Guest post by Brian Sheehan, marketing manager, Hollingsworth LLC
Give back. Make a difference. Learn something new. All of these are excellent reasons to volunteer, but even with the desire to participate in these activities, it can be difficult to identify where to get started. Corporate companies can be the catalyst for putting that desire into action by creating opportunities for their workforce to volunteer, and aligning volunteer activities and a purpose of giving back with their corporate values.
However, selecting volunteer opportunities and coordinating staff to participate are secondary steps. Corporate involvement is only successful when the company’s values and brand both support and prioritize generosity and community engagement.
Steps for Identifying Relevant Corporate Volunteer Opportunities
When your company decides to engage in volunteer activities, there are some key things to consider and questions to ask.
What do we want to support and why?
There are two different ways to approach corporate volunteering, and your choice of philanthropic activity will depend on whether you want to go the general or strategic direction. General philanthropy is usually directed to community issues such as homelessness or hunger, while the strategic approach is usually more aligned with your industry and business. For example, a restaurant might donate to a local food bank, while a large fulfillment plant might send employees to volunteer at after-school programs that benefit local kids. Other organizations plan volunteer efforts around the holidays when the perceived need is greater.
Your choice of cause or program should have a core mission that shares your company’s values, at least for the most part. Talk to the nonprofit’s executive director or board members and ask a lot of questions.
Is this nonprofit the right one for us to partner with?
It’s a time-consuming step, but a necessary one. When aligning your volunteer efforts with your company values, you’ll need to do your homework to make sure the organization has the right intent, financial responsibility and accountability. Do research to look for any red flags; remember, you’ll be aligning your brand and reputation with this charity to some degree. Check with a reputable watchdog organization like GuideStar, which analyzes nonprofit organizations for their governance, transparency, financial health and accountability. Review their press mentions as well and pay particular attention to how they recover and adjust after mistakes.
What is the action plan and strategy?
After you’ve partnered with an organization, it’s important to implement a strategy that maintains alignment with your values. And the plan must be followed up with action, including being proactive with setting your budget. It’s not enough to simply voice your company’s values of giving back or promoting positive change; these values must be backed up by action at the highest levels of leadership on down. Managers and other corporate leaders must set an example and inspire their teams to participate as well.
How to Motivate Employees to Get More Involved with Volunteering
Even if you have a strategic plan for corporate volunteering initiatives, especially one where the organizations you support are in sync with your company values, it can sometimes be challenging to get your workforce to participate. Employees may express interest or desire to volunteer at first, but when it comes time to take action, they’re too busy or unmotivated.
Companies who value and promote volunteering and charitable giving should include a strategy and perhaps even a budget to motivate their staff. Here are some ideas:
- Communicate about and promote volunteer opportunities internally. If your staff doesn’t know they’re available, they won’t be able to participate! Make sure your corporate volunteer opportunities are well-known in all departments.
- Offer a variety of volunteer opportunities. Some volunteer activities may appeal to certain individuals more than others, and preferences are likely as diverse as your workforce. Accommodate this by offering different types of corporate volunteering events and perhaps even different ways employees can participate in those events (e.g., volunteer, help organize, contribute financially, etc.).
Consider giving your employees choice in where they volunteer by integrating VolunteerMatch’s network of more than 100,000 vetted volunteer opportunities. You can also opt to offer opportunities within a specific cause area, so you can maintain alignment with your mission and values.
- Provide incentives. Your staff members may be too busy to take time away from work or home life to volunteer, but you can help! One way is to dedicate a day (or several days) each year for company-wide volunteering. Or, you can offer special volunteer time off (VTO) or reward participation with prizes or financial incentives, if your budget allows.
Looking for ideas for how your company can get involved in volunteering? It doesn’t matter what your industry is, there are lots of ways that you can give back as an organization.
Author bio: Brian Sheehan is a supply-chain management professional, with 15 years of operational and business development experience in fulfillment, kitting, packaging, assembly, distribution, program management and return management. He was involved in building a portfolio with Hollingsworth LLC. Brian is a self-proclaimed lover of Mondays.