Corporate volunteers contribute hundreds of thousands of hours to nonprofits each year. According to a 2015 survey by America’s Charities, “82% of the survey respondents say employees want the opportunity to volunteer with peers in a corporate-supported event.”
Employees who participate in corporate volunteer programs can utilize these opportunities to build skills and have meaningful engagement with each other and local organizations. Companies with volunteer programs enjoy better employee retention, attract new talent and deepen their community relationships.
Engaging with corporate volunteers expands both the volunteer team and the pool of potential donors. Volunteers who engage with an organization through a corporate sponsored event can become regular contributors in time, talent and funds. Corporate volunteerism is also an opportunity to build lasting relationships with corporate donors. Here are four tips to help you start attracting corporate volunteers to your organization.
TIP 1: PROVIDE IMPACTFUL PROGRAMS
This concept of aligning values and skills is absolutely critical to the success of an organization’s philanthropic efforts and impact on overall employee engagement. Take any Fortune 500 company as an example. An accounting department that spends two hours helping low income community residents learn how to manage money and balance their checkbooks, or a group of female software engineers that spend two hours teaching girls the basics of coding and the potential of careers in technology, have a more meaningful and impactful volunteering experience.
While the work is still important, transactional one-time events such as painting a room at a local shelter or cleaning up a park often involve employees simply volunteering for a few hours and feeling little or no lasting connection with the effort. On the other hand, more transformative experiences such as skills-based opportunities and ongoing partner-based volunteer experiences inspire employees on a deeper level. That leads to an increase in engagement and future participation, acquisition of new skills and greater company loyalty while simultaneously aligning with a corporation’s broader philanthropic strategy, resulting in a greater overall impact.
TIP 2: RECRUIT SHORT-TERM PROJECT TEAMS
Mary was asked to be on the strategic planning task force for her association. She was told that the strategic planning committee would meet for a full day for training and development of strategy. She would then have six months to work on the strategic plan and then her job would be done. Mary not only said yes, but she volunteered to work with the implementation committee of the strategic planning committee—which was another two-year commitment.
Recruiting teams rather than individuals is particularly effective with younger volunteers. Many people are afraid of getting tied into a job for a lifetime and never being able to get out of it. They get burned out and then quit the organization as a way to quit their volunteer role. I accomplish three objectives when I put together a short-term project team of new volunteers with a model leader:
Objective one: Volunteers are more willing to say yes to a short-term commitment with an end-date in sight.
Objective two: Volunteers have the opportunity to catch the vision of the organization because they were working with a passionate leader.
Objective three: Leaders became mentors for future passion driven teams. We were always looking for new leadership.
TIP 3: BE INCLUSIVE
Many companies traditionally implemented thresholds before rewarding their people with Dollars for Doers (D4D) or volunteer grants. But the problem with thresholds is that they limit participation for those unable to meet the requirements.
One of the easiest ways to get people to volunteer is to host small but frequent in-office volunteering sessions. You can run sessions throughout the day or over the lunch hour to maximize turnout. People are busy, so make sure you send meeting invitations so people can add the sessions to their calendars. With this approach, you’ll overcome common barriers to participation like: “I can’t do it outside of work,” “I don’t know where it is,” and “I have commitments with my kids.”
Last year, we hosted six different in-office volunteering sessions at Benevity including making sandwiches and winter kits for a local homeless shelter. We also assembled 264 science kits for Beakerhead, a local science-meets-arts festival, to distribute to elementary students in Calgary as part of our commitment to STEAM initiatives. At another session, we encouraged people to join a community cleanup within walking distance from the office.
TIP 4: INVITE THE WHOLE FAMILY
Workplace volunteers increasing express an interest in engaging other family members in volunteer activities. National corporate studies through the Points of Light Foundation indicate 60% of large corporations encourage family participation in corporate volunteer activities. Corporate volunteers report that volunteering as a family helps strengthen meaningful family time, allows parents to share values with children, and allows family members to see and appreciate one another in new settings/situations. Family volunteering requires thoughtful planning and is not an option for every organization.