Realized Worth has spent the year like everyone else – adapting, adjusting, and committing to adding value in a new world of remote work where human connection is more important than ever. So, we’ve produced products and services (like our Virtual Volunteer Accelerator and our Volunteer Champion training series!) to meet people where they are. Some of our friends in the field like Common Impact, Benevity, Points of Light, Taproot, Revere, YourCause, GozAround, and others have done the same! Mobilize pulled together this article for us which brings us back to the basics of virtual volunteering and provides some excellent tips, tricks, and direction that we hope will move you forward in your journey. Enjoy!
3 Tips for Finding Virtual Volunteering Opportunities
Corporate volunteering is a popular method for businesses and their employees to give back to their community, build a positive reputation, and drive internal engagement. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 25% of organizations offer some form of volunteering in the workplace.
With social distancing guidelines in place and many now having to work from home, corporate volunteering has become harder to implement and encourage. Thanks to the evolving internet and the emergence of new technologies, virtual volunteering has proven to be a viable method for employees to support causes they care about without having to leave the comforts of their own home.
You might find virtual volunteerism intimidating. After all, taking your corporate volunteerism online might be a brand new undertaking for you. But, if you know where to look, there are ample virtual volunteering opportunities out there.
This guide can point you in the right direction if you’re having difficulty finding the right virtual volunteer opportunities for your own team. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Look to volunteer event databases.
- Partner with a nonprofit organization.
- Build a dedicated virtual volunteerism program.
Managing your employee volunteers and encouraging them to participate in virtual opportunities is no walk in the park. The right opportunities, partnerships, and tools can drastically simplify the process of getting started.
1. Look to volunteer event networks.
A challenge with corporate volunteering is finding viable opportunities that align with your own business’s values and mission. With all the types of events and activities out there, it can be a strenuous process vetting each one to see which is the best fit for your team.
When you’re limited to only virtual volunteer opportunities, you may have fewer options to sort through, but that can also mean fewer options that are viable.
One of the first places that you should look to find the best virtual volunteer opportunities for your team is a major volunteer event network or platform. This is where nonprofits and similar mission-based organizations will post details on different ways they need support. Common virtual opportunities range from phone banking to digital marketing to digital canvassing.
In order to locate the virtual engagements that will most interest your company, platforms should make it easy to search for and filter different types of opportunities. For example, the Mobilize platform is designed to simplify the task of finding the right opportunities for yourself or your team. Easily filter virtual events and opportunities by:
- Event type like community events, fundraisers, training sessions, workshops, etc.
- Date range
- Organization location
- Campaign or organization name
This can help you narrow down the virtual opportunities that would work best for your business, team, and mission. The main idea is to look for pre-existing marketplaces or networks built to connect supporters with organizations that need their help. This starting point can be the time-saving launchpad you need to get your new virtual CSR initiatives off the ground quickly.
2. Partner with a nonprofit organization.
Corporations will often partner with a specific nonprofit organization in order to encourage volunteering among their employees. A successful for-profit/nonprofit partnership should be mutually beneficial to both parties, revolve around aligned or similar values, and be based on open and transparent communication. It should be clear from the get-go as to how the company supports the nonprofit and vice versa.
For nonprofits, getting help from a corporation provides much needed support for fundraising, events, and marketing. But what do businesses gain? Here are a couple of company benefits to entering an official volunteer partnership with a nonprofit organization:
- Increased employee satisfaction: Companies that partner with and support nonprofits tend to have stronger employee retention, satisfaction, and engagement than those without. This is because employees want to feel proud of their workplace. When they see that their employers take stances on issues they care about, they’re more likely to stick around.
- Opportunities for professional development: Volunteering can even help employees who are interested in professional development. For example, skills-based volunteering (which we touch on later) encourages employees to utilize their work talents to support a meaningful cause. This helps them practice their skills in different environments and ultimately bring more dynamic insights to the table.
- Improved public image: Today’s consumers are especially mindful about the products they choose to purchase and how they relate to global, national, and local issues. Corporate social responsibility and corporate philanthropy programs improve consumer confidence, brand recognition, and revenue over time.
- Boost in reputation: Corporate sponsorship for nonprofits can offer relatively inexpensive marketing opportunities. It’s a chance for businesses to improve community-wide reputation and, when executed effectively, can lead to new partnerships and a positive return on investment.
For-profit/nonprofit partnerships can take a number of forms when it comes to volunteering specifically. These are three of the most common types of partnerships that incorporate volunteering opportunities:
Structured sponsorships are among the most straightforward of the three types. For-profit businesses officially sponsor nonprofit campaigns and events by providing financial and in-kind support. In terms of volunteering, the corporate sponsor would enlist employees to help support the event or program in nonfinancial means.
In exchange for the volunteer support, the nonprofit organization will usually use your company’s name in event titles, on promotional materials, and during sponsor recognition segments during their event. The goal is to establish a relationship between the corporation and the organization so that each can benefit from the other’s reputation and recognition.
Consider becoming a corporate sponsor for a local or national organization that aligns with your values or improves your community. As you begin building a relationship, work with the nonprofit to uncover ways that virtual support will benefit its mission. Then, your employees can virtually volunteer and support the nonprofit through the means that they require, whether that’s promoting the event on social media or participating in phone/text banking.
Skills-based volunteering describes leveraging certain skills or talents of individuals to support the mission for a nonprofit or other charitable organization. Skill-based volunteerism can be incredibly useful for very technically specific projects or tasks that a nonprofit needs to get done. Many times skills-based volunteering is done pro-bono by a professional who uses the skill for their job.
Skills-based volunteering is growing in popularity because many corporations can take the skills required for that job and apply it to address a complex social or environmental cause.
Take a look at your own team’s skill set and how it can be put to good use for the community. For example, if you have a dedicated marketing team that are experts in SEO, you might consider encouraging those employees to volunteer their time at an organization that’s trying to increase their marketing outreach potential.
These skilled volunteers can also make the relationship more meaningful for the company and the nonprofit. The same partner might continue to ask for help because they know your employees can do what they need. This provides a steady flow of virtual volunteer opportunities for your employees to take advantage of!
Volunteer grants are a type of corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. These programs encourage team members to volunteer for eligible organizations. When a certain number of volunteer hours are hit, the company will provide a monetary grant to that organization.
Your employees may feel more motivated to volunteer when they know that you’ll also be donating financially in some way. To them, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone. To start with your volunteer grant program, you’re going to have to think of a few key components:
- Hours Required. You should have a minimum hour requirement for volunteer grant matches to be applied. Provide grants to nonprofits per hour volunteered, or as a lump sum once a threshold number is reached.
- Corporate Donation Amount. How much are you willing to donate in the form of volunteer grants? Consider your current budget as well as how many grants you want to offer per employee per year.
- Types of eligible nonprofits. When you implement a volunteer grant program, nonprofits and other organizations might even actively seek you out for a partnership. With a list of eligible organizations that your virtual volunteers can work with, it’s much easier to find viable opportunities and promote them to employees.
All of the types of partnerships listed above—sponsorships, skills-based, and volunteer grants—not only help you find and flesh out new virtual volunteer opportunities, but they also build a relationship with a nonprofit organization and keep your employees fully engaged. Your team members will love having the chance to support a cause that matters, especially if they can do it purely virtually.
3. Build a dedicated employee virtual volunteerism program.
An employee volunteer program is a chance for businesses to establish a concrete structure for the entire process. This includes how employees can show their support to causes, how certain opportunities are discovered, and how you manage those employee volunteer hours later on.
To push this even further, you can even create a dedicated program specifically for virtual volunteering. This can involve many of the strategies we discussed above, but should also consider the technology your employee volunteers may need, any training resources, and more.
Building a new CSR initiative can be a hefty undertaking, especially if you don’t know where to start. However, there are some services that you can contact that can help launch your virtual volunteering program. They can:
- Find top virtual volunteer opportunities.
- Determine the logistics and/or technology platform required.
- Create and deliver volunteer leader resources.
- Build a framework for tracking and measuring the impact of the volunteer program.
With a dedicated virtual volunteer program for your employees, you can better manage what types of opportunities are available and how successful your virtual volunteer efforts are overall. However you encourage employee volunteering, it’s crucial that you have a concrete structure in place. This way, you can better track engagement and monitor your programs over time.
By finding virtual volunteering opportunities for your employees, you’re able to not only better engage in a remote environment but also provide them with the chance to address social and environmental concerns that they care about. This is especially important now, as a major election and the impact of a global pandemic has brought many of those concerns to the forefront.
When people feel as if they can’t do anything about an issue, they feel powerless. Encouraging your employees to virtually volunteer is a small way your business can show employees that it cares about them and their passions. If you haven’t yet fully adapted your CSR programs to the virtual era, it’s time to get started. Best of luck!
Alfred I. Johnson is Co-Founder and CEO of Mobilize the events management and supporter mobilization platform that connects mission-driven organizations and people.
Prior to founding Mobilize, Alfred was Head of Sales and Head of People at Clara Lending, a venture-funded fintech company acquired by SoFi in 2018.
From 2009-2012, Alfred served in the Obama Administration as a Special Assistant to the White House Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Financial Markets at the US Treasury Department and Special Assistant to the Head of the Treasury’s Financial Crisis Response Team.
Alfred began his career as a Regional Field Director for Barack Obama in 2008. He holds a B.A. in political science from Stanford University and MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.