Start a Corporate Volunteering Program Where You Work

Chris Jarvis

Start a Corporate Volunteering Program Where You Work

Corporate Volunteer programs, also known as Employee Volunteer Programs are a key component to Corporate Social Responsibility strategies. We’ll tell you how to start one where you work, or how to improve the one you have.

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

The discussion: How to start a Corporate Volunteering program.

Here at Realized Worth, we’re all about giving people what they want; meeting them where they’re at. With this in mind, we started the “how to” discussion with the related topic most searched for through Google which was, ‘how to find a non-profit to work with.’ Now, assuming you’re ready to design and roll out a great Employee Volunteer Program, it’s time to take three steps back. (Que Janet Jackson’s “Opposites Attract” – wait, is that too outdated to use in a blog?)

There are a handful of good resources out there to help you design an effective Corporate Volunteering program. Here’s a list of just a few of them:

Volunteer England – How to set up your program no matter your business size

Volunteering Australia – How to set up your program with case studies and best practices

The Center For Volunteering
(AUS) – Helpful information on related issues

Points of Light Foundation (USA) – Lots of articles, guides and links

Taproot Foundation
(USA) – A focus on a professional ‘pro bono’ approach

Online Book: Managing Corporate Social Responsibility in Action
– partially available online

Idealist.Org – Links to articles and insights from around the world, a networking platform

Charity Village – A basic overview, but many other nonprofit related links

Volunteering Gold Coast (AUS)- Good, simple layout

Starting at the Beginning

The reasons to consider corporate volunteering are numerous and pretty damn good. Joana Breidenbach is a fan of EVPs and says so in the blog,

‘Corporate Volunteering creates multiple win-win situations: social institutions profit from the engagements and expertise of corporate volunteers. They themselves feel supported in their activities. As employees feature as a kind of ambassadors of their companies, the latter themselves acquire human traits (a fact which is especially important for huge, largely faceless corporations).’ (read the rest of Joana’s blog)

Step One: Begin with the end in mind.

Determine the reasons you want to utilize Corporate Volunteering. What’s in it for you and your business specifically? Do a little research and check out the variations of EVP programs. From local to international, weekly to yearly, cause-related or individually-based, your options are nearly endless. Have fun finding the fit for the goals you have in mind.

Next, list the outcomes you’re shooting for. What will Corporate Volunteering achieve for the company, your teammates, and the community. Again, there are multiple benefits to Employee Volunteer Programs. Will you leverage opportunities to enhance training and skill set development? Will you augment your marketing campaign with free publicity, generated by events? Are you going to integrate the program with your leadership development initiative? As you consider the outcomes, you might want to gather a team to help you brainstorm – you may stumble upon helpful perspectives.

Finally, determine your cost to benefit ratio. How much do you want to spend for the outcomes you are shooting for, based on the model you have chosen? This is tricky because there are not yet many metrics out there to tie your costs to the bottom line ROI. There is progress however, with groups such as LBG working with leading companies to standardize the process and measurements of both contributions and outcomes.

Step Two: Take stock of the present situation

First, consider how Corporate Volunteering fits with the overall business strategy. In doing research for her book by interviewing 50 companies of various sizes, Susan Hyatt discovered, “They all felt their community involvement had a positive impact for the company – everything from “feeling good” to strengthening their business reputation, customer loyalty, increasing sales, employee skills and retention, and access to capital.” But remember, if your volunteering efforts as a business are not integrated into your operational strategy, then they are an ‘add on’ and will be seen as such by everyone in the company. (read the rest of Susan’s blog)

Next, the NPO you choose to partner with and the volunteer work you do should line up with your business’ brand. How else can you expect to leverage community impact with your employees as well as your customers? In addition, the NPO will want to know what makes them a good fit for your company. Consulting companies such as Impakt here in Toronto are able to evaluate your alignment in this area. You can even take a simple Community Investment Self Assessment on their site.

Also, ask yourself, “Do I know what the pressing socio-economic issues are in my community?” You’ll need to connect the concerns of the community with your brand. Issues that are important but not pressing may communicate that your brand is irrelevant, or worse, uninformed.

Finally, do you know the particular issues that your employees are passionate about? What volunteering efforts have already captured the attention of your colleagues? This is a good barometer for brand alignment and the broader community perception. A word of caution here: if you can’t see a connection between the industry of your business and the philanthropic interests of your employees…well, there may not be one. If this is the case, you may have discovered the cultural problem of brand apathy within your work environment. So….good luck with that.

Coming up next: Steps 3 and 4.

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