Finding and using corporate volunteers

Corporate volunteers

Are corporate volunteers part of your program’s strategy? You might want them to be.

Good journalism starts with answering the five Ws – who, what, where, when and why. The Ws can be used to explain more than news stories. They’re a great way to understand a lesser-known concept, like involving corporate volunteers.

I’m going to take them out of order, though, and start with “what.”

What are corporate volunteers?

There are a few different ways that a corporation or group can bolster your volunteer program, depending on how they are set up.

One is by encouraging their employees to volunteer in the community through providing paid volunteer time off or other rewards and incentives. In this case, each individual chooses which organization to volunteer with. You, as leader of volunteers, would treat them in the same way as any other volunteer, with perhaps a media shout-out to the company. Because of that, this blog will focus on the next method.

The second way is that the company can participate in larger scale volunteer events or projects. An example of this might be to provide a number of employees to help the organization with running a fundraising gala, or by building all new kennels for your animal shelter.

Finally, they can provide a pool of highly experienced managers and executive to serve on your board of directors.

Why corporate volunteers?

Well, besides the fact that most organizations are always looking for skilled volunteers, by reaching out to local companies, you can increase awareness of your cause.

Depending on the size of the company, you may introduce your organization to dozens or hundreds of new converts. This not only can bring you new volunteers, but it may also bring you new donors. Also, when corporations are involved with an organization, it is to their benefit to promote what they’re doing, so you get the spin-off marketing.

By having a corporate group come in to do large-scale projects, you can reduce the wear and tear on regular volunteers. This can help reduce burnout, and allows the regulars to keep to their usual schedule.

An extra bonus of having corporate groups is you don’t need to do the regular screening and training you would have to do for individual volunteers. The company is responsible for the behaviour of their staff while volunteering for you and roles for events and projects tend not to require the same in-depth training as other roles.

Who are the companies that have volunteering programs?

So now you know what corporate volunteers can do, and why you might want to involve them, who are they?

Start by talking with other organizations in your community. Who have they brought in to do project work? What was their experience like? Next, reach out to your local chamber of commerce or board of trade. They may have a list of companies that are willing to do volunteer work, or they may allow you to reach out to their members.

Finally, use good-old Google. Research companies that have been noted for volunteer work in the past. You may come across old news articles about their contributions, or they may even have a page on their website dedicated to their social impact work.

Where do you start?

You’ve decided that you want to involve corporate volunteers, and you may even know a couple of companies that have volunteer programs. Now what? Where do you start?

First, look at the tasks and projects you have coming up. Is there something that needs doing that you’ve been putting off because you don’t want to overload the volunteers you currently have? Reach out to the group and find out if they’re interested, and what they need from you to move forward.

When should you involve corporate volunteers?

Bringing in corporate volunteers for one-off tasks is ideal. Rather than involving them in day-to-day tasks, think in terms of projects. Maybe your thrift store needs to be reorganized, or your hospice needs to be painted. Perhaps you have a food drive coming up. Maybe you just need a new fence built.

These kinds of projects are ideal for group volunteering. You say what needs doing, and the company brings in the people to do it. You can even target specific companies for specific projects – a retail outlet to help reorganize the thrift store, or a construction company to build your fence. This gives you skilled labour, and it gives the company a chance to market themselves.

Involving corporate volunteers should be a key part of your program’s strategy.

There are incredible benefits all around: to your organization and the cause it serves, the company you partner with, and the volunteers themselves.

And that’s the five Ws of corporate volunteering.

As for that tag-along "H" in the five Ws explanation, "how" (as in how do you set up your program to involve them?), I’ll answer that in another column.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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