I participated in the April 8th webina 5 Ways to Maximize Social Business Impact of Volunteerism presented by True Impact. It was brief and extremely informative. One of the things True Impact assists businesses with is tracking the ROI for employee volunteerism. There is potential for impact for four groups in employee volunteerism - the employer, the employee, the nonproft and the community.
For employees, benefits range from contributing to a social cause one believes in; networking; acquiring new skills or experiences; participating in a desired activity; having a new opportunity for socializing; and extending the camaraderie felt among colleagues. As I wrote about in my last blog the Gallup Organization has been working with a variety of professional research based groups and demonstrated a direct link between employee wellness, including feeling connected to their communities, and supported in their workplaces, and employees that are truly engaged and contributing fully to their employer's bottom line.
Volunteer opportunities noted for the optimal in generating business value are those which offer personal skill development and those which exercise existing skills. These skills include leadership, project management, client interaction and communication. I have personally seen revelatory demonstrations of leadership during volunteer activities. In this opportunity for employees to be seen in a different light by colleagues I have seen support staff and junior team members shine in the chaos that can arise when the uninitiated meet the unprepared as a day’s events don’t unfold as planned on a Habitat for Humanity build site.
Non-profits benefit from the presence of groups of volunteers on designated days, employees with paid time off to volunteer; access to professional skills such as accounting, or marketing; and the opportunity to make new connections in the community. “High skills” volunteering is a growth area in employee volunteerism. ‘High skills’ refers to what has typically been known as professional “pro bono” work – accounting, marketing, web design. This skill set now needs to be broadened to include more “generic” professional skills like project management, leadership, and mentoring. Taking these functions on in nonprofit settings can provide a fertile setting and invaluable experience for burgeoning executives. They can fill the ongoing challenge within Nonprofits for leadership volunteers and project management.
True Impact also articulated some of the possible metrics that can be used to measure the success of volunteer engagement activities. Employers lead the way in terms of identifying what is important to them. Surveys to identify the targeted benefits as defined by the employer – leadership, project management, skill expansion, team building – can be done ahead of time to help insure a more meaningful data collection and measurement, post volunteering. Employers may also ask their nonprofit partners to articulate metrics of success or impact leveraged from the use of their employee volunteers. These can range from the dollars saved, pro bono expertise gained, time saved, numbers served, service quality enhancements, to connections made. If both parties have goals and metrics articulated and methods of measurement identified and set up ahead of time, the probability for a meaningful and productive experience with impact is greatly increased.
The secret to success is in the planning that takes place before the volunteering begins. All parties need to clearly articulate what it is they need, what it is they have to offer, and how it is they will know they have been successful. The next step is then to shop around for the best match to those needs and offerings. Not all nonprofits are alike. Not all nonprofits can offer the same type of experiences.
Equally important employer groups are more likely to have a successful ROI in employee volunteering if they identify what type of experience they want to offer employees – ones lead by individual personal needs and choices, individual work skills development based, or group team building. The search then begins for the organization that meets the others’ clearly defined needs.
This is the work I do. I help companies gain clarity around what it is they are looking for in their ROI on employee volunteering and the options they have for measuring their ROI. I also help nonprofits identify their needs and articulate their opportunities so they are clear and appealing to employers. Clarity is necessary in the types of skills sets being sought and a framework for how the work can or should be organized (individual, group, job descriptions, terms of reference, goals and objectives). My extensive background and connections in the nonprofit sector help me in bringing together the best possible candidate for great matches.
Connections are sometimes obvious and agreements come quickly. Others take longer but the time and effort is well worth it when the reward is a collaboration that brings about individual growth, enhanced organizational capacity and positive community impact. A well designed and well aligned collaboration between the people from an employer and the people from a nonprofit have the potential to be very productive and in turn have a huge impact on the people being served by their efforts. Mismatches mean missed opportunities and lower ROI for everyone.
The True Impact
webinar repeats again on April 15th.