Moral of the Story
Volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving. So whether you hold direct sway over your company’s culture – as an HR employee or as a small business owner, for example – or you’re just one employee trying to make a difference, it’s time for a shift in perspective. Start thinking about volunteering as an investment: in yourself, and in your company’s success.

Alison Grenkie is a marketer and blogger who is passionate about volunteering, travel, and environmental issues. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insights.

Image Source: HubSpot Free Stock Photos

Celebrate the Fun Side of Volunteering with #FestiVOL15

Celebrate National Volunteer Week with VolunteerMatchEmployee volunteer programs have a myriad of benefits. One of the top, and often overlooked, benefits? They’re fun.

This National Volunteer Week (April 12-18, 2015), VolunteerMatch is celebrating the fun side of volunteering with our second annual FestiVOL. Time to put on those party hats, dig out those noisemakers, and shout with us, “Volunteering is AWESOME!”

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. One of our #FestiVOL15 goals is to help you, your company, and your employees strengthen and get creative with your employee volunteer program. We want you to get the most out of National Volunteer Week.

To help reach this goal, each day of the week we’ll post three nuggets of information: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. Check out our #FestiVOL15 webpage to follow along as they’re posted. You and your employees can also follow the hashtag #FestiVOL15 on Twitter to see everything as it’s released, and to join in the fun yourself!

Whether you run a great employee volunteer program, volunteer through your company, or volunteer on your own time, here’s to you!

Employee Volunteerism: Why Not All Companies?

Guest post by Emily Rothberg

This post originally appeared on Emily’s Blog.

Office Workers in Front of a WindowIt seems easy. Why doesn’t every company offer employee volunteer programs?

More and more companies are offering paid volunteer time off (VTO), with the CECP 2014 Giving in Numbers Report showing 59% in 2013, an 8% increase from 2010. And, the business case for employee volunteerism is beyond well-documented.

So, why aren’t employee volunteer programs standard practice? Two business challenges can undermine the best of intentions: Determining what counts, and determining the end game.

What Counts?
If a company’s employees volunteer, does that a program make?

How a company decides to track and report time, or recognize and reward employee volunteer efforts, matters. If my manager allows me to leave work an hour early to prepare a meal for a homeless shelter, and I make up that hour by coming in early the next day, is that a program? If I plant trees at my daughter’s school and input those hours in the company’s volunteerism platform, should the company get credit for the activity? And, if the answer to these scenarios is yes, does any company not have a volunteer program?

On the other end of the spectrum, if what counts are only activities aligned with a company’s strategy, or managed by the corporate citizenship/ CSR staff, such as a company day of community service with a pre-approved menu of activities, and my supervisor is strongly encouraging my participation, have I been “volun-told?” Have we messed with the entire spirit of volunteerism?

What’s the End Game?
If a company hasn’t outlined its employee volunteer program goals and defined how to measure success, does that company have a strategy?

Take the practices of rewarding and recognizing volunteers with paid time off and/ or funding (“dollars for doers”). Yes, employees and their nonprofit partners are grateful, and the whole notion feels democratic, as everybody’s effort counts, and no single activity is deemed more worthy than the next. But, while $250 matching gifts surely help smaller nonprofits operate day-to-day, donations of this size don’t add up in the societal impact equation. Can a company looking to make a significant impact, or even distinguish itself with stakeholders, accomplish those goals with a basic “follow-your-passion” strategy?

For those who take on the employee volunteerism challenge, does every company deserve bragging rights? How about two criteria for assessing success:

Core Business Practice
While the cliché “it’s part of our DNA” has become ubiquitous, volunteering at top companies is truly a year-round, CEO-to-intern component of a company’s business. Beyond enthusiastic tweets on annual days of service, executives serve on nonprofit boards and lead pro bono initiatives. Employees such as line workers, who don’t typically have an easy time leaving their work place, have options for meaningful volunteerism. When HR recruits on campuses, and managers speak with customers, giving back through volunteer time is framed as a core business value.

In sum, the company’s volunteerism rules of the road for what counts and how it’s counted are spelled out clearly. The company adopts and communicates consistent standards of conduct and appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Integrated Strategy
In leading companies, the CSR department doesn’t own employee volunteerism – volunteering is everybody’s business. Rather than passive recipients of a top-down corporate strategy, employees play an active role in developing and executing employee volunteerism guidelines and programs.

In these companies, employee volunteerism is a component of a larger corporate citizenship strategy, and options range from episodic, hands-on volunteering to deep, skilled volunteerism. Companies view their employees as their greatest asset and actualize that mindset by developing their next generation of leaders through nonprofit board service or pro bono engagements. These human-capital volunteer activities also address the nonprofit sector’s most mission-critical needs and long-term viability challenges.

The reality is this: Companies face tough choices in designing and operating effective employee volunteerism programs. Best practice programs engage employees’ heads, hands, and hearts to drive business value and maximize social impact. The end goal isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s a vision worth working toward, and surely one within our grasp.

Emily Rothberg & Company helps companies thrive by donating their time, talent and treasure. It also helps nonprofits grow corporate support for greater impact. In her blog, Emily shares insights from her years inside corporate America, intertwined with thoughts from her clients, as well as long-time colleagues.

CSR Food For Thought: Does CSR Overlook Children’s Rights?

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The 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 blog post every Monday. Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Lego CEO: ‘if we don’t deal with children’s basic rights, we will have a difficult future’
In the CSR world, children are often overlooked. That’s the viewpoint of Lego group’s chief executive, and it’s why Lego has partnered with UNICEF. Together, they want to make protecting children’s rights the norm. This article from the Guardian looks at how they plan to take on this issue, and how they plan to encourage other companies to do the same.

How to Engage Employees in Sustainability
This report from the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) dives deep into how to make sustainability a part of your company culture. In other words, how to get your employees on board. Whether you’re a single location or global company, you’ll find tips on how to make sustainability meaningful for your employees.

Time Warner Cable Exceeds “Go Green” Goal By Reducing Its Carbon Intensity by 38 Percent
There’s one component of Time Warner Cable’s sustainability efforts that I particularly love. What is it? They put power in the hands of their employees. Last year, Time Warner Cable introduced “Green Teams”, 15 employee teams around the country who help push environmental efforts forward. It seems to be working, because in this press release on CSRwire, they announce that they’ve surpassed their goals by 15 percent. Well done, Time Warner Cable!

100 Lilly Employees Selected for Connecting Hearts Abroad
Lilly takes its employee volunteer program great distances – literally. Since 2011, Lilly has been sending employees to volunteer in various parts of the world as “Lilly Ambassadors”. As Lilly puts it, “It gets us out of the labs and from behind the computers. It allows to see the world through new eyes.” This post on their blog features an infographic which describes the Connecting Hearts Abroad program and highlights this year’s chosen volunteers.

How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Jennifer Bennett, Senior Manager of Education and Training

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 Jennifer Bennett, Senior Manager of Education and Training at VolunteerMatchSo, who are you?
I’m Jennifer Bennett. I joined VolunteerMatch in 2007 to formalize and manage the volunteer engagement program. I also help VolunteerMatch’s community of nonprofits better recruit and engage volunteers, such as through the webinars found on the Learning Center.

Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer with the Justice & Diversity Center at Project Homeless Connect. I help run the Legal Aid, California DMV/ID, and Vital Records area. Mostly, that means that I try to coordinate chaos! We see over 350 clients during each Project Homeless Connect and I make sure that those clients are seen quickly and move smoothly through the DMV/ID area, as well as teach people how to obtain a copy of their birth certificate.

What is the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
I wouldn’t use the word “fun” to describe what I do, but I do find it rewarding and meaningful. The part I enjoy the most is helping clients navigate the complex process of getting a California ID, or meeting with a lawyer. Both of those activities are challenging in a day-to-day setting, and this becomes much more challenging when you’re facing homelessness, when English isn’t your first language, or if you aren’t familiar with government systems. When I can help a client get an ID so they can get a bed in a shelter or apply for benefits, I know I’ve made a difference in that person’s quality of life.

Can you share a story or two from your time volunteering?
Every Project Homeless Connect is full of stories – you get to meet and know the people in this city that many people just walk by. But as overwhelming as the problem of homelessness can be, and as much as it can feel like one person can’t make a difference, volunteering is a reminder that one person can.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
I could use regular PTO to volunteer, since it’s only once every few months. But, the fact that I don’t have to – that I have VTO – makes it much easier to do. It’s also great to know that my volunteering is supported by my employer.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve spent most of my career working with volunteers and supporting the work that they do. I don’t think I could be as good at my job as I am if I wasn’t also an active volunteer. Every time I go out to volunteer I’m reminded about what makes an awesome volunteer opportunity, and how I should be treating, supporting, and recognizing the volunteers that I work with. I’m incredibly thankful to have that opportunity.

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.