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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

When we last met, we were talking about how YOUR small business can and should launch its own skills-based volunteerism program.  Really, it’s a completely doable thing.

Last time, I covered the first three steps – 1) Developing your plan, 2) Engaging your people, and 3) Identifying your partners.  Now it’s time to finish that list, with steps 4-7.  Ready?

Step 4 – Do something – making it clear that it’s a pilot (so you have the flexibility to make adjustments), identify a couple small projects to take on.  They could be individual service opportunities or small group projects that last for a finite period of time.  Identify work that is important for the nonprofit but not overwhelming for your team.  You want them to be successful, and you want the nonprofit partner to be happy with the work, asking you back to do more as you get to know each other’s needs better.  A wise woman I know once said “doing something is doing something,” and I think that advice is great.  You have to begin somewhere in order to learn what worked, where you need to rethink things, and what project you should take on next.  Above all, be patient.  It’s not about how MUCH work you do how quickly.  It’s about the quality of the result.

Step 5 — Debrief – following the completion of the project (or projects) sit down with the nonprofit partner and the team to debrief.  What did each party expect going into the initiative?  Was the goal met?  What happened differently than you expected?  Is there a logical next step?  Although some might prefer the actual service to the debrief, this step is essential and will help ensure you build a meaningful program over time.

Step 6 — Measure success —evaluation and measurement doesn’t have to be scary, but you do want to document feedback from your volunteers and partners on whether expectations are being met, how many hours employees are volunteering, and what social and business impact you are having. There are many great resources available to help companies evaluate not only their activity and outputs, but also their outcomes associated with skills-based service. (See the Points of Light’s Employee Volunteer Program Evaluation Framework).

Step 7 —  Celebrate – recognize the employees who were involved in front of their peers, making it known that you value service.  Involve the nonprofit partner and recognize them for the part they played in identifying, scoping and overseeing the work.  Highlight the project and people in your newsletter and on your website, give volunteers a special badge to wear, give out formal awards or get creative and offer your top volunteers a special parking place for the month.  Whatever you do, make sure you take the time to share the story of what was accomplished – with your people, the community and your customers.  As you grow your skills-based program, it will become a part of your company culture and how you are known by others.

And after you celebrate, it’s time to begin again.  Because a good volunteerism program never ends.  It keeps evolving, learning from past efforts and finding new ways to tap into the skills of your people.  Doing projects and sharing the results is a great way to generate more ideas and requests to serve.


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