volunteerism

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

Inspired yet?  Sure hope so.

Over the past few months, I have been highlighting the amazing stories of small businesses that haven’t let their size get in the way of doing big things.  These firms were all featured in an eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday last fall.  But the case studies were all so great that I couldn’t just leave them at that.  I HAD to share them again.

So, it’s my hope that you’re now thoroughly inspired and all those concerns you had about how difficult or insurmountable it would be to start a skills-based volunteerism program have been swept to the side.  You’re now ready to begin.  In that spirit, I’m diving right into the HOW.  Here are the first three steps in a seven-step journey:

Step 1 – Develop your plan – Before you begin, take a moment to think through all the ways your business gives back today.  Document what you do so you have a clear understanding of the foundation from which you are beginning.  This document is the beginning of your formal giving strategy.  As a part of this step, define your business, employee and social goals for skills-based volunteerism so you can align what you do with your goals.  Make sure you include:

  • Donations you make (what you give to today and why, making sure you look at the marketing budget to include donations that might be disguised as sponsorships)
  • Volunteer projects
  • In-kind products or services you give to nonprofits
  • Leadership positions members of the firm hold in the community (nonprofit boards, committees, etc.)

Step 2 – Engage your people – Share your interest in adding a skills-based volunteerism program with your team.  See who gets really jazzed by the idea, and ask them to join a committee that will help develop a pilot.  The committee can take on a variety of tasks including:

  1. Learning more about skills-based volunteerism themselves so they can become internal champions
  2. Hosting educational sessions for other team members to get them excited about serving
  3. Surveying all employees about their interest in skills-based volunteerism and, in particular, the kinds of skills they would like to offer
  4. Coming up with a name for the volunteerism team to use externally when your people are out in the community

Step 3 – Identify partners – With steps 1 and 2 complete, you’ll have the information you need to figure out where to begin serving.  Look at the nonprofits where you have made donations in the past or where your team has done traditional volunteerism.  Work with the employee committee to identify those partners who are easy to work with and might have an interest in trying out skills-based volunteerism with your employees.  Having good partners matters because the nonprofits need to do brainstorming of their own about their needs and must be open to working with you.  They might need to do some planning of their own, which you can encourage, to match the skills your people can offer with good opportunities to serve.

And there you have it – you’re already three of the seven steps down the road toward your very own skills-based volunteerism project.  Tune in next time for the final four steps!

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

Deep breath.  #GivingTuesday is a week behind us – but the glow continues! 

What a wonderful day it was — December 2nd — with people around the world showing how much they cared about giving back.  They gave money, time, their voices, their all.  And I’m proud that the company where I work was a part of that.  How much good was done?  We’ll actually never know because there’s simply no way to quantify all the good.  What we do know is how much was given online that day, processed by Blackbaud, as a proxy for how much giving has increased year over year. 

But lets get back to service…  What did your small business do to mark the day?  Did you stick your toe in the water and do something?  If so, kudos.  If not, don’t worry.  You can still get going.

The real focus of #GivingTuesday is to try to widen the pie, to get more people involved in the act of philanthropy.  So the fact that the day itself has passed this year doesn’t mean the opportunity isn’t still there.  I thought, as you considered this opportunity, it might help to have a little inspiration from small businesses that do some really cool things.  This inspiration comes in the form of an eBook called Small Business, Big Purpose: A guide to skills-based volunteerism.

This eBook was a labor of love, produced by Blackbaud (and Business Doing Good), Riggs Partners and A Billion+Change as a way to celebrate #GivingTuesday.  Several terrific distribution partners have joined us in the effort, working to ensure as many small businesses get their hands on a copy.  These partners include Causecast, the Corporation for National Community Service, the Taproot Foundation and the core #GivingTuesday team itself.

Check out the book – and stay tuned to this blog over the next weeks as we highlight the companies in the book, sharing their stories as a source of inspiration for everyone.

by Matt Combs of YourCause

 If you tuned it for Building A Culture of Goodwill: Part 1 last week, you now have a goodwill committee established…right!?! Ok, so maybe you haven’t gotten that far, but once you do, you will have made HUGE strides in creating a culture of goodwill in your business. Now you may be asking, “Is that it? Is there nothing else I can do…easily?” Of course not! Below are a couple of ideas on how you can easily integrate giving into your employees’ work life.

 Supporting Individual Passions – It is important to foster and support your employees’ individual passions. A good way to ensure that you are supporting personal causes is to weave goodwill into your employee benefits by introducing philanthropic personal time off (PPTO), also know as volunteer time off (VTO). PPTO is paid time off that employees can use to volunteer during office hours with a charity of their choice. PPTO parameters vary by company, but at YourCause we have found a common cap at two business days or 16 hours. The simple gesture of adding PPTO to your policy manual shows that you are encouraging employees to give back.  After participating in a PPTO event, employees should be invited to share their stories with their co-workers, how serving made them feel and whom or what they impacted. Their enthusiasm about the program will be contagious, allowing the goodwill culture to grow.

Employee Performance and Goodwill – Throughout the year, your goodwill committee will create multiple opportunities for co-workers to participate in social responsibility projects. The project can be as big as a company-wide Habitat for Humanity build or as small as individual opportunities to donate cans to a food pantry. Regardless of how employees get involved, their participation demonstrates how invested they are in the company’s culture and overall performance. Managers should be aware, recognize and encourage participation.

Why should this be important to you? Because companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by as much as 202%. With this in mind, managers should chat with employees about their involvement in goodwill activities during 1×1 check-in meetings and quarterly/annual performance reviews. Although you cannot force participation in goodwill programs, you can gauge their likelihood of sating with your firm based on how invested they are in supporting the company culture.

Ingraining goodwill into your company does not have to be time-consuming or costly. By simply tweaking current practices, adjusting a few benefits, asking for help, and encouraging conversations about goodwill, leaders will begin to see a shift in the company’s culture. I encourage you to make the decision to kick off your goodwill program and quickly reap the benefits of a more productive and retained team of employees.

By Matt Combs of YourCause

Today we welcome a guest post by Matt Combs of YourCause.  His focus is on your people, the employees who work side-by-side to make your small business great every day.  By investing in those people, and building what he calls a “culture of goodwill,” you can enhance their experience and help your brand.  This is just part one, so stay tuned next week for the second installment! – Rachel

Ingraining goodwill into your company’s culture might seem like a huge task. Between balancing cash flow, as well as customer and employee satisfaction, it can be overwhelming for leaders to even think about beginning to develop a culture of goodwill. But what if I told you that a goodwill culture could significantly help fulfill your goals for employee satisfaction?  According to a recent study performed by Net Impact, 53% of today’s workforce would be satisfied if they worked for a company that contributed to society. I know, I know…another thing to add to your plate. Before you panic, I am here to say that you can easily create a culture that is neither time-consuming nor daunting, but instead, helping relieve your day-to-day stresses.

The first thing you need to understand is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may not know it yet, but you already have employees who participate in charitable events and would love to be involved in developing, organizing and executing a plan to ingrain goodwill into the company culture. Lean on your employees, and develop a goodwill committee.

You may be wondering, “How do I fill the committee seats?” Simply by asking. Generally, only employees passionate about goodwill and giving will volunteer to be a part of the committee. By gathering volunteers together, you can rest easy knowing that “goodwill” plans and events will not be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day tasks.  Committee members would manage:

  • Brainstorming company goodwill events and ideas
  • Vetting events presented to them from other employees
  • Organizing and executing all goodwill activities
  • Internally promoting and participating in events

Before you set the team loose, you will want to communicate your expectations for the committee. In the inaugural goodwill committee meeting make sure you are in attendance to communicate your vision at a high level.  Areas I recommend you cover:

  • Overall reason the committee was formed
  • Execution expectations
  • Ground rules for supporting causes that reflect your company’s mission and values
  • Approval process for events or other plans that influence the company’s goodwill
  • Budget broken out by annual spending criteria and event caps
  • Metrics that will be used to measure the committee’s success

These parameters will allow the committee’s imagination to run free – that is – free within reason. By surrendering the power and details to the committee, you are able to focus on the business and keep your participation high-level so that you are only approving proposed events and associated costs.  In part two of this series, I’ll discuss additional ways you can use goodwill to create bonds between employees and encourage those not participating to join the fun.

A guest post by Danielle Holly, CEO, Common Impact

Note – Today’s post is the first in a series by the CEO of Common Impact, Danielle Holly.  Danielle is devoted to helping nonprofits and businesses alike prepare to take on true skills-based volunteerism.  She is smart and wonderful, and I hope you enjoy what she has to say.  – Rachel

What image comes to your mind when you think of employee volunteerism?

Perhaps a team of smiling people at a local shelter in branded t-shirts putting their hands together just before a “go team!” chant?  Or maybe it’s a cheerful woman standing on a ladder with a paintbrush in hand?  How about some slightly dirty but happy colleagues standing around the piles of bagged litter that they just spent a day cleaning up in a local park?  These are the prevailing images of employees engaging with their communities.  And while these images do reflect an important kind of volunteerism, they don’t come close to representing the full spectrum of innovative ways in which employees are now uniting with their companies, nonprofits, and each other to build and sustain healthy local communities.  The truth is, the term “volunteering” needs an image makeover to reflect the new paradigm of employee engagement taking hold across the country.

The past few years have brought us remarkable innovations in employee engagement across businesses of all sizes and industries — and has sparked an explosion in skills-based volunteerism, employee-driven giving programs, and intrapreneurship.  Deloitte’s 2013 Volunter Impact Survey shows us that businesses and employees are increasingly looking to volunteerism as a way to build skills, increase engagement, and strategically connect with their communities in deeper and more meaningful ways.  And more and more, businesses are paying attention to the fact that their employees are refusing to check their values at the door, are demanding a meaningful way to “give back” to their communities in their day-to-day work.

Sometimes that looks like the one-off opportunity to contribute to the kinds of things mentioned above: employees painting a house or ladling soup at a shelter.  But, increasingly, it looks like a group of business-attire clad teams, sitting around a table strategizing with a local nonprofit on how to extend the reach of its services on a shoestring budget.  Or it looks like a woman, brow furrowed in front of a laptop with a nearly empty coffee mug in hand, burning the midnight oil trying to get her colleagues excited about a sustainability program at her small business.  Those visuals in and of themselves might not be all that compelling.  They’re not going to make it to the website or the banner that will be used to recruit new employees into an engagement program.  But what’s behind those images are stories of people making a measureable and sustainable impact on their companies and communities.  And it’s a story that needs to be told.

How can we re-visualize volunteering?

Move beyond the pictures.  We all respond to meaningful images, but we often need more than a single snapshot to tell our engagement stories.  Using video is one way to bring those stories to life, to hear those individual and ambitious goals for change.  Quotes and testimonials peppered on top of still snapshots is another.  But more broadly, we need to move beyond the use of that single visual by allowing the results of that work to be the motivation for the inception and growth of these programs.  And those results are truly compelling.  Consider the value of a skills-based approach to volunteerism: the increased engagement level employees have with their companies, the amplified reach a nonprofit can have with sustained investment of a company’s time and talent, the “eye opening” experience employees have when they realize that a deep community challenge is right in their backyard and they can help address it.  We need to share those results before we share the pictures.  We need to work to get our colleagues, friends and family excited by them.  These impressive results shouldn’t need to fit on a postcard to grab our attention.

Focus on the ends, not the means.  Still, it’s true that we’ll always, at some point or another and in concent with meaningful results, need arresting visuals to share our ideas and initiatives.  In those cases, envision what the work will ultimately accomplish.  Create images of the middle-schooler in the afterschool program, who is now able to access services through an online curriculum that an employee helped a local nonprofit organization to develop.  Depict how a massive landfill will shrink because of the sustainability program you’re creating.  Link the visuals with the deeper change that skills-based vounteerism is helping to drive.  Because there’s no doubt that pictures of people at a table with laptops is not inspiring to anyone, no matter how meaningful the work.  So take a shapshot of the reason those people are at the table, typing furiously, engaging in new conversations.

It’s in our hands to give volunteerism the facelift it deserves, and it’ll take the support of every individual who starts, leads and participates in these efforts at their workplaces.  What are some of the ways you share the innovative engagement initiatives at your company?  How can we all reimagine volunteerism?

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A guest post by Rachael Chong, CEO & Founder, Catchafire

Note – Today’s post is by the amazing Rachael Chong, the social entrepreneur who created Catchafire, the nation’s leading online pro bono network connecting talent and purpose.  Her goal is to scale skills-based volunteerism, making a more efficient social good sector.  Check out her site, and take on a project! — Rachel

Apparently, employees are not the only ones hungry to engage with your corporate social responsibility efforts.

It turns out that if given the opportunity, 76% of consumers would volunteer for a cause supported by a company they trust.  However, only 42% of consumers volunteered last year, leaving 34% willing but disengaged.

According to 2013′s Cone Communication Social Impact Study, there is a huge opportunity for corporations to capitalize on these good intentions.  Integrating consumers into your socal responsibility efforts helps your company develop a meaningful relationship with your customers while simultaneously creating positive impact on the world.

How to get started:

Make participation easy.  Create a page on your website with engaging information that helps consumers understand why they should get involved, how they can get started and what’s required of them.

Cater to your diverse consumer group.  Not everyone believes impact is achieved through the same means.  Offer a variety of ways for people to get involved (skills-based volunteering, runs for charity, fundraising events, community volunteer days, etc.)

Lead by example.  Model the behavior you want to see from your consumers.  Integrate a program that has a proven track record for impact and one that your employees are proud to share.

Given that only 15% of Millennials believe companies have made a significant impact and that this generation of more than 80 million Americans prioritizes social impact, the time to weave an impact-oriented focus into multiple aspects of the business is now.

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I promised it wouldn’t be difficult, and it isn’t!

Creating a volunteerism program for your business may take a little time, but it’s time well spent.  Even if you run the smallest of businesses, determining how you want to give back in the form of service is important.  It matters to your brand, your customers, your community, and your employees.

Whether you have been following the conversation over the past few weeks or just found this site today, no worries!  I’ve packaged the entire volunteerism plan series in a handy PDF that’s available to you when you need it.  And don’t feel daunted.  You don’t have to adopt every idea right away.  Begin where it makes sense for your business.  Get your employees involved in making the plan, taking the right steps for you.

And, remember, if you have questions, let me know.  I’m always happy to help.  Service matters.  In the end, just remember to do something!

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Policies are your friend.  I know, just the word “policy” seems dry and makes you think of pages of useless content.  But in reality, well-written policies help to both guide and protect you.  This is especially the case when you’re managing a company’s giving.  A couple of important policies to establish include:

Policy: Volunteerism Statement (on website) – a short statement about the firm’s service philosophy.  It may also be helpful to include a frequently-asked-questions document that helps you provide a little more detail about where and how you volunteer.  Include contact information so nonprofits can share opportunities with you. 

Guidelines: Ideas for how to Volunteer (for teams and managers) – a concise guide of volunteer protocols that goes into a little more detail, for you and others to refer to as needed. This document gives you a place to share ideas for how employees or teams can get involved, what rules you may have about service (i.e. does it need to be on personal time or can managers decide to take teams out for a day), and some tips for how to best represent the business during a service opportunity.  If you provide branded t-shirts for employees to wear while volunteering, include a reminder about dress code and photos (you want to get images for your website and newsletter to share with customers, the community and your own team).

Process: Receiving and Reviewing Requests to Serve – Establish who should receive all requests for volunteerism, whether they come in directly to that person or are forwarded internally.  Make sure employees know who fills this role, so they can appropriately pass on phone calls, emails and letters and ensure each request gets a response. Decide how often requests will be reviewed (ex: monthly) and who will be involved in the process.  Note that requests that fall outside of your service focus, if you have one, can be put in the “no” pile immediately.

Template: Responding to Requests Craft messages that can be used when you respond to requests for volunteerism, either as a script for a phone call or copy for a letter or email.  Saying yes is easy, but it’s important to establish why you felt the program or organization was one you wanted to support.  It’s also an opportunity for you to stress why the volunteerism fits with the service focus you have established.  On the flip side, saying no can be difficult and it’s likely you will have to say it more often.  Your “no” message should be concise and positive, saying no but in a way that is human and respectful.  Take the opportunity to say a few words about how, although you could not participate in their effort, you are committed to serving others.  Provide a few details about how.  Simply getting back to those who ask, even if you are saying no, is something many companies fail to do.  Don’t be one of them.

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Have employees who want to do even more than your business is offering in terms of volunteerism?  Looking for a way to develop their leadership skills at the same time?  I have the answer…

Nonprofit board or committee service.  It’s a win-win, and you don’t have to build a formal program in order to begin. 

Think about the people around you at work.  Is there someone who is already doing all the service projects you offer but seeking to add more value in the community?  Is this person looking to share skills and also maybe learn some new ones?  Getting that person connected to a nonprofit to explore a regular form of service through committee or board work is a fabulous next step.

Talk with your people about the ways they truly seek to give back and what causes they care about.  Then identify nonprofits you know of that have need.  Contact the partners you already work with in the community to explore options.  Many nonprofits don’t realize they can simply call and ask for people with key skill sets, so be open and overt about what your people have to offer. 

A word of caution…  You might not want to position someone to jump right into board service.  Seek opportunities for your people to serve first on a committee so they can “date” the nonprofit for a while (and vice versa), seeing if there is a match.  Does the organization know how to really put the person’s skills to use?  Is it well run?  Does the employee follow through on promises to do work?  Once the two have “dated” for a while, they can make a mutual decision about whether to get married (i.e. serve on the board). 

Make sure you champion people from across your company for committee work, not just leaders.  Often, nonprofits will ask for the top leader because they are looking for the person’s clout and connections.  You can’t blame the organization for shooting for the top, but it’s highly likely that your leaders are already busy with other boards or that they don’t have a “passion match” with the cause.  Educate nonprofits about the value of having other employees get involved, stressing the skill set they can offer.  Often high-potential people earlier in their careers have more time to offer a nonprofit and are motivated to use the opportunity to add to their skills, resumes and networks.  So, help spread the love, opening the door to meaningful service for those who may be leaders tomorrow.  

On a final note, consider whether you are open to giving people time off to attend board meetings.  If skills-based volunteerism is a part of your culture, then you will need to consider what kind of flexibility employees may need to follow through on their service.

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