Why GM and Apollo Education Group Say Volunteering is Transformational

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Sabin Blake, General Motors

VolunteerMatch caught up with some of the speakers, sponsors and presenters from the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit and asked them what they thought about the event and about corporate volunteerism. We heard from General Motors, MGM Resorts International, and ConAgra Foods, to name a few.

Sabin Blake of General Motors said, “Volunteerism has been absolutely transformational for our organization… I think it’s really helpful to hear from other companies their perspective of the challenges they’ve gone through to create a program, to sustain a program.”

 

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Lauren Keeler, Apollo Education Group

Lauren Keeler of Apollo Education Group said, “Volunteering has been transformational for our company because it really gives our employees the chance to get to know another facet of our organization. They get to understand more about our community impact and our values. It provides them an opportunity to get to know each other on a different level when they’re not in the office.”

Find out what everyone else had to say. Watch the interviews.

 

14 CSR Insights from the ’14 VolunteerMatch Client Summit

On September 18-19, 2014, VolunteerMatch welcomed 120 participants representing 60 companies to Detroit, MI, for the annual VolunteerMatch Client Summit. We hope you followed along as we summarized each summit session in this series of blog posts. From hearing inspiring keynotes, to participating in group discussions, to seeing firsthand the progress of the Detroit community – it was truly an event to remember.

However, if you’re just tuning in now, don’t worry! You can get all of the key insights from the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in one convenient PDF. Topics include employee well-being, engaging millennials, creative CSR strategies, and much, much more.

Download the PDF today:VolunteerMatch Insights - The 2014 Client Summit

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.

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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.

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Building Nonprofit Partnerships that Work

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: Pool Your REsources: Building Cross Sector Collaboration for High Impact.

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Jamie Wagner, Senior Communications Specialist & Project Leader, ConAgra Foods

I’m always amazed by the breadth and depth of our partners’ CSR programs. In this session, Jamie Wagner of ConAgra Foods, Sabin Blake of GM, and Hannah Hoskins of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan took us on a dive deep into the inner workings of their programs. We learned about different ways companies and nonprofits work together to organize resources and address community needs.

Jamie showed us how ConAgra strives to decrease astoundingly high child hunger rates in the U.S. through a partnership with Feeding America. In 1993, ConAgra began supporting the Kids Café program which helps feed children during summer breaks from school. Today these kinds of efforts are integrated into the company, and many ConAgra employees volunteer at hunger-related organizations.

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Sabin Blake, Marketing Manager – Cadillac Global Marketing, General Motors

While ConAgra has a singular focus, GM focuses on four areas: Education, environment, health, and community. Because of this, they have many nonprofit partnerships. At this session, they showcased their work with the United Way of Southeastern Michigan in Detroit. To quote the United Way, “We have a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG): To be a driving force in making Greater Detroit a top-five place to live and work by the year 2030.” In Detroit, a city that went from population of 2 million to 800 thousand, everyone you meet seems to be behind that goal.

As with many forward-looking goals, schools are a great place to start. Sabin and Hannah talked about how GM donated $27 million to the United Way’s Network of Excellence School program. The objective? To increase high school graduation rates from 50% to 80%. They are currently on track to achieve this by 2015. Sabin also helped start GM’s first official volunteer program, teamGM Cares, to assist the United Way. GM employees and retirees support the Network of Excellence program by volunteering to tutor and mentor students, as well as help them develop valuable life and professional skills.

In summary, this session showed attendees that corporate and nonprofit collaboration works. VolunteerMatch is lucky to work with such great organizations and individuals like Jamie, Sabin and Hannah. You can view the full slides from this session here.

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!

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Lauren Keeler, Director, Community Engagement, Apollo Education Group

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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.

2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: How to Turn Transition into Opportunity for 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: REalign: Managing Your EVP During Turning Points & Transitions.

Transitions and turning points in companies can be painful and scary, but they can also open up possibilities and create new efficiency. Alex Price of ADT Corporation and Bill Egan of United Airlines both offered advice on managing an employee volunteer program (EVP) through challenging times at this year’s VolunteerMatch Client Summit.

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Alex Price, Community Relations & Corporate Responsibility, ADT Corporation

Alex explained how he led EVP initiatives during ADT’s spin-off from Tyco. They changed from a huge company headquartered far away to a sizable, but much smaller, organization headquartered at home. This created some serious cultural challenges as well as some excellent opportunities. For example, ADT had the chance to reinvent itself. Alex made sure the employee engagement programs were the center of this culture change. ADT has gone on to create an award-winning EVP that continues to grow and improve.

 

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Bill Egan, Manager, Corporate & Community Affairs, United Airlines

United Airlines faced a similar, yet opposite, situation. They were a large company that got much larger when they merged with Continental. The merger created the opportunity to create a program with the best of both worlds, but the transition had to be managed delicately. The atmosphere was tense as people navigated the transition in an uncertain and changing environment. Bill and his team were able to use their EVP as a way to inspire employees to a purpose, work together, and feel better about the new company.

Alex and Bill shared five key steps to create an EVP that not only survives change, but also helps smooth the bumps that are common with any transition.

 

1. Assess Your Situation

Take a look at your workplace structure, including the culture, programs, workforce and current partners. Whether you are starting from scratch like ADT, or merging like United Airlines, you must evaluate your current situation and pinpoint your own unique needs before moving forward.

2. Develop a Plan Based on Your Situation, Aimed at a New Definition of Success

While change can be unnerving, it allows you to redefine what success means for your newly changed company. Both Alex and Bill recommended plotting your course before acting, determining program focus & branding, making sure focus aligns with the company brand, and deciding which department will house the program.

3. Involve Company Leadership, Obtain Senior-Level Buy-in

Both Alex and Bill could not stress this point enough. They explained that the best way to be successful at this critical step is to get feedback from senior leaders. Learn what they want for the new iteration of the company and discuss their ideas on how the EVP can help get there. Executives should also become champions of key events and connect with the leaders at partner nonprofits.

4. Embed Your EVP into the DNA of the New Entity

Include employee volunteer information in recruiting and on-boarding new employees, weave volunteer engagement into your big moments, and leverage company assets and interdepartmental relationships for your EVP.

As an example, ADT’s corporate structure lent itself to encouraging locations to form their own geographical “Always Cares Committees”. The committees are selected by local executives through an application process. The positions are prestigious and receive leadership recognition.

5. Take Time to Evaluate and Measure

To create ongoing programs that thrive and help your company meet business goals, you must create meaningful measures and metrics that you can track over time. This includes quantifying the value of your program, getting baseline metrics, conducting follow-up studies, reporting on program output, monitoring PR and social media performance, and identifying areas for improvement.

Thank you to both ADT and United Airlines for showing how employee volunteering can use transition as an opportunity to grow and smooth out issues. In both cases, two much stronger companies and brands have emerged. Want to explore this topic further? View the slides from Alex and Bill’s session.