“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
- Arthur Ashe, tennis and human rights champion
I often quote Arthur Ashe when asked for advice on how to build a successful employee volunteer program, whether I’m working with a small business or a multinational corporation.
Why do companies leverage their greatest assets for good? To give back, of course, but also because a strategic employee volunteer program adds value to the company; helps achieve strategic business goals; bolsters employee recruitment, skills, leadership, and retention; and strengthens the corporate culture, brand, and reputation.
National Volunteer Week (April 18-24 in the U.S. and Canada) is a good time to mobilize and recognize volunteers. What creates a transformational volunteer experience, however, will be the same no matter where you live and when you celebrate volunteers’ contributions. To achieve that, you need to understand not only what you hope your company will get out of the effort, but also your employees’ needs and priorities. Also important: ensure volunteers understand the issue being addressed and how their short-term task connects to the bigger challenge at hand.
Even a year into a global pandemic, many companies are achieving social impact through virtual, remote, and even in-person employee volunteering. Salesforce, for example, just completed its Global Volunteer Month. Every employee could participate regardless of their job or time zone. Employees could develop their own volunteer projects or volunteer with nonprofit partners chosen because they align with the company’s focus on workforce development and education. With Story Pirates, Salesforce volunteers read stories and offered critiques and encouragement to young authors during scheduled events. Whenever they had the time, employees also could read and record books that were translated and distributed in refugee camps by the Simbi Foundation. Learn more about Global Volunteer Month and Salesforce’s approach to philanthropy and employee engagement.
Throughout April, United Way is partnering with Cummins to engage employees in service. Projects include writing notes of encouragement, reviewing resumes, holding mock interviews, sitting on career day panels, reading to elementary school students, and remotely assembling snack packs for youth. Last month we facilitated a program for BMO Harris Bank employees who responded to career-related questions submitted by middle and high school students from disadvantaged communities.
Looking for more ideas and advice? This webinar describes a wide range of other volunteer projects and includes strategic, practical guidance on building a successful corporate volunteer program. I hope it inspires you to “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” to promote volunteering through your workplace.
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