Changing Corporate Perspectives on Workplace Volunteer Programs: Q & A, Part 1

In last month’s Best Practice Webinar, we heard from Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth about Workplace Volunteer Programs.

We discussed the trends and challenges they’re seeing in their work, recommendations on how to inspire employees to volunteer, and the corporation’s role in a higher calling. The webinar was full of great content and discussion, but a few questions from our audience were left unanswered as our allotted time came to a close.

Angela and Chris were kind enough to answer these questions offline. In part of this two-part series, I’m pleased to share these additional insights from Angela and Chris.

Chris and Angela of Realized Worth
Chris Jarvis & Angela Parker

Q: What do you do if your company’s CSR Manager wants to implement a volunteer program, and the CEO says, “Our employees don’t want that.”?

Imagine he’s not open to seeing CECP studies, ROI studies, etc. Is it time time for a coup??

A: This is a great question – and one we hope never comes up! The answer is actually quite simple: there is no substitute for experience. Your employees can only be convinced of the true impact of volunteering when they experience it themselves.

This begs the next question: How do you give the CEO a meaningful experience? One way is to use good old-fashioned peer pressure, by leveraging the social capital of the people around him. This includes trusted advisors, peers and even family/ friends. If the event is run well – with clear linkages to the beneficiary of the cause – transformation can occur. And when that happens, the CEO can realize the influence the company plays in helping everyone achieve that.

This may take awhile, but it’s an essential step in ensuring you have buy-in from executives.

Q: Any advice on how to shift focus from quantity of volunteer events to quality of events? And can you communicate this to get buy-in?

I believe if the markets in my company– we have about 60– directed their focus to fewer, higher quality events per year, we would see more participation from employees. Right now, we’re experiencing volunteer fatigue because there is just too much going on– some markets have 2-3 events per month!

A: There are many answers to this great question. Without knowing your specific circumstance, here are a few tips to prevent volunteer fatigue:

  • Ensure you have diverse opportunities available covering many different causes. If the events are only driven by the company (helping to achieve a “signature” cause), you may be alienating some people. Find out what people care about and encourage people to follow their passion.
  • Meet people at their highest level of contribution – find the volunteers that may be “fatigued” and ask them to play a leadership role for the people in their department. Give them the tools to plan 2-3 meaningful events that match the interests of their colleagues.
  • Focus your measurement on engagement instead of participation. This includes measuring leadership development, skills development, and manager support. You may find that higher engagement happens with less (but more meaningful) events.
  • Involve non-traditional players. Find out what HR, marketing, finance and others would want to see from a volunteering program.

Q: How can we take desk-based or lunchroom-based volunteering efforts (because of our business need, folks can’t leave the office) and make them transformational?

A: This is an excellent question, and a common issue for many practitioners. Ryan Scott outlined some interesting ways to involve on-site employees in volunteering. His article Help, I Can’t Get Up!’ Volunteering From Your Desk covers this exact topic.

Thanks, Angela and Chris! Check back next week for part 2 of this Q&A series. In the meantime, you can watch a recording of the webinar, and browse the slide deck.

Note: Angela and Chris also contributed a chapter on this topic to VolunteerMatch’s new book. Learn more.


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