Is Your Company Ready To Handle the Next Hot-Button Issue? How To Stay Two Steps Ahead
The Problems With Corporate Volunteer Programs and How To Avoid Them
Why Corporate Volunteering Programs Are Often Ineffective
The concept of corporate volunteering is one of the fair-haired darlings of the corporate social responsibility conversation. Corporations who are looking to give back to the community in a meaningful way often turn to corporate volunteer programs as an easy win-win that provides benefits for everyone involved.
The proponents of corporate volunteerism tout it as an effective way to communicate company values, cement teams and boost employee engagement and loyalty, while improving relations with local organizations and community, all wrapped up in a neat “socially responsible” bow. While those benefits are real, companies that set out to build corporate volunteer programs often overlook the other side of these widely used programs.
If you’re seriously considering a volunteer program for your business, it’s important to weigh the benefits against the work you need to do to create and manage an effective, engaging program that works for your company, your employees and the causes you support.
What Goes Into a Successful Corporate Volunteer Program?
Running a successful, effective volunteer program within your company is a lot of work, and the work starts well in advance of the launch.
Volunteer Hub, which provides software for managing an employee volunteer program (EVP), lists eight steps to launching a successful EVP, each of them time consuming but essential to success.
A couple of key steps highlight some of the most common pitfalls these companies encounter.
Assess Community Needs and Employee Interest
Far too often, companies start an EVP because someone in the company leadership saw a cool idea and thought it would be a good fit for their company. They launch into it without taking the time to research the community needs or consulting employees for ideas and interest. The end result can be a program with low employee engagement that is a headache for the causes they hope to promote and support.
Partner with the Right Organizations
If part of your incentive in creating an EVP is to raise your profile in the community, it’s important to choose organizations that align with your business’s objectives and values. Ideally, those will be causes or charities that resonate with your employees, but that might not be the case for all of them. Programs that focus narrowly on one or two organizations risk shutting out some employees who may have other priorities for their volunteer time.
Assess and Quantify Impact
Record-keeping and assessment are an essential part of managing a successful, ongoing EVP. Collecting and managing the info — especially if your EVP includes paid time off or volunteer stipends — is an additional, time-consuming burden on your HR department.
Publicize Your Program
Marketing your EVP has two main targets: your employees and the community. In both cases, it requires time, effort and expense on the part of your company and those who are managing it.
The Pitfalls of Corporate Volunteer Programs
While the benefits of employee volunteer programs are widely known, there’s not as much conversation about the problems that often arise in running and managing them. Beyond the time and expense involved in managing an EVP, companies may run into one or more of these issues that diminish the impact it might have.
What Employees Say
Recent research into employee motivations and lived experience of employee volunteer programs highlighted some of the challenges and negative outcomes they experienced. Some of the issues included:
The pressure to volunteer makes some employees feel that they are being judged or evaluated for their commitment to the company, especially if they aren’t connected to the volunteer work.
Many employees felt that they didn’t have enough time to do volunteer work and still keep up with the demands of their job.
Volunteer programs may inadvertently shut some employees out of participation. For example, volunteer activities that involve physical activity, such as building houses or fundraising walks, may be difficult for employees with mobility problems. A single parent may find it difficult to participate in activities that happen outside working hours because they don’t have child care.
When volunteer programs limit opportunities to one or two events, some employees may find nothing that interests them.
Many employees want more control over their volunteer opportunities, from choosing causes to support to planning activities for the team.
What Nonprofits Say
Volunteer management is a specialized skill in the nonprofit world, and many larger organizations that depend on volunteers for their operations have staff dedicated specifically to that task. That’s not always the case.
In fact, some corporate volunteer programs can make extra work for a nonprofit without a tangible gain. These are some of the issues highlighted by nonprofits who accept corporate volunteers.
A mismatch between employee skills and nonprofit needs.
Employee volunteers who don’t understand the aims and philosophy of the nonprofit and/or its clients.
The need to train and supervise volunteers.
A lopsided power dynamic between the company and the nonprofit, especially if volunteerism is connected to a monetary donation.
In short, an EVP that isn’t planned and coordinated with a nonprofit partner, and focused on filling their needs rather than those of the corporation, can be a drain on the nonprofit’s resources.
Practical Alternatives to Corporate Volunteer Programs
The challenges described in the previous section often result when programs are conceived, planned and executed from the top down, without considering the other stakeholders — the employees and the nonprofits — they’re intended to benefit. Many of these can be alleviated by following specific best practices, including:
Involve employees in the planning from the start.
Engage in meaningful assessment with potential nonprofit partners to assess their needs and capacity.
Tailor volunteer activities to the needs of the nonprofit and your employees.
Provide wider choices in corporate volunteer program activities.
Measure the impact of your program periodically and make adjustments where needed.
What if, after doing the research and evaluating your capacity, you realize that typical corporate volunteer programs aren’t the best fit for your company and your employees? There are some practical alternatives to consider, alternatives that give your employees more choice and autonomy while still allowing your company to support them and the causes most important to them.
Give Them More Money To Donate
The one thing that every nonprofit always needs is more money. While volunteering feels good, nonprofits can often make better use of cash donations that they can apply to their own needs.
Expand Your Definition of Volunteering
If you offer paid time off for volunteering, expand your definition to include the informal volunteering that many people do as a matter of course. Paying employees for the time they spend supporting the causes most important to them sends a powerful message that your company values them.
Empower Employees To Donate in the Ways That Are Most Meaningful to Them
Employee giving programs — including employee volunteer programs — are most effective when they empower employees to support the causes and charities that are most important to them. By removing barriers to giving and volunteering, your company can provide the opportunity and means for your employees — and your business — to make a difference in the world.
The Groundswell Difference
Groundswell makes it easy to get an employee giving program up and running with a minimum of effort on your part. It’s designed to empower employees to support the causes and charities that are most important to them, while respecting and supporting each of their diverse perspectives. You choose how and when your company disburses funds into your employee giving accounts — such as paid time for volunteering — and they choose when and how they donate those funds.
To learn more about how Groundswell can help power your corporate giving strategy and empower your employees to make an impact, contact us and ask about the benefits of an equitable, inclusive employee giving program.
Giving Tuesday Donations: Best Practices and Ideas for Businesses
Giving Tuesday is fast approaching, so we wanted to give you great Giving Tuesday ideas. Now’s the time when nonprofits ask their patrons and donors to dig a little deeper to finish off the annual donations drive with a strong push.
Normally December is the month when donations peak. Giving Tuesday donations serve as a kickoff, establishing the momentum for this important month of generosity.
Although the proceeds from Giving Tuesday benefit nonprofits, businesses play an important role. It’s a great opportunity to help the community and invest in causes that support the company’s values. Employees, too, will appreciate the chance to participate in meaningful ways.
What Is Giving Tuesday?
Giving Tuesday rolls around every year on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, or perhaps, more appropriately, after Black Friday. But it’s not nearly as old. It was started in 2012 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City by soon-to-be-CEO Henry Timms and co-founded by the United Nations Foundation.
Timms’s idea was to reverse the trend of heavy consumerism surrounding Black Friday and encourage everyone to give back.
Sure, people like Bill Gates tweeted about it and helped to spread the word. But the idea was supercharged by families and small communities that embraced the idea and ran with it, asking themselves and their children what they stood for, and then donating and pitching in to help the causes they really cared about.
According to Timms’ interview with PBS, “We need to stop seeing people as donors and start seeing them as owners.”
In the new paradigm that Timms envisioned, the role of the donor extends far beyond money. It also includes giving time, a voice and ideas to confront the problems in an increasingly interconnected world.
What surprised and delighted Timms most was that, from the very beginning, the idea captured the hearts of people around the world who wanted to make the idea even better. Today, Giving Tuesday has become part of their traditions.
Why Is It Important?
Giving Tuesday provides a boost to donations for the year, encouraging businesses and individuals to give in whatever ways suit them best. It’s a chance to raise more money than on an average day and serve to kick-start the year-end giving campaign. Those who want to take advantage of tax-deductible donations will be looking for opportunities to contribute. Further, Giving Tuesday donations leverage the generosity that has long been a tradition of the holiday season.
Giving Tuesday can provide a boost to your brand. You can leverage the opportunity to let customers know about the good things your company does year-round. It’s well established that customers care about purchasing from companies that are charitable.
And it’s not just about feeling good either. Recent research has discovered that people purchase from companies that demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) because they believe that the company’s products and services are safer and of higher quality.
Giving Tuesday is also an opportunity to remind employees that they are part of a company that cares. Employees who work for companies with generous giving initiatives are likely to be happier and more engaged than employees who work for other companies.
How Companies Can Make a Difference When It Comes to Giving Tuesday
Giving Tuesday is more than a once-a-year symbolic movement of generosity. It’s about individuals who ask what they can do and then act in powerful ways to help others. It’s about mobilizing communities so that they are empowered and self-advocating. But it’s also about companies, both large and small, doing what they can to support the communities they serve. Everybody and every organization can make a difference.
Companies with CSR initiatives are uniquely positioned to do more than individuals. CSR is all about companies taking a positive role in the community. In addition to considering the ethical and environmental impact of their operation and making sound fiduciary decisions, the most progressive companies are proactive in their philanthropic pursuits. That means making the world a better place. There are many ways to do this including donating to worthy causes and creating their own trusts.
Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to highlight your company’s ongoing activities such as volunteering, matching donations and other activities. Treat it as part of your overall corporate philanthropy strategy.
Giving Tuesday Best Practices
Here are some best practices that companies have used to ensure that their Giving Tuesday event is successful.
Set Your Values
It’s important to have alignment between the company’s values and its decisions and actions. This is equally important with your philanthropic efforts. Revisit why charitable giving matters so that as you develop your strategies you develop a long-term plan.
Before you establish goals, you’ll need to think about the targets. Your Giving Tuesday initiative should have something in it for the community as well as for your customers and employees. For example, giving a portion of sales is a good way to include customers.
Inventory Your Resources
There are always more needs than there are resources available to help. But just remember, Giving Tuesday goes beyond dollar donations. There is also employee time, goods and services, managerial talent, facilities and social media reach.
Take stock of your resources and commit to specific and measurable goals. Edit and prioritize so that you can devote sufficient time to achieving the goals you set.
Make a Plan
Choose some ideas and decide how to implement them. Start planning early so that you have time to fine-tune the details. To support your efforts, ensure that your communication strategy is buttoned up. Include, for example, an email campaign, social media outreach and a robust webpage.
Measure so that you will have benchmarks for your future efforts. In addition to the ROI, you will also want to know who benefited from your efforts and what to repeat or improve next year. Did you actually increase your overall giving?
Giving Tuesday Ideas
There are hundreds of Giving Tuesday ideas that your company can implement. Following are just a few suggestions on what you could include in your initiative.
Ask employees to nominate and select a long-term charity partner.
Create a Giving Tuesday hashtag and donate each time the hashtag is shared.
Match the proceeds of a fundraising event planned by employees.
Coordinate with other local businesses to host a charity auction.
Host a meet-and-greet for nonprofits with local businesses to extend their network.
Donate a portion of sales to a nonprofit group.
Give employees a charitable stipend to give to a nonprofit of their choice
Make It Easy
The best way to manage Giving Tuesday ideas and all your philanthropic initiatives is with a corporate giving platform. Groundswell can help with its frictionless setup and administration. We can have your program up and running in no time with minimal investment of your staff and resources. Contact us today.
68% of Nonprofits Say This About Donations vs Volunteers – “Show us the money!”
Recently, leaders have stopped organizing employee volunteer events and shifted towards gifting and matching programs for good reasons.
That’s because company leaders have discovered that they’re not the only ones that think volunteering isn’t the best place for highly-skilled employees to spend their limited time. In fact, two-thirds of nonprofit leaders agree that donations are often better than organizing and overseeing volunteer events.
A recent poll conducted by Groundswell of 500 nonprofit leaders indicated 68% preferred receiving monetary contributions over facilitating a corporate volunteer event.
If you’ve considered putting together a volunteer event for your employees or setting up a corporate gifting and matching program, you’re in the right place.
This article helps you decide what programs are best for you and your organization, what benefits and drawbacks come with organizing volunteer events, and why companies are moving away from sending their employees out and moving towards offering employees a gifting and donation match program that sends money directly to nonprofits.
Volunteers or Donations?
Volunteering is at the heart of many charity and nonprofit organizations. Without people willing to volunteer their time to support the causes they care about, some nonprofits would fall short of their goals.
However, while the act of volunteering is noble and well intentioned, not all volunteers and volunteering activities are created equal. Most organizations that rely on volunteers to deliver services strive for volunteers who are willing to show up consistently, complete training, and execute tasks according to standards.
For example, the Boys and Girls Club’s lifeblood is community members who sign up to mentor at-risk youth. Mentors who consistently meet with, coach, and encourage their mentees can have a profound impact on that child’s life. Conversely, a volunteer that quits after two meetings can devastate a child’s self-esteem.
Similarly, Feeding America – the largest network of foodbanks in the U.S. – relies substantially on volunteers to help operate its food warehouses. But, just like any Amazon fulfillment center, maintaining an efficient operation requires effective human capital management, including volunteer scheduling and training on tasks like storing, packing and shipping different types of food items. Having dedicated volunteers that commit to consistent work shifts allows FA operations leaders to plan effectively.
There are countless examples of how committed volunteers can make a difference, but anyone considering a day of volunteering should ask themselves important questions about what the nonprofit they’re aiming to support needs most: time or money?
The Truth About Why Companies Love Corporate Philanthropy
Corporations love sending employees to help nonprofits because they see it as a win-win-win: nonprofits get support, employees get engaged, and the company burnishes its reputation..
It’s clear that an army of employees adorned in color-coordinated shirts emblazoned with the company’s logo, deployed out into the community with rakes or paintbrushes, makes for a great photo op. The activity sends a message to the community that the company cares, and that’s a good thing as corporate stakeholders increasingly demand that company’s focus on social impact.
There’s also no doubt that the activity engages employees. It often gets them out of the office and mingling with one another in a low-stress, lighthearted way. Many will return to the office grateful that their employer prioritized making a difference.
But what about the nonprofit? Have they received the resources they need most to execute their mission best?
The Pros and Cons of Hosting Volunteer Events
Corporate volunteer events are events organized by nonprofit organizations at the request of a company, often through a corporate social responsibility (CSR) team.
These events generally last a few hours, typically around the same time as an employee all-hands conference or retreat. They can be hosted at the company’s headquarters or at the nonprofit’s location. Often, employee volunteers are untrained, and despite wanting to make a difference, likely have no direct tie to or passion for the nonprofit’s mission; meaning most will conclude the event with no intention of volunteering with the organization again.
If coordinated with the nonprofit effectively and resourced appropriately, corporate volunteer events can create value.
Here are the pros and cons of corporate volunteers.
Benefits of volunteering:
Positive employee experience – employees that volunteer often walk away with a good experience and positive outlook on aiding others.
More hands on the project – some projects benefit from more people on a project, like with community clean-ups.
Positive company image – Employees that volunteer contribute to the philanthropic values of a company and improve its public image.
Drawbacks of volunteering:
Additional work for the nonprofits – Organizing an event, training new volunteers, and managing an unfamiliar person can take a lot of effort and resources away that could have otherwise been used on supporting the organization’s cause.
Reduced efficiency – The best nonprofits build efficient systems to do their work. Oftentimes, corporate volunteer events operate outside these systems. This can happen geographically, by dictating the location be at the corporate office, or otherwise by having to accommodate volunteers unfamiliar with the established system or process.
Volunteering isn’t always equitable and inclusive – Not every employee can participate in a volunteer activity. For example, if you’re cleaning up a beach employees with mobility issues could be left out.
Smaller return on investment – Volunteer events take a lot of work to plan, coordinate and execute, and sometimes – especially absent an additional monetary contribution from the company – the effort doesn’t yield sufficient impact.
Unpredictable effort and labor – The skills of volunteers can range from amateur to expert, which can make it tough for organization leaders to get high-level contributions.
No time — Businesses are busy. Not all employees, executives, investors, and board members have the time to commit to volunteering, making it easier to donate money instead of time.
While volunteering can have a handful of benefits, it can sometimes come with a great deal of unnecessary administrative duties that take valuable resources away from an organization’s limited resources.
Four Valuable Insights From Nonprofit Employees
Along with uncovering the reality about corporate volunteer programs, our poll revealed important insights into the truth about how nonprofits leaders felt about shifting trends in corporate philanthropy.
According to our research, 79.4% agreed that corporate volunteer events are often more focused on employee experience than generating desirable outcomes for the organization’s causes.
Notably, 56.2% experienced a corporate volunteer event that didn’t lead to efficient outcomes for the organization’s cause.
Perhaps in light of that, 72.2% believe corporations should make monetary contributions to offset the effort required to facilitate corporate volunteer events.
Finally, a remarkable 42.2% believe planning volunteer opportunities for companies is actually a distraction to their core mission.
Here’s Why Donating Is Better Than Volunteers.
Just like any business, having working capital is crucial for charities to deliver consistent outcomes.
For nonprofit organizations, donations help fuel campaign initiatives, purchase supplies, pay for employee salaries, cover the cost of insurance and support efforts made by the entity. Even volunteer events cost money! Who do you think covers the cost of those bottles of water, ham sandwiches, and cans of paint?
In other words, donations support nearly every facet of an organization, from supporting their infrastructure to facilitating initiatives and backing campaigns.
In nearly all cases, donations are much more flexible than volunteering. Donations can be used for anything related to the organization’s operation while volunteering is limited to labor-specific tasks. Volunteering is also limited by the volunteer’s level of expertise, whereas donations can be used to hire experts to accomplish the same task using less effort and resources.
Have You Launched Your Company Gifting and Matching Program?
Since donations generally contribute directly to the organization’s central mission while providing them with ultimate discretion in how to deliver impact, corporate leaders and their employees are realizing their contributions can go a lot further when donating money instead of time.
If you’re curious to learn more about how corporate gifting and matching programs work, you’ll find more resources on our blog.
What Is “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion”?
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. The concepts aren’t new but they’re more important than ever. Most companies have some sort of DEI initiative. But diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s workplace go beyond the concept of equality. Whether you’re looking to optimize the framework you already have or are starting from the beginning, it’s good to understand DEI in greater detail. As the world becomes increasingly diverse, DEI is a business imperative.
The Components of DEI
So, if DEI is not equality, what is it? It’s perhaps best to address that question by first understanding each of the components of DEI and how they look in action.
What Is Diversity?
Workplace diversity starts with hiring people from different backgrounds and life experiences. Although early definitions centered around race and gender, diversity also applies to ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, background, education, personality traits and more. And it’s not just about bringing in diverse people, it’s also about ensuring that these valuable employees can participate and contribute in ways that benefit the individual, the company and society at large.
What Is Equity?
Equity is a term frequently conflated with equality. The terms are similar but when companies pursue equality over equity the outcomes will be strikingly different. Equality is about treating everyone the same regardless of what they need to succeed and despite the systemic inequities that have existed for generations. Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that historically unequal access is inherent in economic, educational and social structures. So what’s required is the application of different methods so that everyone has an opportunity to succeed. That’s how equity differs.
What Is Inclusion?
When the workplace is inclusive, employees feel valued and accepted as part of the larger organization. It happens without them having to become something they are not. Inclusive companies celebrate and encourage diverse ideas and approaches, giving everyone the same opportunities for advancement.
What DEI Looks Like
As useful as it is to understand what DEI is, it’s equally important to understand what DEI is not. Superficial treatments of DEI initiatives predictably lead to less-than-stellar outcomes. Here are a few examples.
This is DEI:
A visually impaired worker is given a large, high-quality monitor and other low-vision accommodations.
This is not:
The weekly staff meeting is always held in the late afternoon even though the single parent who must attend has a childcare issue.
This is DEI:
Resume screening during the hiring process is blind, eliminating names and addresses.
This is not:
Job candidate information on the resume helps decision makers identify candidates by gender, race, ethnicity or neighborhood.
This is DEI:
The company conducts a regular pay gap analysis to ensure gender pay e quality.
This is not:
Salaries are never included in job postings despite suspected discrepancies between men and women.
This is DEI:
Religious and cultural holidays are acknowledged and employees are automatically given the time off to observe these occasions.
This is not:
The company holds a yearly Christmas party and other holidays, like Rosh Hashana, pass by without mention.
It’s not unusual for management to feel overwhelmed by the number of small details that impact their DEI efforts. It can seem impossible to do everything. It’s important to remember, however, that small gestures go a long way toward ensuring that DEI is ingrained in the culture and is a responsibility assumed by all, not just a yearly check-box initiative. Once DEI becomes business as usual, it will be as natural as taking a breath. When that happens, you’ll reap the benefits that accrue to a truly diverse organization.
How To Set Up DEI Strategy That Actually Works
DEI isn’t new, but it’s more important now than ever before. That’s because the world is changing and so is the marketplace. Companies need diversity to innovate and grow to meet evolving needs. Diversity is important in the upper ranks, as well. In fact, when it comes to gender, companies in the top quartile of diversity are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile.
Companies that currently have a DEI initiative can optimize it to ensure that it accomplishes their objectives. Those with no DEI framework can ensure that they build in certain components from the beginning.
Here’s how to set up a strategy that works:
Start From the Top
A committed DEI program must have committed leaders. You don’t just need a sponsor; you need a top-down commitment to make change a priority. Your DEI effort goes beyond lip service. It changes the way employees work together. Tie DEI goals into your company objectives and values. That means that in addition to organizational data and metrics that really matter, you’ll need someone to hold managers accountable for meeting the objectives of the program.
Hire Good Resources
Ensure that you put the right people in place. You may have the people internally to lead the effort but it never hurts to bring in outside consultants to facilitate the setup. DEI conversations can be tricky and the last thing you want is a ham-fisted approach that puts the people you need most on the defensive. DEI is going to be everyone’s job.
Find Mechanisms to Expand the Dialogue
Every good DEI initiative begins with a conversation. You’ll need to keep the conversation uplifting and productive. Affinity groups can help. They can give a voice to those who are underrepresented, provide input into critical decision-making processes, and help companies decide how and when to weigh in on important social issues.
Recognize the Culture Change
DEI is a cultural change in most companies. You’ll need to examine your systems and policies, your language and even your values. Diversity doesn’t just happen. Companies that are diverse and inclusive get there through a series of deliberate and proactive decisions. There are reasons why there may not be qualified people from every community and identity in your workplace and why, when they do come, the outcomes may not be as expected. Culture change will require aligned systems to support the beliefs and behaviors you want to instill.
Find a Common Cause
Companies that truly believe in diversity reflect those values by showing up in the communities they serve. One of the best ways to participate in the many underserved world communities is through philanthropic activities. Such efforts are good for humanity, good for the planet and a great way to engage employees. It can be a challenge to find something the company can do together to embrace DEI values. Groundswell is one way to make giving an employee benefit as well as to embrace diversity as a corporate value.
Groundswell can get your corporate giving program up and running effortlessly. No more tracking of donation receipts or vetting nonprofits. Each employee is set up with a personal giving account established just for them. It works just similar to a 401(k), only it’s for charitable giving. Now your company can easily support diverse perspectives with a giving program that is equitable and inclusive.
Diversity Is Increasing. Are You Ready?
In the years to come, the people you hire will be increasingly diverse, coming from different backgrounds and life experiences. This diverse perspective will help shape both your culture and your destiny. Your company will need to invest time and energy to yield the benefits promised.
In the ever-changing business landscape, companies must be able to adapt and evolve. The concepts of diversity and inclusion are not new, but are becoming more important than ever before. With a diverse group of employees, companies can gain new perspectives, learn from one another and become stronger as a result. Start today with Groundswell.