Make Your Program As Popular As Disney’s Frozen

What is it about Frozen that has kids so enraptured? Nearly every modern day kids’ movie features good triumphing over evil, catchy songs, slapstick comedy, and great animation; Frozen is no different. How did this particular story become a cultural phenomenon?

By Corey Diamond

If you’re like me and you’re a dad with a young daughter, you hear the songs from the Disney smash hit Frozen every time your head hits the pillow. You hear it when you wake up. You hear it when you’re heading into work. You hear it literally everywhere you go. Sometimes you’re convinced it has penetrated your psyche, and it won’t let go!

With my opening question in mind and, of course, Let it Go as my soundtrack, I started a little project – I tried to make meaning of Frozen and apply it to driving meaning in the workplace. And so, with apologies to cultural theorists around the web, here is a top 6 countdown for making your employee volunteer program (EVP) as popular as Disney’s Frozen:

6. Pick a Theme Song

OK, not literally, but by now you either turn up the volume on Let it Go, singing along unabashedly, or you hate it so much you kind of want to stab the radio with a giant icicle. Either way, its central place as a running theme in the movie is undeniable. Just like Frozen, the best EVPs have a focus area or a theme running through them. Choosing a focus area that combines employees’ interests with corporate initiatives will enable a common theme that’s meaningful to everyone. It also enables meaningful partnerships with nonprofit organizations.

Maddie and Zoe sing “Let It Go” from Frozen from Aaron Mendez on Vimeo.

5.  Support Your Supporting Characters

In Frozen, Olaf is the wisecracking, clumsy snowman that provides comic relief to a serious tale. Your EVP needs to pay attention to the importance of supporting characters who can help take your program to the next level. Maybe someone in HR can help communicate the importance of an event to new recruits. Perhaps an employee was moved by a recent volunteering experience and would be happy to share the story. Either way, pay attention to who they are and recognize them for their contribution to the program’s success.

4. “Let Go” of the T-Shirt

Somehow the Frozen hysteria not yet permeated every t-shirt, lunchbox, and children’s toilet seat; the film’s merchandising hasn’t reached the epic levels of the film itself (though I am told this is not the case in the US). Perhaps the marketers here in Canada have focused on the themes and music, or maybe I’m just not spending enough time at the mall. Either way, quality merchandising doesn’t makes a bad product good, and the same goes for volunteer programs. T-shirts are fun, but meaningful experiences are better. Let go of the style and colour of the event’s cosmetics and focus on making the event meaningful.

3.  Consider the Nontraditional

For the first time in history, a major movie featuring royalty doesn’t feature a prince saving a helpless princess. What best practice can be implemented in an unconventional way? Calculated risks can get people excited about your community programs. Join forces with unorthodox partners and use unexpected communication channels. Remember, email blasts will not get employees to show up to events, but relationships will.

2. Keep it Simple

Kids’ movies teach us that the best stories are simple enough for a toddler to understand. We adults, on the other hand, tend to overthink things and complicate matters. Three out of four of your colleagues don’t volunteer and don’t have any expectations–they just want simple opportunities to have a meaningful experience. Create the space for employees to show up and allow them to walk away with a great story to share.

1. Remember: In the End, It’s All About the Story

Human beings love stories. We love to hear them and we love to tell them. If you ask any Disney crazed five-year old about Frozen, he or she will tell you the story of two sisters and how they saved each other from a frozen world. The most important thing a volunteer can do is share their story with friends and colleagues. Provide volunteers ample space to tell their stories and use simple technology to help amplify it.

Are there other lessons you learned from Frozen? We’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or send us an email via

Corey Diamond
Partner, Business Operations

When Disaster Strikes: 3 Tips for Staying Safe using Technology

The following is a guest post from James Rooneysenior manager for Microsoft’s Technology for Good program. It has been gently edited for the purposes of the RW blog.

Do you and your family have a plan for when disaster strikes? Last week marked National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and while every storm season comes with uncertainty, there are ways to  be prepared and stay safe using the latest technology.

Here are several tips and resources from Microsoft on how to stay safe and out of harm’s way during natural disasters:

1. Stay Connected: Use technology to your advantage

During times of disaster, social media and texting are quick and effective ways to communicate with friends and family.


Last year, Microsoft launched HelpBridge, an app designed to help people connect with one another and with volunteer and donation opportunities during any type of disaster. HelpBridge is a free cross-platform mobile application (Windows Phone, Android, iOS) that provides you with the ability to send status updates to preselected contact groups via email, SMS, Twitter and Facebook. Through your phone’s GPS capabilities you can also choose whether to share your location in your alerts. Microsoft just released an update to the app including a new easy to navigate User Interface and push notifications. In times of disaster, Skype can also help you stay connected via the internet or a mobile device when phone services are down.

2. Plan Ahead: Develop a family emergency plan

One of the best ways you can weather the storm is to prepare for it. Microsoft Excel offers several free templates, including emergency contact lists and family emergency plans. Remember to plan for senior citizens and pets in your household, and communicate this plan to family and friends so that they are aware. Your plan can be accessed during a disaster by saving it to a cloud service like OneDrive, making your documents accessible on any computer or smartphone – even when internet access is not available.

breddi-hpThe United States Department of Homeland Security also offers several resources and games to make disaster preparedness planning easy for the whole family, including the Facebook application bReddi, which helps you and your family prepare for emergencies. The American Red Cross and FEMA provide extensive preparation guidance and status information for various types of natural disasters, including hurricanes.

3. Use Your Resources and Take Action: Monitor your health information

Quick and reliable access to your health and medical information is important to ensure the appropriate medical aid during a natural disaster. HealthVault helps you gather, store, use, and share important health information for you and your family by creating an emergency profile. Here you can manage and track your family’s medical contacts, allergies, medication, immunizations, and health conditions. Your medical providers can securely log in and see a full picture of your history and medical needs.


Download the HelpBridge app here and visit Microsoft Disaster Response site to learn more about the Microsoft Disaster Response program.

About the author

James Rooney OriginalJames Rooney is the senior manager for Microsoft’s Technology for Good program. He manages the company’s relationships with strategic non profit partners, develops technology solutions that positively impact social good, and manages disaster response philanthropy and technology for Microsoft. He’s been with the company for almost 15 years. James also holds an MPA from the University of Washington and has founded and served on the board of a number of non profits focused on food security and community resilience.


Enriched Job Characteristics & Volunteering

Thanks to Alan Mendoza, a recent RW intern, for this summary of the characteristics that influence our motives for volunteering. Alan was an absolutely stellar intern for RW – we recommend you connect with him on LinkedIn and get to know him better!

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By Alan Mendoza

The environment in which we work plays a big role in motivating us to volunteer. In Adam Grant’s article about corporate volunteering, he discusses three different job characteristics that influence our motives for volunteering.

Task Characteristics

Usually focused on classic models of job design, task characteristics relate to the job itself. There are four different characteristics involved: significance, identity, autonomy, and feedback.

You feel that the work you do is important and leaves an impact on the world.

You feel ownership over the task, where you can say “I did that!”

You can make decisions about how a task should be done.

Lets us know how well (or poorly) we did our job.

When task characteristics are enriched, it gives a person a sense of meaning. And let’s face it, how many of us actually want to work on a task without any of these features?

Social Characteristics

Social characteristics influence social interactions and relationships at work. They give us a chance to work with other people inside and outside the organization (*cough* volunteering *cough*), make friends, and support each other. And really, who wants to work in a place where they feel like an outsider?

When these characteristics are enriched, it gives an employee a sense of belonging and connection to their workplace. If you’re not getting this from just doing your job, have you thought about joining a corporate volunteer program? After all, volunteering is an amazing way to meet new people and make friends!

Knowledge Characteristics

Knowledge characteristics help us use our special skills and knowledge. They give us the chance to solve problems, work with complex information, and develop and learn new skills.

When these skills are enriched they help us reinforce the idea that we know what we’re doing at work. In other words, we feel really, really smart and proud of ourselves. If your job doesn’t help you develop your skills, try following these 10 helpful tips.

But what does this mean for Corporate Volunteering?

Good question! If a job enriches all of these characteristics, why would an employee want to volunteer? They have a sense of meaning, they feel like they belong and they have highly developed skills. So what can volunteering give them that they don’t already have?

For one, enriching these characteristics is effective because it gives people a sense of purpose and enables them to associate positive emotions with their place of work. As such, employees feel grateful to their company for giving them a great job. This, in turn, inclines employees to participate in their company’s corporate volunteering programs. These are just a few simple benefits – studies such as CECP’s Giving in Numbers outline trends in giving and volunteering and additional benefits.

But there is a possible down side to having a job that’s so enriched. Like I said before, why would someone keep volunteering or even volunteer in the first place, if their core motives – belonging and competence – are already satisfied? Employees need to believe in the company’s cause and volunteer because they like it; their motivation needs to be intrinsic. Everyone starts out extrinsically motivated, but over time (assuming they’re given great experiences and the space to grow) their motivation gradually becomes intrinsic. This is what makes longterm, committed volunteers.

Fear not! Check out Ester Zolotnitsky’s article Motivating Individuals to Commit to Corporate Volunteering to learn more about motivation.

In the meantime, let’s do some reflecting. Are you really lucky with a super enriched job or is it lacking in some aspects? Does your job affect your motives to volunteer? Do you think our jobs have characteristics that influence us? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email at We would love to hear what you have to say!

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Alan Mendoza
Former RW Intern

Motivating Individuals to Commit to Corporate Volunteering

Thanks to Ester Zolotnitsky, a recent RW intern, for these insights on some of the factors that influence participation in corporate volunteering programs. Ester performed above and beyond expectations as an RW intern – we recommend you connect with her on LinkedIn and join her on her journey toward changing the world!

Companies are adding volunteering programs as part of their corporate social responsibility strategy. But, in order for a volunteer program to succeed companies need to learn what factors influence corporate volunteering, such as motivation and role identity.

By Ester Zolotnitsky

EsterAs a business student majoring in strategy, I’ve always had an interest in learning more about companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. With several months of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that as part of their CSR programs, huge investments are being made in corporate volunteering programs. As employees participate in these programs, they become happier, more committed and more engaged in their organization. Civic50′s website shows the top 50 companies that are committed to their communities and get their employees involved.

It is impressive to see companies succeeding in various corporate volunteering programs. Success, however, is not always the case; companies may have the best strategies in mind, but can’t sustain a corporate volunteering program because of a lack of participation due to a failure to integrate the program into the company’s existing culture. So, how do you get your employees to be involved in corporate volunteering? Adam M. Grant, a social scientist, developed a theoretical explanation to this question based on the individual’s motivation and role identity influence. Here are two important factors to consider:

  1. Motivation:

To get employees actively involved in corporate volunteering, employers need to understand what motivates employees. In Adam M. Grant’s article, he states that employees are more likely to volunteer in their organization when they feel they could fulfill their motivations during the volunteering event. Thus, the description of the volunteer event is crucial as individuals look for specific job characteristics that could, as stated, fulfill their motivation. For example, individuals who seek a sense of belonging and to develop friendships may look for volunteer opportunities where teamwork is required. For employers, it is important to partner employees with the right volunteer opportunities which can match their employees’ motivations. For more information on motivation, I suggest watching Dan Pink’s Ted Talk on the subject.

  1. Role identity

When employees continually volunteer, they develop a role identity and, as a result, are more likely to contribute to corporate volunteering. As Adam M. Grant states, “role identity occurs when employees are engaged in volunteering”. From my personal experience, those who volunteer start to develop a sense of who they are. In addition, they are able to build their strengths and work on their weaknesses through volunteering, further defining their identity. Overall, companies who want to increase the incentives for corporate volunteering must first understand employees from a motivation and role identity perspective. Journey of the Volunteer offers more insight on how to get your employees to volunteer and will guide you on how to create a successful volunteer program. Want to learn more about making CSR strategies work? Email us or give us a call us at 855-926-4678.






Ester Zolotnisky
Former RW Intern
Find Ester on LinkedIn