Living and Giving

Corporate Volunteering: Get the Community to See Beyond your Company\’s Name

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Volunteering as a Positive Return for All

Volunteering is such an important part of our culture, since the inception of our country. It\’s in our blood to help, and a natural fit. And yet in order for it to be a win-win situation for everyone, we must think practically about how to make volunteering effective. In this way, nonprofits, corporations, and the corporate employees are inspired to not only start but also continue volunteering.

For each group, there are specific points to keep in mind. The following tips are insights I have gathered in leading (as founder and CEO) the nonprofit UniversalGiving, where we work with Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, both domestically and abroad.

We’ll start with the benefits of employee volunteering to the companies. Volunteering is a key part of any CSR program. First, it\’s the most cost-effective. Your goal is simply to incentivize your employees to get involved as individuals. This is much cheaper than providing matching grants or company donations. In fact, about 46% of companies in Silicon Valley even provide time off for their employees to volunteer.1

To take it to the next level, you can also organize corporate team volunteer events. These events can be some of the highest forms of team building, and, cross-business unit collaboration. So if you are a CSR professional seeking an inexpensive, high leverage way to bolster a positive culture and team-building, this is the option for you. It\’s interesting to note that 40% of Silicon Valley companies have 1-4 corporate sponsored events per year; and, even more impressive, 46% of companies hold 10 or more events per year.2

Additional benefits follow to the company. It helps them enhance their corporate brand image; the community sees your company\’s presence in a positive light, and in numerous different situations.  Having a meaningful volunteer program in place also improves the recruitment process for new employees: They know your company cares by officially supporting this program as part of the culture. Most likely some new recruits have even met some of your current employees while volunteering themselves. An important plus is that it keeps employees with you; retention rates rise.

A final note for companies is local buy-in. It\’s important that local communities see beyond the company\’s office buildings, its logo and it marketing. Company employees volunteering in the community lends a new light of visibility to companies. One that instills a sense of trust and engagement. It highlights your company\’s presence. All of these warm factors help a company’s bottom line while also serving the community.

One of the toughest issues companies face in implementing a top-quality CSR strategy, and volunteer program, is with which NGO Partners they decide to partner. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships should be made with care, and for the long term. You can read more about how Fortune 500 companies can protect themselves and their brand as they expand their international giving and volunteer programs worldwide in my blog post: “Top 4 International Insights for Fortune 500 Companies.\” 

Employees, just like the companies they work for, must also be diligent about choosing the right nonprofit with which to work. In order to maximize the return on their volunteer experience, employees should look for a nonprofit whose mission addresses the issues about which they are most passionate.

In addition, employees also need to look at the governance and type of organization. They need to make sure the leadership and organizational structure of that nonprofit are a good fit. Is the vision clearly articulated and followed? Is the leadership compelling and trustworthy? Is the specific opportunity allowing them to make the biggest impact using their current skills while also providing them the opportunity to learn new skills? I recently wrote an article for TILE Financial’s Spend Grow Give program, and although it is directed at volunteers in their teens, it is nonetheless an excellent resource for volunteers of any age.

Nonprofits, in turn, can benefit most from corporate volunteers by establishing clear roles and communications with them. Nonprofits need to craft individual volunteer positions that serve both their goals and the company\’s interests. Nonprofits can also do due diligence on a particular employee to find out how he or she might want to grow and contribute. Then determine how it can fit with the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Does it help with a specific program, outreach services, marketing, operations, accounting? Be sure you are specific about the value to you.

As in the corporate world, \”a return\” on your volunteering and time spent should be achieved for everyone. Individuals should feel they are growing and contributing significantly and with defined impact. Companies and their employees should feel their skills are being leveraged while reinforcing a strong culture and brand. And nonprofits should ensure their organization’s assets, in this case, its volunteers, are purposefully engaged. With this type of thoughtful planning, volunteering is a positive win for all.

1, 2: 2010 Corporate Citizenship in Silicon Valley