2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Why We Went to Detroit and What We Saw There

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. Today’s special post highlights the tour we took of Detroit and why the city proved to be a great choice of location.

Public Art in Detroit

Public Art in Detroit

“Why did you pick Detroit for this year’s Client Summit?”

This was the question posed to me many times during the Wednesday night reception at this year’s VolunteerMatch Client Summit. And it’s a good question. Detroit isn’t your typical conference destination anymore, but it is rooted deep in America’s history. In response to the question, I shared the goal of our destination choice: To draw attention to a city on the rebound and show the importance of communities and companies working together for local benefit.

More than just explain this, we wanted our clients to see it firsthand. So, we loaded up a bus on Thursday morning for a city tour put together by the United Way of Southeastern Michigan. As we drove through the different neighborhoods, it became clear that Detroit is not as vibrant as it once was. Yet, signs of rebirth were everywhere!  We saw and heard about a thriving artist community taking hold in various neighborhoods. There are new industries and a growing foodie scene. Investors such as Dan Gilbert are putting their money and resources toward rebuilding the city’s business district.

The story of the old Detroit Tigers baseball stadium was my favorite from the tour. Our guide explained that for years after the stadium was torn down, the city didn’t have the money to maintain the open space. It was destined to become yet another area of blight in the city. So, residents took matters into their own hands. Every week, they would mow the lawn and maintain a field. Today it’s a baseball field open to the public.

Inspiring stories like this are common in Detroit. Detroit is certainly filled with challenges and uncertainty, but the people are committed to a common goal of restoring it to a prominent and thriving U.S. city. We finished our tour at a local school that equips Detroit’s youth with the skills they need to create a thriving future. With their impressive dedication, it won’t be long until the people of Detroit have achieved their goal.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Overcoming CSR Challenges as an “Intrapreneur”

Guest Post by Danielle Holly

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: REsiliency Doesn’t Have a Sector.

Picture of Danielle Holly

Danielle Holly, CEO, Common Impact

While we all know that it takes institutional support to make corporate social responsibility and pro bono programs succeed over the long term, it also requires purpose-driven individuals who are willing to roll up their sleeves and create the kind of change employees, businesses and the community want to see. We had a room of these “intrapreneurs” at the VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit earlier this fall.

Here are a few of the themes that came up in our discussion, which corporate change-makers are striving to address every day:

The workforce has transformed: Over the past 20 years, the workforce has completely transformed. The corporate “lifer” is a thing of the past. Employees are switching jobs and sectors every 2-3 years. They’re increasingly remote, and they’re focused on building careers that make a measurable impact on society. This workforce is also 70% disengaged* in their current role, suggesting there are far too many employees who are unhappy, frustrated or actively seeking other opportunities. This environment leaves companies asking the question, “How am I going to recruit, engage, and retain my future leaders?”

Engaging the disengaged?  Companies know they need to provide real opportunities to engage the time and talent of their employees beyond the holiday food and fundraising drives. But how?  Many of our session participants said that it’s the same employees that engage time and time again in all of the volunteer opportunities they offer. Is it worth it to continue to try to involve employees that aren’t responding, aren’t engaging, and just don’t seem interested? Or should these already-strapped corporate managers focus on enriching the experience of the employees that are coming to the table on their own?

Activating beyond the “corporate” base:  Finally, how do you get hourly, part-time, contract, and front-line employees engaged in service when it’s challenging or impossible for them to leave their post? Manufacturing, retail, healthcare and other sectors that rely heavily on these employees are struggling with how to make volunteer programs available to their full workforce – not just their corporate marketing, HR and finance arms.

All of these challenges require slightly different approaches from each of the companies that joined the recent conversation in Detroit, but there is one imperative for progress across the board: These corporate employee engagement initiatives need to be a core part of the company’s business. This integration needs to happen not just in ethos or messaging — though that’s helpful — but in budget, resourcing and measurement.

Once that becomes a reality for more companies, these intrapreneurs will have a tangible foundation on which to build. They can then have the ability to experiment with new programs and new incentives that activate those disengaged employees. They can have the personnel budgets to staff appropriately so that hourly employees can get out in the community and support nonprofit leaders in building better businesses. And most importantly, they can provide evidence of impact to justify the support they need. They’ll know, along with their companies, that their efforts to build a purpose-driven workforce are working.

For resources and more information, view the slides from this session.

*Source: Gallup 2013 Report: State of the American Workplace
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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: The How and Why of Global Pro Bono

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: REview Your Company’s World View: Global Pro Bono.

Global World MapMore and more multinational companies are getting their employees involved in pro bono work. Ever wonder how these large, effective employee volunteer programs got started and how your company can follow suit? At this years’ VolunteerMatch Client Summit, we were lucky enough to hear from leaders at Dow, JPMorgan Chase and PYXERA Global about just that. Here’s a quick summary of my takeaways from this awesome session.


  • Gavin Cepelak: Director, International Corporate Volunteerism at PYXERA Global
  • Michelle Langley: Program Leader, Dow Sustainability Corps/ Global Disaster Relief/ STEM at The Dow Chemical Company
  • Tosha M. Tabron: Vice President, Relationship Manager, Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase

What is Global Pro Bono?

  • Employees cross international borders to serve local clients using the skills from their daily jobs.
  • Their projects offer economic and social benefit to local organizations and communities.

Who Benefits?

  • Employees develop hard and soft skills, increase motivation, and improve leadership competencies.
  • Local NGOs and clients get better access to resources and new technologies, achieve greater capacity, and grow the scope and success of their services.
  • Businesses reinforce positive corporate culture, strengthen brand reputation, identify new market opportunities, spark product and service development, and grow employee recruitment and retention.

Examples from the Field

  • The Dow Sustainability Corps sent 78 employees in 2013 and 2014 to Ghana and Ethiopia to work on projects relating to water, agriculture, education, housing, and public health & sanitation.
  • JPMorgan Chase Financial Services Corps partnered with IBM to send employees to Brazil and India in 2013 and 2014.

Lessons Learned

  • Recruit your high achieving, high potential employees across all departments to engage in these projects. You are investing in future globally competent leaders for your company.
  • Don’t forget virtual! Employees can engage with local NGOs through virtual consulting for months in advance of shorter visits abroad. This keeps cost down and optimizes impact.
  • Partnerships are everything. You don’t have to do this alone! Work with other corporations and established NGOs to identify highest need and implement successful projects. Organizations like PYXERA Global can help with these connections.

Interested in learning more? View the slides from this presentation.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: Come On, Get Happy!

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: REally Happy Employees: The Impact of Well-being.

Picture of John C. Haven

John C. Haven, The H(app)athon Project

When was the last time you found yourself laughing hysterically in a conference session? Oh, and also watching a video of a dog try to speak? For me, the start of the “REally Happy Employees: The Impact of Well-being” session at our recent Client Summit was the start of a high-energy discussion on the potential impact employee happiness and well-being can have on your CSR programs.

John C. Havens, founder and executive director of The H(app)athon Project, introduced us to some very interesting concepts in just 45 minutes. He showed how wearable and emerging technologies are transforming the workplace and challenging us to measure employee well-being to drive positive bottom-line results.

The most refreshing thing about the discussion was that the session itself was an experiment in the very topic being discussed! In other words, Havens had everyone in the room smiling, talking with one another, and asking questions about how their own programs might improve with a little bit of humanity. Imagine the company that provides Fitbits to its employees and ends up saving money on health insurance costs. Or, how about the organization that determines which activities excite employees most (working with kids, being outdoors, etc.) and integrates those specific projects as part of its Global Day of Caring? Mixing common sense and very complicated technologies, and ultimately infusing a little humanity back in the workplace, clearly resonated with everyone in the room.

For me, it was a chance to think differently for a few moments and remember that the programs we’re all managing are about the people and relationships – not just the hours tracked.

For more happiness, view the full slide deck from this presentation. You can also check out 2012 World Happiness Report and explore the Gross National Happiness Index.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights:  What is Your EVP Data Saying?

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: REanalyze: What is Your EVP Data Saying?

“How are we doing?”

Picture of Jake Sanches

Jake Sanches, internal metrics and analytics guru at Palantir Technologies

This is the most common question our client services team hears from our corporate and nonprofit partners. And it should be. Employee volunteer programs, like any other business expenditure, need to demonstrate impact and value to multiple audiences. Data is critical to the success and continued support of EVPs, especially since these programs are relatively new in the corporate world and don’t yet have an established set of benchmarks.

So, how can your organization answer that oh-so-common question: How are we doing?

There are some existing guideposts, such as the number of hours employees contribute, the social value generated (a calculation based on numbers from the Independent Sector), the percent of employees engaged, and so on. However, because of the lack of public benchmarks, small sample sizes for specific company types and sizes, and the fact that companies have different cultures, priorities, and history when it comes volunteering, it’s very hard to make valid comparisons. At VolunteerMatch, we often suggest that each company, with some guidance, take it upon themselves to identify outcomes that reflect their priorities and keep an eye on these outcomes over time.

The most important thing is, if not to fall in love, then at least fall in like with data! VolunteerMatch wants to lead this charge. This summer and fall, we worked with Jake Sanches, a volunteer from Palantir Technologies. We designed and sent a survey to our clients asking what metrics are important to them, how they use data, and how VolunteerMatch can improve its reporting dashboard and quarterly reports.

During his presentation at the Client Summit, Jake discussed the survey’s findings. He demonstrated how big data has made its way into the public consciousness through sites like Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, and how data can be a significant driver in the development of your EVP. Jake then covered how to choose the right metrics for your program and brought up commonly overlooked metrics. These included: Finding volunteers based on tenure to make sure new employees are getting into the program quickly, discovering your rock star volunteers so they can help spread the word, determining the time of year most popular for volunteering, and much more. He concluded with a list of best practices for communicating data to different audiences.

In summary, if you really want your EVP to soar, data is critical. You can start small, with just a few easy metrics, and as your program evolves, you can expand. You might even find some hidden gems that reflect something unique to your company. Incorporating a metrics-centered approach will not only give you a better idea of what’s going on with your program right now, but will help you plan for the future, help you to make the case for expansion and budget increases, and will generate great storytelling material.

For more details on this topic, view the slides from Jake’s presentation. You can also watch the video from his encore Webinar.

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2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit Insights: 5 Things Good Leaders Do

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: REinventing Giving and Engagement.

charlesandpremalLast month I had the privilege of introducing two of my heroes, Premal Shah, President of Kiva and Charles Best, Founder & CEO of DonorsChoose.org, as our Keynote speakers at the 2014 VolunteerMatch Client Summit in Detroit.

We asked them to have a conversation with each other about how technology is reinventing giving and engagement. As they were talking back and forth and sharing their stories, I was struck by how two gifted leaders go about educating, engaging and inspiring an audience to get involved. Needless to say, they are both very good at it….

Read the rest of Greg Baldwin’s post to find out the five things that make leaders like Premal and Charles so good. 


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