Loop Them In: How to Help Your Remote Employees Feel like Local Volunteers

A Whirlpool employee works on some sporting equipment during the company's Volunteer Week.

A Whirlpool employee works on some sporting equipment during the company’s Volunteer Week.

Whether your company is large or small, many volunteer programs face the challenge of successfully communicating and implementing a volunteer program for their field-based and remote employees.

Unlike a typical employee environment, these remote employees may be working odd hours that don’t coordinate with group volunteering, or working in an inconvenient location that doesn’t allow them to volunteer with their coworkers, or even volunteer at all! Employees who don’t get to participate in the group volunteering activities put on by your company may feel out of the loop and frustrated about not being able to contribute to your program’s goal to improve the community.

However, as a program manager, you can still reinforce the importance of volunteering for both your employee’s well being and the company’s. Remind both employees and leadership that volunteering boosts morale and productivity and improves the reputation of the company. These are good reasons why your volunteer program should be designed to encourage all types of volunteering environments.

With that in mind, here are some successful ways you can “loop in” your remote employees:

Grow an Employee Forest with Arbor Day Foundation

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers plant trees

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers plant trees

The Arbor Day Foundation (an awesome member of the VolunteerMatch network) is helping companies empower their workers with the “Employee Forest” campaign. Tree saplings are delivered to the employee’s office or home, and in turn, the employee can plant the tree in their yard or local park. This gives the employee the chance to plant the tree in a special place with their family or friends on the weekend, no matter how “remote” of a worker they are.

The amazing thing about the Employee Forest campaign is how every party benefits. Companies are making an impact in multiple communities by having employees’ plant trees in different locations. Employees feel good about their employer and themselves for the chance to give back to their communities and spend time with their loved ones, no matter how far away they may be from the home office.

Pre-Shift Meetings at MGM

MGM, a stellar VolunteerMatch client, uses “pre-shift” meetings to engage employees who are working a shift on the floor. A manager debriefs a staff person before his or her shift starts on what’s going on in the world of MGM volunteering.

The managers get their staff involved by filling them in on how many hours the company tracked last year, local nonprofits that may need help on their days off, or simply opening up the floor for these employees to plan a volunteering event together. This gives these employees, who may never see each other during their shifts but still work the same hours, a way to start off their work day feeling involved and knowing their volunteering options.

Virtual Volunteering is Real Volunteering

On average, VolunteerMatch has over 4,500 virtual volunteering opportunities posted on our website at any given time. If employees feel like they can’t leave their desks, work in a remote location, or physically can’t move around too much, VolunteerMatch offers thousands of options for them to work from wherever they are! Employees can choose opportunities that match their skills, such as putting together a communications plan for a nonprofit, or something outside the box like knitting hats for premature infants. There really is something for everyone!

As a company, you want your employees to feel like a part of the team when it comes to giving back, even if they can’t attend the group volunteering outings. Empower ALL of the workers who represent your company to contribute to the volunteer program by looping them in with choices that fit their lifestyles and passions.

How does your company engage remote and non-traditional employees in your volunteer program?

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VolunteerMatch’s Corporate Volunteering Network is Now Global!

VolunteerMatch to Pilot International Expansion of Corporate Volunteering Network Using TechSoup Global TechnologyToday we announced a new partnership with TechSoup Global, an international network that leverages technology to help build the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to increase social impact across the globe.

We will leverage each other’s strengths in technologies for the greater good. The collaboration enables the growth of VolunteerMatch’s expansive network of U.S.- based nonprofits to include NGOs from around the world by utilizing TechSoup Global’s technology to validate these organizations.

This pilot project promises to strengthen the global NGO community and amplify the social impact of employee volunteer programs — no matter where they are.

Through TechSoup Global’s unparalleled international NGO partner network and its expertise in NGO validation, we will begin providing our volunteer engagement services outside the U.S. for the first time. We’ll be initially offering the service for our community of corporate clients (like you!) and will make international listings available to your employees around the world. This pilot project promises to strengthen the global NGO community and amplify the social impact of employee volunteer programs — no matter where they are.

We are piloting the initiative in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and is evaluating additional countries and regions.

To learn more about this exciting partnership, check out the full press release.

Do you work with charity and NGO partners outside the U.S.? Make sure they know they can now use VolunteerMatch to connect with great volunteers!

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Tracking the Data: What NOT to Do in the RFP Process

This article originally appeared on CSRWire Talkback, as part of a series related to the annual Charities@Work Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship, happening this week in New York City. Director of VolunteerMatch Solutions Seth Thompson shares some tips drawing on his years of experience helping companies navigate the process of purchasing software to help manage their employee volunteer programs.

What not to do during an RFP processSo it’s finally time to start looking into software solutions to help manage your volunteer and giving programs.

Have you been putting it off due to how much work you think it will be to evaluate and buy a system? Think it’s easier to continue with your Excel program approach than go through a purchasing process at your company? Maybe it’s been a while since you were in the market and you remember not being impressed many years ago with the sophistication and capabilities of the solutions available.

Times have changed and today there are many viable software solutions on the market that can help make your job easier while enhancing and adding value to your program.

One common approach that many companies take toward purchasing software solutions is an RFP (Request for Proposal). RFPs are designed to help companies review what’s available in the market and make a better-informed buying decision. Typically, RFPs for software solutions are structured to ask questions that identify everything from the vendor’s company structure, services available, customer support, security policies and cost.

Making a Plan to Balance Costs and Needs

However, one size doesn’t fit all for today’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. And if you have never participated in an RFP before it can be difficult to articulate on paper the specific needs you have. You need a plan.

One of the main challenges in the RFPs I have participated in is that often CSR professionals let someone from the procurement department take ownership over and write the RFP questions. That person typically has very little knowledge about what your department’s needs or goals are when it comes to buying a software solution. Their primary concern is making sure a certain number of vendors are reviewed and finding the lowest cost solution.

However, just like hiring someone to do work on your home, the lowest quote you receive is not always the best person to hire. Finding a balance between your budget and feature needs is critical, which is why you must play an active role in the RFP process from start to finish.

Eight Tips to Ensure a Successful RFP Process

  1. Make sure that you and your team are involved in every detail of developing the RFP questions, format and criteria. Don’t be afraid to push back internally and assert yourself in the process.
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  3. Spend some time speaking with your peers at other companies to find out about their experiences with different vendors. This will help to decide whom to invite to participate by understanding how they work with other companies. You may be able to eliminate some vendors based on the feedback you receive right off the bat.
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  5. Before you begin writing the RFP questions, sit down with your team and identify the top five or 10 must-haves (the non-negotiables) when it comes to a software solution. No one provider will be able to meet every specific need so you have to make sure you understand what is most important to your program. I also recommend speaking with your IT team to learn about any specific requirements they have related to integrating a software solution within your company.
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  7. Once you begin the RFP process, focus on finding the best solution to meet your team’s needs and not be swayed by internal pressures that may arise. Selecting vendors who are best in class for your different CSR programs is vital to your long term success.
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  9. Invite the service providers participating in the RFP to a short introductory call so that they can learn more about your CSR program before they begin their reply. Giving them the courtesy of being able to understand and ask questions about your program will better inform their RFP responses.
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  11. When reviewing the RFP responses, make sure you are making an apples-to-apples comparison of the different providers. Each service provider offers different features and strengths. For example, some vendors charge additional set-up and support fees, while some offer exclusive features and content. All of these can contribute to different price points and value. Create a comparison spreadsheet to make sure you understand what you are getting from each vendor.
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  13. After reviewing the RFP responses and narrowing it down to your top two or three finalists, call some companies you know work with each vendor that they didn’t list as references. These conversations will give you a realistic picture about what to expect and make you more confident in your decision making process.
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  15. Lastly, before making your final decision, take some time to get to know the finalists and their products and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. A flashy product demonstration is not a good way to evaluate whether or not a product is right for you. Look to find a sales representative who listens to your needs, shares ideas and best practices, provides input, and helps support your buying decision. It’s their job to not only help you understand their product, but to be your guide to making an informed buying decision.

An RFP process can be time consuming and challenging. However, if you put the time into the process you will be rewarded with a vendor that fulfills your service needs and helps achieve your company’s CSR goals.

What are challenges and successes you can share when it comes to the RFP process for volunteering and giving program software solutions?

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Mercer’s Incredible Accomplishment: The Year of 5x

MerceronTrail

Mercer colleagues volunteer to clean up a trail in Seattle.

In 2013 Mercer employees tracked over 26,000 volunteer hours – more than 5 times what they recorded in 2012. How did they do it?

Mercer is a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement, and investments. The company is a subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, which is a VolunteerMatch corporate client. According to Deb Krause, who is a Principal at Mercer, the VolunteerMatch platform is one of the valuable tools Marsh & McLennan provides its companies that helped Mercer achieve such stunning success in their employee volunteering program.

VolunteerMatch data shows that the top causes supported by Mercer colleagues during 2013 were children & youth and education & literacy (50% in total). However, colleagues also enjoy volunteering for a variety of other causes, as shown by the breadth of volunteering Mercer colleagues were involved in throughout the year.

What were they keys to Mercer’s incredible achievement? Click below to learn the four ingredients Deb and other volunteer leaders at Mercer identified as being keys to their success.

Read the rest of Mercer’s inspiring story…

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CSR Food for Thought: ROI-Proving Research

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.

Do socially responsible business practices influence the value of your company? Research says yes.

And so does Katherine Smith, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. In this succinct blog post, she summarizes a growing collection of research that shows a clear link between corporate financial performance and social performance. CSR shows a correlation with everything from access to capital, to investment returns, to reputation and brand value.

Cold Winter, Warm Story

Read about (and see inspiring pictures of) Amway’s annual volunteer program in Guatemala, when teams from the US, Central America, South America and the Caribbean descend on Guatemala to build homes alongside families who need them. This Habitat for Humanity project goes back nearly a decade, and is responsible for funding and building entire neighborhoods of homes in remote areas of the country. Most volunteers come back year after year, falling in love with the people, the land, and the experience.

What Will Influence Business and Purpose Globally in 2014?

Carol Cone, Global Practice Chair of Edelman Business & Social Purpose and a former VolunteerMatch Client Summit keynote speaker, takes a look a growing trends and shifting relationships between corporate, government, and charity sector strategies during 2014. In this particular post she focuses on what she predicts for four key regions: the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Tracking the Data: What Not to Do in the RFP Process

As part of a special Tech series curated by Charities@Work on CSRWire Talkback, our own Director of VolunteerMatch Solutions Seth Thompson describes the pitfalls and challenges faced by so many companies when looking for tools to help manage employee volunteering and giving. Take a look at Seth’s tips for success – after all, he truly is the expert!

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Enhance Social AND Business Value through Strategic Employee Volunteerism

Guest post by Sophia John

Schwab employees get into the volunteering spirit.

Schwab employees get into the volunteering spirit.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has rapidly turned into a fundamental strategy for businesses. The field has demonstrated that even locally-based or small companies can make an impact in their communities by working with local nonprofits. Employee volunteer programs, specifically, provide great value for both the employees engaged in the service and the business itself.

Employee volunteering can help your business as follows:

  • It provides a great opportunity for employee team-building.
  • It helps your business become more involved in overcoming social issues.
  • It can strengthen public trust in your business.
  • It will help you build strong relationships both within your company and in your larger community.

Employee volunteering can help your employees as follows:

  • It can build skills, self-esteem, and efficiency.
  • It enables interaction among employees in different departments.
  • Employees will gain experience working within different sectors of business.
  • Employees can reduce stress-related symptoms and focus on being happier at work.

There are a number of groups popping up that are focused on helping businesses establish employee volunteer programs as strategic part of what they do and who they are including VolunteerMatch and various Corporate Volunteer Councils around the country.

An Omasaze, Inc. reading mentor and her student.

An Omasaze, Inc. reading mentor and her student.

Top companies that are successfully involved in strategic employee volunteerism include Cisco and Deloitte, among others. Cisco’s global projects provide education, healthcare, monetary empowerment, and calamity liberation to areas in need. Cisco employee teams get involved in their local communities by organizing donation projects and events.

Deloitte employees have the opportunity to lead conferences that provide training on corporate volunteerism. Deloitte has realized that engaging employees in skills-based volunteer programs can have long term impact on employee productivity and retention.

Your company should now be focusing on how to do CSR smarter – specifically, how to integrate it into your core business strategies. And a key piece of this will most certainly be engaging employees in volunteering.

Sophia John is a writer and blogger, and always looking towards new ideas and knowledge. She likes to help students by giving custom essay writing tips.

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