Post by BVU Staff: Roseanne Deucher, Director, Business Engagement
More and more businesses are encouraging their employees to get involved in the community. A CR Magazine and NYSE-Euronext Survey of over 300 companies found that 72% of respondents have corporate responsibility programs and that 77% say these programs will expand over the next three years. Businesses see corporate community involvement as an avenue for brand loyalty, employee engagement, and an opportunity to be viewed as good corporate citizen. BVU has seen this trend translate into an increase in corporate volunteer team projects in Northeast Ohio. In 2013, BVU business members completed almost 300 business team volunteer projects, a 28% increase from 2012.
A group project brings together a group of business volunteers to focus their combined energy, skills and talents to address a need in the community. Benefits for businesses and nonprofits are plentiful.
- Team building for employees
- Increased morale and retention
- Opportunity to have a positive presence in the community
- Raise awareness for the organization’s mission and services
- Form a strategic partnership with the business
- Complete a task which you might not otherwise have the resources to do
- Big impact in a short amount of time
Planning is key to a successful team volunteer project. Our process varies, but here are a few components to help ensure that your project is a success for your team.
- Volunteers need to feel connected to the mission of a nonprofit and the clients they serve. Survey your employees. What are their interests? What is the best time to get the most participation? Where are your employees currently volunteering?
- Once you have an idea of how many employees will be participating and what their interests are, it’s time to plan your project. Understand that some nonprofits will have a difficult time hosting large numbers of volunteers, so consider dividing into smaller teams. Team building is sometimes better when small groups are given the opportunity to communicate and problem-solve together.
- Visit with the volunteer site location beforehand and fully understand the nonprofit’s need. Don’t be shy about pointing out other areas where you might be able to help.
- Details, details, details! To ensure the project’s success, carefully review and communicate details, from where to park to what to wear.
The day of the project approaches and the volunteers have arrived! Now it’s up to the nonprofit to make sure that the volunteer experience is a rewarding one. As the host for the project, you should:
- Welcome volunteers and provide an introduction to your organization. Explain not only what your nonprofit does, but who you serve. In addition, whenever possible volunteers should have opportunities to connect with the clients being served. Engage clients in volunteering side-by-side with the volunteers. If clients are not present, show photos/videos and tell personal stories to allow volunteers to connect the task with the people who will benefit.
- Be clear on what is expected to be accomplished. Be available to volunteers to guide them and to answer questions.
- As project host, you are expected to keep the project moving smoothly and communicating the importance of the tasks at hand. If a room is being painted, to the volunteer it’s just painting, but you need to remind volunteers that the fresh, clean paint will be seen and enjoyed by all the clients who use the room.
- Conclude projects with a debrief. After the volunteers have completed their project, recap the day and allow volunteers to share their experiences. Everyone wants to be thanked – especially volunteers. Most businesses are not looking for a plaque. A simple verbal thank you at the end of a volunteer project can go a long way.
- As follow-up, personalized thank you emails and notes from the consumers create an amazing personal touch. Share photographs and thank volunteer groups on social media. Here is a full list from Realized Worth on additional ways to say thank you.
Businesses are measuring the impact of volunteer projects for its employees with factors such as employee satisfaction and engagement, skill development, and sales, recruiting and stakeholder effects. How can you measure the impact of your project?
- Start with the outputs and report the number of volunteers and volunteer hours. But go beyond and address what was accomplished during the project. Equate the number of volunteer hours to a dollar value. The Independent Sector value of a volunteer hour can assist you in doing this.
- While you were helping the nonprofit, did you have suggestions for increasing efficiency? Is there a way for the nonprofit to use fewer resources – such as man hours or materials – in delivering its services?
- Did helping the nonprofit increase their effectiveness and success rate of the services it provides? e.g., for a nonprofit fighting homelessness, the percentage of homeless people served that ended up sustainably housed.
- Did you help increase reach? Did you expand the capacity of the nonprofit to serve more clients or expand programming?
Now, create your impact statement such as:
“If it weren’t for the volunteer team, nearly 100 families and children in crisis situations would ended their day hungry.”
“Because of the volunteer team…the nonprofit saved over $2,000 in staff time. This dollar amount is now being allocated to expand programming, increase client served, etc.”
“Volunteers did the project in 1 day, where it would have taken nonprofit staff 2 weeks to complete.”
What if your project wasn’t a success? Don’t give up! It takes time for us to fully understand the needs of nonprofits and our business members in order to make the perfect match. Take what you learned from this experience and apply it to make the next project a SUCCESS.