With Volunteering Month upon us, you may be wondering - what types of corporate volunteering opportunities exist for my company?
Employee volunteering can be difficult to organize, as it’s heavily dependent on company size and scheduling. But ultimately, volunteering can have huge benefits for company culture, as it gives your employees an opportunity to build bonds while giving back to their community. In fact, a study by Cone Research found that 74 percent of employees say their job is more fulfilling when it provides them opportunities to make a positive impact.
Re-examine your company values: Volunteering is more fulfilling if it aligns with your company’s vision and values. As we’ve written before on TINYpulse, values lay the groundwork for how employees approach and think about the work they’re doing on a daily basis. Volunteering is no different.
For example, software company Moz partnered with Unloop, an organization that enables incarcerated populations to gain skills and training to begin careers in tech. At TINYcon 2018, Moz CEO Sarah Bird told us that Moz was an early collaborator with Unloop, taking on their first graduate as an intern. This gave Moz employees the opportunity to give back to populations that are typically underrepresented in tech.
Give everyone a voice: Like many corporate decisions, employee buy-in is important when deciding on a volunteer activity. Since this is a company-wide activity, executive leadership should ensure that employees from every level of the company have a chance to weigh on the decision.
Utilizing a tool like TINYpulse, your company can create surveys to pulse what causes or organizations employees are interested in volunteering with. This can even include logistical information: Would they prefer to do volunteering off-site or in-office? How frequently would they like to volunteer? Some employees may already volunteer with a local organization outside of work - if so, ask if you can use their contacts to start a conversation about corporate sponsorship or volunteering possibilities.
Similarly, your company should also determine ownership over the logistics of this activity. Who will handle planning? Who will be the ultimate decision-makers? Organizations who already have an employee-led culture committee usually include company volunteering as a part of these activities. Delegating this to a committee that includes employees from multiple levels in the organization ensures that planning is transparent and inclusive.
If you are an organization that is large and has multiple offices, consider having each office conduct its own volunteering event around a central theme. This will make planning of these events more locally-focused and easier to execute by the team on the ground in that community. Finding an opportunity that can involve large groups of people can be difficult, but by breaking it into regions or offices, this creates more possibilities.
Begin your search: Once you have identified specific causes that align with your company values, use the following tools to search for opportunities that match them and are also in your organization’s geographic location:
These sources should provide you with options for contacting these organizations, either directly or through the site itself. If you’re wary of some of the organizations - perhaps you’ve never heard of them before and want to ensure they’re legitimate - GuideStar is a database with profiles of vetted nonprofits. This even includes tax statements, if you’re curious how much the nonprofit is fundraising and where that funding is going.
Logistics: Once your company has a few nonprofits identified, it’s time to think about logistics and structure.
- What is the structure of the volunteering opportunity? If your goal with volunteering is to build communication or team-building, does the activity achieve that goal? Is there a specific skill set that your employees possess that might fit particularly well into this activity? Work with your contact at the nonprofit to determine what types of activities might be a good fit for your company.
- Will this opportunity be on-site at your office or off-site? Depending on the nature of the activity and nonprofit, some organizations can send a staff member to your office to facilitate an activity. If the volunteering activity is off-site, ensure that the nonprofit has a properly sized space for the amount of employees you have. Also determine if you plan to provide transportation for your employees, and if you are not, provide them with clear alternatives. Also ask if this will this require any sort of insurance, waivers, or materials purchase ahead of the event, or does the nonprofit cover it?
- How long will the activity be, and how frequent? If this is your first corporate volunteering opportunity, a one-time event might be a better starting point. However, once your company becomes more accustomed to these activities, you might have more frequent opportunities with the same or multiple nonprofits, perhaps on a quarterly or monthly basis.
- How will you guarantee employee attendance? Some organizations may make it a requirement, while others try incentivizing or gamifying the experience. For example, if your company is doing a food donation drive in your office, perhaps different departments can compete with each other to win a prize.
Marketing: As Lola.com CEO Mike Volpe told us at TINYcon 2018, “If you want to recruit all-stars, you need to figure out their path to your door." And oftentimes a new hire’s path to your door involves some type of marketing - something to keep top-of-mind when doing any type of company-wide activity.
Staff volunteering presents a great opportunity for your company to share its culture. Work with your company’s marketing team to create a plan for promoting this event, as well as coverage of it (photos, video, etc.) on the day-of. Use these assets to help promote your staff culture, and if applicable, to further demonstrate your company’s commitment to the cause and your values. This type of marketing can show potential hires how your organization stands out from its peers.
Check internal biases: As we’ve written about previously here at TINYpulse, diversity and inclusion initiatives work best when there are ongoing, transparent conversations about preconceived biases relating to race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and disabilities in the workplace. Given that volunteering is likely to touch on one (or more) of these subjects, your company’s approach to volunteering should be no different. As a part of your ongoing diversity and inclusion trainings, work with your Human Resources team to highlight how these guidelines apply to volunteering situations as well - perhaps in a toolkit or one-pager that is easy for employees to access ahead of the event.
Volunteering Activity Ideas
- Larger-scale food pantries/donation distribution centers: Warehouse-style locations are more likely to be able to accomodate large groups, and are likely also already familiar with the logistics around planning an activity.
- Park/beach cleanups: Although weather-dependent, these activities allow employees to spend some time outdoors with less restraints around group size. Some nonprofits will also give your company materials for the cleanup, such as trash bags and plastic gloves.
- Mentoring: Whether hosted at your office or at a school, some nonprofits facilitate mentoring opportunities between your employees and students or members of underserved communities. These opportunities can be a good source of ongoing activities for staff, since they’re likely to be more frequent throughout the year.
- Event Staffing: Some nonprofits may have larger events that your employees can volunteer with, such as a 5K race, festival, or speaker series. Staff can help with event set-up, clean-up, or other tasks. Larger events, such as Relay for Life, allow your company to assemble a team to attend the walk and fundraise.
- Pro bono work: Identify opportunities to offer your product pro bono (free of charge) for nonprofit organizations and/or underserved communities. For example, Accessibility Internet Rally is a one-day event in Austin, Texas where web developer volunteers build websites for local nonprofits over the course of a day.
- Host a fundraiser: Does your office have a large space conducive to hosting a public event? If so, offer to sponsor a fundraising event for the nonprofit in your space. Employees can also help prepare or staff the event.
- Crowdfunding: Although a more virtual option, some nonprofits have opportunities for crowdfunding, or individuals raising money on the nonprofit’s behalf via social media or other public-facing donation platforms. This can appear far more authentic and personal, as employees can show why they are fundraising for the cause.
- Collect donations: Oversee a drive collecting canned goods, clothing, toys, or hygiene items at your office. Over the holidays, some organizations and post offices enable individuals to adopt a family to buy gifts for.
- In-office activities: Some nonprofits allow you to do activities with them right in your own space. This can include writing letters or crafting activities that support the organization’s mission, such as making animal toys from donated materials for a local pet shelter.
- Health events: Work with community-based agencies to host a blood drive or immunization day to support wellness locally. Employees can help staff and promote the event in coordination with other organizations.
After the Event
Once your activity concludes, the work doesn’t stop there. To continue employee involvement in this process, circulate a post-volunteering survey to see how employees feel the event went. What worked well? What can be improved? This gives your company crucial guidance for activity planning in the future.
Also consider how you can nurture the relationship with this nonprofit for further partnership in the future. This not only opens up the door for more volunteering, but also other mutually beneficial opportunities relating to corporate sponsorship and service going forward.
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