The Results are In! Volunteering Makes Your Employees Better

A constant topic of conversation here at Realized Worth revolves around the impact strategic employee volunteering programs have on businesses; how the link to employee engagement is undeniable. We discuss the effect these programs have on communities, and the strength of their impact on those communities. But … when it comes down to the impact on the individual, there wasn’t much to talk about. There has been little evidence on how employee volunteering programs build the skills of the employees themselves. Until now.

businessman hand choosing people icon  as human resources concep

By Corey Diamond

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development – more commonly known as CIPD – is a UK-based professional body for HR and people development. With over 130,000 members internationally, CIPD acts as a resource and training body for the profession. Its landmark report, published earlier this month, makes a strong link between volunteering and skills development; and while there have been a number of research reports over the years on this topic, none have featured case studies and empirical evidence of more than 20 companies and charities. The guts of the research is a thoughtful top ten list of the most common skills employees gain from volunteering, including:

  1. Community Awareness
  2. Confidence
  3. Coaching and Mentoring
  4. Communication
  5. Networking and Relationship Building
  6. Team Building
  7. Enhancing Your Professional Knowledge
  8. Self Awareness and Reinforcing Skills
  9. Workload Management
  10. Creativity

The list is backed up by actual experience from companies such as National Grid, Nationwide, Marks and Spencer and others. Wendy Tomlinson of Linklaters articulates the link perfectly:

I think increasingly we recognize that learning is not just about attending formal training programs, or taking part in formal e-learning or different learning technologies, but also is what they are driving themselves, through their own personal motivations or development … Volunteering in supporting other people is all a very rich learning experience, and I think adds to the collective sense of people learning through doing.

National Grid looks at skills development as part of every volunteer opportunity it promotes to its employees. Kate Van Der Plank explains:

All of our jobs have a defined competency matrix which includes levels of skill from foundation to advanced; so for the particular role that you’re currently in, or if there is a role you are aspiring to, you can have a look through the Hub and see the different community programs you can do that could help you get to that skill level.

The report is more evidence of the growing trend of employee volunteering programs and HR functions. As your program evolves, the extent to which you can integrate it into core business functions will be key to its expansion and success. Engaging HR through a learning and development lens is an excellent way to make that happen. And look no further than this great research to help with your initial conversations internally. We’d love to hear how those conversations go. Drop us a line via contact@realizedworth.com, connect with us on Twitter, or leave a comment below and tell us how it went.

COREY RW PIC EDITED

Corey Diamond
Partner, Business Operations
coreydiamond@realizedworth.com

Top 7 CSR and Employee Volunteering Trends & Challenges

Corporate volunteering and giving programs promise inspiring global impacts, but the short-term can be wrought with challenges. One of those challenges is simply a sense that you’re out there on your own. The following list is not only intended to assure you that you’re in good company, it’s also meant to serve as an invitation to join a problem-solving session with like-minded companies in your area. Scroll to the end for more information.

rw trio

By Angela Parker

7 Trends & Challenges

1. Identifying What’s Going On, Locally & Globally

Companies are confident that their employees are giving and volunteering all over the world. Now and then, stories trickle in from a plant or a global site about a backpack drive or a disaster relief effort, but companies do not know how to gather or capture this information.

2. Measuring Impact

CSR practitioners tend to be people who believe in the inherent value of giving and volunteering. However, the people they work for need to see proof. What is volunteering doing for employees? Are they more engaged? How do we know? Is there a real contribution to the company’s bottom line? What about the community? Does planting a few trees really make a difference? Companies need help identifying the measures of success and tracking and reporting impact.

3. Choosing a Workplace Giving Platform

Identifying what’s going on and deciding how to measure impact both lead inevitably to a conversation about workplace giving platforms. The availability of these tools and the features they offer are increasing rapidly, which only makes the decision more difficult to make for CSR practitioners who are already overworked and under-resourced.

4. Engaging Mid-Level Managers

Of all barriers corporate volunteering and giving programs encounter, mid-level managers are at the top of the list. Most managers do not understand the benefit of allowing time for their employees to volunteer. In the majority of cases, they do not have a stake in the program and have not experienced the benefits of volunteering for themselves. At many companies, program participation rates are due almost entirely to the buy-in (or lack thereof) of each business area’s managers.

5. Increasing Broad Participation

Typically, a small group of employees volunteer consistently at the same type of event. While these volunteers are valued and appreciated, companies want to know how to recognize both employees who never volunteer as well as employees who volunteer sporadically and engage them in a meaningful way.

 6. Implementing Skills-Based Volunteering

Skills-based volunteering is a trend on the rise and companies know they need to get with the times. With this particular topic, most companies are in a “collecting” stage, asking questions like:

  • What are some examples of skills-based volunteering?
  • What other companies are doing it?
  • Are there organizations that offer skills-based volunteering opportunities?
  • Can it take place online? In teams? What does it cost?

Companies need answers to these questions along with education.

7. Vetting Nonprofit Partners

When it comes to vetting, companies have encountered major challenges. According to Global Employee Engagement: Challenges and Solutions, a recent research study by LBG Associates, “… almost every company and vendor interviewed … said that vetting a nonprofit outside the home country is the biggest challenge it has … the process includes deciding whether to even get involved in vetting local NGOs and if the company does decide to vet, how deeply it wants to vet for different programs, who will do the vetting, and how much it is willing to pay for that.” Some companies have come up with temporary solutions, but no one has cracked the vetting nut.

So what do we do about these challenges? MicrosoftBoeing, and TechSoup Global want to collaborate with you to answer that question.

Join the conversation:

The first session is taking place today, September 5th, in San Francisco! This is a one day workshop to bring together companies interested in overcoming the persistent barriers faced by corporate volunteering and giving programs such as:

  • Identifying what’s going on, locally & globally, in your program.
  • Vetting nonprofits internationally for both giving and volunteering, while making sure it’s affordable and speedy.
  • Bringing down costs through scale. Is it possible to work together to lower the cost of giving money and vetting organizations?

By working together on these systemic barriers, we believe we can create extraordinary efficiencies that allow us to do more with less. We will explore:

  • How to make it easier for nonprofits to work with corporations by simplifying the process of posting information and opportunities.
  • How to lower program costs through shared technologies, vetting processes and delivery systems.
  • How to make our programs truly global by sharing technology and resources with each other.
  • How to lower program costs by introducing industry-wide standards through technology

Optional pre-reading: Global Employee Engagement: Challenges and Solutions (LBG Associates) Agenda and event details here. Questions? Leave a comment below or email us at contact@realizedworth.com. Also be sure to connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Angela Parker Co-founder/Partner, Realized Worth
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3 Steps to Finding the Right Leaders for Employee Volunteer Teams

When it comes right down to it, the success of your company’s employee volunteering program rests on its ability to form, mobilize, and manage teams across all of the regions in which your company operates. Not only is the global nature of your company a hurdle, the various departments and business groups can make things very complicated. Here are three steps to success.

Human resources and gender equality

By Chris Jarvis

Step One: Finding the Right Employees to Lead Your Teams

First, you’ll need to identify the group of employees who will be instrumental to your program’s success. In order to generate widespread participation in the program, it is essential to find and collaborate with employees who are already volunteering in the community, either on their own time or through your company’s volunteering program.

How can you tell if you’ve found the “right” leader? Good question. You are looking for employees who demonstrate strong leadership skills through the practice of prosocial behavior such as volunteering. These are people with the existing enthusiasm, experience and energy upon which to build your program.

Read more: The Science Behind Why Employee Giving & Volunteering Works

Sometimes senior managers appoint people to lead the program at their site or in their region. This almost always leads to failure. A solution we’ve found very successful to identify team leaders is through a simple interview process.

Potential leaders typically possess distinguishing characteristics:

  • They already volunteer somewhere – or have in the past for significant periods of time.
  • They think everyone who gets into volunteering will love it. Volunteering is a way of life.
  • They have strong personal reasons for wanting to volunteer. It’s not about doing something for others as much as it’s about doing something for themselves.
  • They regularly invite other people to join their volunteer activities.
  • They understand the issues for which they volunteer and are eager – but are not pushy – to share their knowledge with others.
  • They have strong opinions about the issue for which they volunteer – particularly regarding the use of resources and the types of activities.

Step Two: Engaging Employees and Forming Teams

The goal is to invite these employees to form volunteer teams with their colleagues who will participate in the company’s employee volunteering program. These team leads will be tasked with engaging fellow employees in company supported or sponsored volunteering activities. At volunteering projects, the team leads will ensure projects are well planned and executed. They will also provide onsite leadership at the projects for other employees ensuring that everyone knows the expectations, guidelines, purpose and objectives of the volunteer project.

Here’s a helpful guide for team leads on how to conduct a brief before the volunteering event.

Here’s a guide for team leads conducting a debrief.

Step Three: Set Your Team Leads Up for Success

Team Leads need a lot of support to be successful in their role. If you’ve been able to interview and select the right people, they bring with them extensive experience and insight. But corporate volunteering programs are unique. Volunteers are assessed not only as volunteers, but also as employees – their performance in the program has an influence on how they are viewed at work. Most employee volunteers are aware of the risks and require constant communication ensuring that the actions they take will not adversely affect their career or position within the company.

You will need to provide clear policies and guidelines, strong communication, and a user friendly online management tool. Along with regular (at least monthly) trainings these elements are essential components in a supporting ecosystem of community investment. The most successful volunteer teams will also have a support network comprised of fellow employees. This can take the form of peer teams meeting to share successes, barriers, and even concerns.

Here’s a list of success elements to consider for your program:

  1. Provide a formal orientation and assessment process for new team leads.
  2. Conduct a review process including references, a brief interview, orientation, and an assessment of previous experience as a volunteer.
  3. Provide practical tools for project development and execution, such as email templates (to invite other employees), scripts, guidelines, and planning forms. Here’s an example of what we mean.
  4. Offer training and other activities that provide insight on the social and/or environmental issues the volunteer team is addressing.
  5. Develop a mentoring process that clearly communicates the purpose, values, goals, and expectations of the company’s employee volunteering program. Experienced team leads may be paired up with new team leads for an effective transfer of knowledge.
  6. Ensure visible support at volunteer projects from senior leadership (remember: everyone is wondering how this “really” affects their career).

Equipping employees to play key leadership roles as part of a volunteer team ensures your company’s employee volunteering program is both engaging and sustainable.

Some ways we can help

Most of the blogs we write are geared toward managers responsible for employee volunteering, workplace giving, and sustainability programs. Our intention is to help you be more successful – whether you engage us formally or not. The work you do is critical to addressing the huge social and environmental issues facing our global society. The role you play in the company you work for is key to humanity’s future.

If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at contact@realizedworth.com, leave a comment below, or call us at 855-926-4678. You can also reach out to us on Twitter and Facebook.


Chris Jarvis
Realized Worth Co-Founder
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn
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6 Solutions for International Corporate Volunteering

Thinking about offering international volunteer opportunities through your company’s volunteering program? These opportunities can be rich for both personal and professional development, taking employees beyond their comfort zones and teaching them to use their skills in new ways while benefiting international communities. It’s in this unfamiliar space that employees are given the opportunity for a truly transformative experience.

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By Christine Johnston

They also have the potential to deliver significant social and environmental impact in local communities – when it’s done right. Don’t know where to start?

Check out these organizations:

1. Emzingo

Are you looking for a way to engage your millennial employees? Emzingo, founded in Madrid, Spain, by IE Business MBA students, specifically targets young professionals and provides two main programs: NextGen Fellowship Program and The Impact Learning Trek.

The NexGen Fellowship is a 6 to 8 week program that allows participants to contribute their skills to a hands-on social impact project in an emerging country with nonprofit and social enterprise partners.

The Impact Learning Trek (ILT) is a 8 to 10 day program in developing countries with emerging markets, that exposes participants to their unique social and economic challenges through a firsthand learning experience from local social enterprises.

Costs: Both programs require a fee (dependent on the program and country you choose), on top of travel costs to and from the service location.

Check out participants sharing their experiences with Emzingo:

2. HandsUp Incentives

Do you want to use international volunteering as a team building opportunity? Hands Up Incentives offers companies the opportunity to recognize their staff through a volunteer incentive trip which includes gala dinners and luxury hotels, while also providing a grassroots experience giving back to local communities through “hands on volunteering.” Hands Up is a valuable opportunity for team volunteering and team building, taking employees out of their comfort zones together.

Costs: Contact HandsUp for a customized program assessment and quote.

Check out participants sharing their experience from a Softcat incentive trip to Cambodia:

3. MovingWorlds

Do you have  self-starting employees that need a hand finding personally relevant and exciting volunteer opportunities abroad? MovingWorlds acts like a dating site and guarantees the individual – in this case, the employee – a personalized match to a verified social impact organization in one of many countries around the world. All the employee needs to do is fill out an online profile and the system will provide a volunteer opportunity match aligned with their professional skills and personal preferences.

Costs: Annual subscriptions range from $99 USD to $799 USD per employee. Partner organizations provide free accommodations to volunteers, making travel costs less expensive.

Check out MovingWorlds Founder, Mark Horoszowski, talking to tech sector employees in Seattle about the opportunities they offer and why:

4. PYXERA Global

Do you want to offer international pro bono opportunities with clear social and economic benefits as part of your corporate volunteering program? PYXERA Global provides unique opportunities tailored to the specific professional skills of your corporate employees looking to build grassroots capacity abroad with local public and civic partners. These opportunities act as a way to give back, as well as a way to enable your employees’ personal and professional development in a new context.

Costs: Contact PYXERA Global for a customized program assessment and quote.

Check out PYXERA Global’s CEO, Dierdre White talking about Purposeful Global Engagement and the benefits of Pro Bono Volunteering:

5. Uniterra

Do you want to partner with an organization that makes a difference by focusing their efforts specifically on equality, economic development, health and AIDS, education, and governance? By focusing on these issues, Uniterra creates international cooperation between volunteers and partners. Their zones of volunteer service are Canada, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Find out more about Uniterra here.

For companies, Leave for Change is Uniterra’s corporate volunteering initiative. It enables employees to use part of their annual vacation as a volunteer assignment in a developing country. Employers invest in the development of their human resources and demonstrate leadership in corporate social responsibility. Employees put their knowledge and skills to work in an international development project, expand their personal and professional horizons and acquire a deeper understanding of broader global issues.

Costs: In the majority of cases, employers cover part of the costs and Uniterra covers the rest such as pre-departure training, vaccinations, visas, flights, lodging, food and local travel required for work. See additional information here.

Check out the Leave for Change Pinterest board here.

 6. Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA)

VSA provides not only skills-based opportunities, but skills-sharing with the communities in which employees volunteer. Based in New Zealand, potential volunteers can search the site for positions that best fit their skills, interests, preferred location, and duration. At Realized Worth, we’re big fans of VSA CEO Gill Greer. Gill has been a source of knowledge and insight for RW and plays an important role in Impact 2030, an initiative to achieve the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals through corporate volunteering.

Costs: Once approved, VSA provides volunteers with a living allowance as well as accommodations, return flights, comprehensive insurance cover, and visas and permits. Find out more here.

Check out Volunteer Service Abroad working with our partners in the wider Pacific to give women the economic opportunities to help lift them and their families out of poverty.

Whether your corporate volunteer program focus is on unique team building experiences, engaging millennial employees, providing pro bono opportunities relevant to your employees, or assisting self-starting and adventurous employees, these organizations can help you do it right.

Have you ever taken your employee volunteers on an international service trip? Have you volunteered internationally yourself? Tell us about your experience! Leave a comment below or email us via contact@realizedworth.com.

Christine RW PHOTO EDITED
Christine Johnston
Consultant, Project Manager, Realized Worth