A successful corporate volunteering event in 12 steps
Follow these steps for a sound employee volunteering project
The times have changed – and surely, that’s a good thing. Nowadays, almost all enterprises look beyond their bottom line: in today's world, it's about Profit, People and Planet. We see that many organisations are looking for a way to contribute to the change our world needs. And corporate volunteering (CV) is not only good for our world; your organisation benefits as well! That shouldn’t really come as a surprise, though. When PwC sent out a worldwide survey to 10,000 people, 65% of the respondents indicated that they prefer to work for an organisation with a powerful social conscience.
But where do you start with employee volunteering? And how? Many organisations have good intentions, but are unsure about how to put them into practice. Should you start modestly, or proudly launch a complete programme? With whom? For whom? And how do you go about that, exactly?
We want to start off with a warning: your organisation has to be truly committed. A splash of CSR is not going to do it, in today's hypercritical and super connected world. Furthermore, your CV efforts must be structural – although this does not mean you immediately need to develop an entire programme. In fact, starting with one or more events can make a lot of sense. This allows you to gradually win the support of your employees whilst finding out which project and method will drive the most impact. So let’s get going!
1. Create internal support
Surely, you’ve not gone rogue, but nevertheless. To avoid any ugly surprises later on, it is crucial to win the support of every relevant decision maker in your organisation. All internal stakeholders must agree to start with corporate volunteering. They have to understand how important engagement is – especially for your company.
Because at the end of the day, employee volunteering also requires your organisation to invest. It will take person-hours and money, both for the preparation and the execution of your event. Or were you thinking of asking your staff to do this in their own time?
Inform leadership that you want to select a project that aligns with your organisation's mission and values. Note that many organisations make the conscious choice to support their local community. For the preparation and execution of your event, you’ll want to use and possibly build on your employees’ skills. How you can do that? Look, for example, at how Nike staff members volunteer as sports coaches in their communities. Or get inspired by TomTom. This company established the ground-breaking – and free! – coding school Codam, where TomTom employees donate their time teaching.
2. Assign responsibilities
Of course, you know how important this is. Every project needs someone with the responsibility to keep things on track and ensure progress. A successful initiative requires your company to free up person-hours and budget for the colleague driving your corporate volunteering project.
You can start looking at suitable dates for an event. Your organisation probably has peak periods and slower days, but how about the availability of your employees? Obviously, you want to involve as many people as possible in your CV event. This means taking into account holiday periods and any planned training days.
Don’t commit to a date just yet. The idea is to propose a number of possible dates in a survey for your staff members. You’ll read more about that in a minute, but first:
4. Develop a partner network
Your local volunteer centre is a good place to start developing relationships with your community. People there will be able to map out the various opportunities your region has to offer.
Do some research to find out who can help your organisation with setting up corporate volunteering. Start a list of the local organisations that need volunteers. Remember to keep expanding your partner network. Surely, you already know how important that is!
5. Involve your employees from the start
The engagement of your workers is very important. But we're not telling you anything new here. This applies to their involvement in your CV project as well. In fact, the engagement of your employees is critical.
Here, the communication style of your organisation is vital. Never pressure your employees into volunteering. Go for subtler communication to spark their motivation. As mentioned earlier, many of your employees are already looking for purpose in their work. All you have to do is find a way to connect to that yearning.
One thing you can do is simply ask your workers how they would like to give effect to their desire for purpose. Send out a survey at an early stage and ask them about their ideas on employee volunteering. Are they familiar with any worthwhile local projects? How would they like to contribute? Which skills do they want to apply? What do they want to get out of this? Don't forget to ask employees to invite friends and family for their input and help.
Chris Jarvis is a respected thought leader in corporate volunteering. He knows there are various reasons why volunteers remain motivated in the long run. One of them is the helper's high – a burst of adrenaline not unlike that experienced by marathon runners.
In order to reach that euphoric state, it is essential that the volunteer can visualise the recipient and can therefore understand how the other benefits from their contribution. As a result, your employee or volunteer will begin to understand how valuable that contribution really is for the recipient. Clearly, communication plays an important part in reaching and retaining that helper's high. This is why it is imperative to ensure continuous, positive, engaging two-way communication with your colleagues.
6. Complete your information on possible volunteer activities
You already started building a partner network, which should have resulted in a couple of ideas. Your employee survey probably garnered some suggestions as well. Now is the time to continue mapping out the volunteering options in your region. You wouldn't be located in Somerset now, would you? Because that county has a beautiful platform available for exploring volunteering options in the region. A similar tool is available for the county of Hertfordshire. Employers in other regions can ask around in their area to uncover local opportunities.
Nowadays, activities can also be online, at least, partially. The digital revolution has increased volunteering opportunities. But please remember Chris Jarvin's lesson about the requirements for attaining the helper’s high. Besides, to have your employees experience true, joint teamwork, it is important that there is physical interaction.
7. Select your project
You now have a good overview of the volunteer projects in your area – and our guess is, that there are more than a few! You also know the preferences of your staff members. Take them into account and seek out an activity that aligns with the mission and values of your organisation, filtering and crossing off along the way. This activity should allow your employees to use – and ideally: expand – their skills.
As soon as you have made a choice, you should reach out to the receiving organisation.
Stella Robeer has looked into how companies can ensure that employee volunteering delivers maximum results for all involved. One of her main recommendations is to keep questioning the reasons behind certain choices and explore whether other, better choices are available. Here, it is crucial for both parties to engage with each other and continue to do so, as this eventually leads to the best outcome.
8. Make your project SMART
Surely, this is a business project like any other. You want to contribute effectively and show others what you have achieved, and how you did that.
You’ll need to report transparently to your stakeholders – who, incidentally, in this scenario is also made up of members of the general public with an interest in your company’s CSR activities. As you also want to retain control of your initiative, a SMART project is the way to go.
Start by documenting the objectives you aim to achieve, both internal and external. Possible examples of internal goals are a target number of participants, a specific allocation of your budget, or maybe you want to explore how to measure something like engagement.
When we talk of external goals, we refer to measurable impact: maybe a target number of meals that must be served or a minimum amount of money to be raised through a charity run. You could measure the number of hours invested in creating impact or the number of skills taught.
Try to find alignment with the sustainable development goals: a very relevant framework. Have you created value for society in any other way? And how about for your team? Perhaps, you laid the foundation for a fruitful, sustainable partner relationship. Or maybe you tapped into a new source of creativity that can be used elsewhere as well. Has the mutual interaction improved? Did it become more frequent? Is your event relevant to your corporate foundation?
Keep tracking participants and activities. Drawing and sharing conclusions is critical. Your management and the greater public want to see figures, to be able to assess your project. Transparency is vital.
9. Launch your activity
Like any other worthwhile initiative of your organisation, your employee volunteering event deserves an official launch. And again, we note how important communication is. Share information about the kick-off with your employees and the general public through intranet, social media, press releases, etc.
And of course, you should be managing expectations well in advance. Inform your participants of the place and time, and any clothing they may need. Give them names and details of contacts before and during the activity. People always want to know what they can expect!
10. Have a drink afterward
Of course, this does not have to involve any alcohol, but a post-event get-together is a good way to end the day on a positive note. Perhaps you seek out another location for some drinks and snacks – surely attendants will start an informal evaluation spontaneously. Such an informal session also does wonders for team building. And remember: a positive close = a sound relaunch!
11. Collect ‘hard’ feedback with a survey and interviews
A day or two after your event, you should have a formal evaluation. Query your employees and the receiving organisation. It is fairly easy to just ‘count the hours’, but it is more important to collect qualitative data. What went well, what can be improved, and what did we miss? How can we do this more effectively in the future?
Analyse how good the match really was. Was there a ‘click’? Have you laid the foundation for a relationship? After all is said and done, what is the overall assessment of each party? Was your event really valuable for the receiving organisation? Answers to questions like these also inform any subsequent programme.
In order to collect this type of information, it is best to start with a widely distributed survey, and follow it up with a number of in-depth interviews. This will get you the indispensable input for the transparent report we committed ourselves to in step 8.
12. Follow through
Based on your evaluation with leadership, employees and the receiving organisation, decide how you want to continue. Will you organise another event? Who will be the partners? Or are you ready for a fully-fledged corporate volunteering programme? Decide on your CV strategy for the future.
We hope to have given you a firm basis for your first employee volunteering event. Please, do contact us with any questions you may have. And take the time to check out our site and read our blogs for more information. Should you be ready to launch a complete programme for corporate volunteering: keep your eyes peeled. We will publish a blog about that in the near future. For now, we wish you good luck!
A successful corporate volunteering event in 12 steps| Corporate Volunteering
The times have changed – and surely, that’s a ...