Making a Corporate Volunteer Program Work for Your Nonprofit

Approximately 60% of the world’s large companies provide some form of paid volunteer program for employees, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, a coalition of CEOs dedicated to corporate societal engagement. It’s easy to understand the appeal of volunteer programs for companies. Volunteering in their communities boosts their reputation, raises their visibility, provides employee team-building opportunities and has even been shown to reduce absenteeism and improve retention.

Nonprofits also generally benefit from corporate volunteer programs — but not always. So if you’re considering this type of partnership, make sure that it really will be mutually beneficial.

Advantages are clear

For organizations that are always short of volunteers or that have put off large projects for lack of helping hands, a corporate volunteer partnership can be a boon. These partnerships offer other benefits as well.

Teaming up with a well-known company can raise your nonprofit’s profile with potential donors and the media. And employees who participated may decide to become permanent volunteers or financial supporters of your organization.

Mutually beneficial relationship

The best volunteer partnerships generally are those where the nonprofit’s mission and the company’s core business correlate. For example, an athletic shoes manufacturer is a perfect match for an afterschool basketball program.

Many businesses seek one-day volunteer opportunities that can accommodate all of their employees. If your organization is painting the walls of schools, stocking food pantry shelves or setting up for a fundraising event, short-term assistance from an army of volunteers can be a lifesaver. But you shouldn’t create work where it doesn’t exist, particularly if coming up with activities or managing volunteers will put a strain on staff resources.

Also be wary when companies offer volunteers on short notice. To be successful, corporate volunteer days take planning. For example, you may need to arrange such logistical details as meals or prepare training instructions and educational materials.

Opportunities abound

If you have to turn down an eager corporate volunteer, do so carefully. Explain how the offer may, in fact, cost your nonprofit time and money. Then propose other volunteer opportunities.

Group volunteer days aren’t the only way to take advantage of employees who want to help. Many companies provide paid time for staff to volunteer for the charity of their choice. Others make financial contributions to organizations where employees volunteer. For example, Campbell’s Soup Company donated approximately $50,000 in 2015 to the charities where its employees volunteered during the company’s “Make a Difference Week.”

Finding your match

Several organizations help nonprofits find companies with volunteer programs, including the Points of Light Foundation (http://www.pointsoflight.org), VolunteerMatch (http://www.volunteermatch.org) and HandsOn Network. Regional organizations such as Boston Cares (http://www.bostoncares.org) and Chicago Cares (http://www.chicagocares.org) can help you find companies in your community.

Once you have a volunteer partner, get to know its corporate responsibility administrator and stay in touch with that person even after the volunteer activity has taken place. The goal is to turn a one-day event into an ongoing arrangement — and to ensure that your organization will be seriously considered for any corporate gifts that may be available.

© 2015


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