Plan a Service Day You and Your Corporate Volunteers will Love

Editor’s note: In honor of VM Summit 16, which is all about corporate/ nonprofit collaboration, this series of volunteerism-related blog posts will take one topic and explain how it’s relevant to both groups. Today’s topic? Planning Days of Service. Check out our other blog, Volunteering is CSR, for the same topic from the perspective of corporate volunteer managers.

Despite new trends in corporate volunteering, the classic “Day of Service” remains popular among companies. This is when large groups of employees get out of the office to work on one or more volunteer projects in their communities.

Why is it popular? Well, it’s great for team-building, exposes employees to new causes, and is usually pretty fun. It’s also GREAT for photo opps:

VolunteerMatch Staff at the SF Marin Food Bank

How do you plan a day of service that’s equally as beneficial for your nonprofit?

To help answer this question, we turned to Jaci Feinstein, Vice President of Right Hand Events—a full-service event planning and meeting management agency. Jaci also serves as Founder and Board Chair for HandsOn San Diego. In short, she knows her stuff when it comes to planning successful days of service.

The following is a summary of what Jaci had to say. We’ve also thrown in a few insights of our own, informed by VolunteerMatch’s years of working with nonprofits and companies on their volunteer programs.

Let’s start with something that may not be as obvious as it seems: Not all nonprofits can benefit from a service day. This is important. It’s so important we’ll say it again: Not all nonprofits can benefit from a day of service. Think critically about the goals of your organization and its capacity to handle volunteers before deciding to go down the service day road.

But remember, the related costs of the event don’t need to fall on you. “Ask for monetary support,” encourages Jaci, “not just for supplies, but for your staff time to manage the project.”

You can also budget for outside support from experts and professionals. “If painting, building, gardening, or managing 100+ people at one time is not something you do on a regular basis, get support,” recommends Jaci.

Jaci also recommends having backup plans if the volunteers get their work done too quickly, or if they don’t get the project completed in time. Here’s what to do if…

…volunteers are just too fast! Have a few small projects that volunteers can help you with if they want to stay for the full time. Cleaning or organizational projects are great backup projects.

…volunteers don’t finish the project. It’s best to talk through this scenario with the company lead before their service day. Are the volunteers willing to come back? Is there another group that may be able to finish the project? Could they pay for a “professional” to finish the project if needed?

I can’t stress enough how important the initial planning period is. Though you may be eager to get started, an initial time investment for planning will pay off in the long run. Ask a lot of questions to ensure you have shared expectations for the day. The planning process should include open and deliberate communication between you and your nonprofit partner.

“Think outside-the-box but make sure the project meets your needs,” says Jaci. “Corporate volunteer projects should be a win-win”.

She suggests that on the day of the event, you can lean on volunteer “task leaders” for support. These people can either be your own volunteers, or volunteers from the company that you have connected with beforehand.

And at the end of the project, Jaci encourages you to share ways the individual volunteers or company can continue supporting you. After all, you may find your next board member, advisor, or rockstar recurring volunteer at one of these projects.

Thanks for all the advice, Jaci! Learn about Right Hand Events’ volunteer team-building and community service projects.