Aided by a more digitally connected and easily mobilised society, the act of volunteering has experienced something of a revolution in recent times. The worldwide impact of Covid-19 certainly appeared to accelerate people’s desire to help their fellow humans, in a ‘wave of solidarity' that was experienced the world over – something of a surprise, perhaps, given the fact that we had never been more physically isolated from each other.
To give just one example, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed a huge rise in interest, with hundreds of thousands of new volunteers joining their ranks, including 48,000 new sign-ups in the Netherlands and 60,000 in Italy. Trapped in isolation, many people turned to virtual volunteering, offering their skills remotely and assisting with everything from translation through to project coordination.
Businesses also responded to the crisis, with many switching up their services to help people during the crisis. From Uber donating more than 10 million free rides to vaccination centres to distilleries switching production to hand sanitizer, there was a real sense of community cohesion.
What does this surge in altruistic interest mean for modern business? Simply put – if you’re not already running a volunteering scheme, it’s time to start making plans. Employer-backed volunteering looks set to form an important part of internal culture and CSR strategies going forward – as with any important operational practice, efficiency is essential.
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the key ways you can attain a more efficient way of managing your volunteer schemes – optimising the benefit to your business and the outcomes that they can achieve.
The Benefits Of A Volunteer Programme
Let’s start by examining some of the key benefits of putting a volunteering programme into place within your business. Statistics consistently confirm the overwhelmingly positive impact that volunteering can have within a business, with over 80% of those taking part reporting increased community awareness, 65% saying that they had increased communication skills, and 59% reporting an increase in confidence (source.)
Better team cohesion
Why plan internal team building activities when your staff could be rallying together to bond over making a real difference to their local community? Running a volunteer scheme gives a fantastic common cause for your team to come together over, building stronger social bonds that are forged outside of the workplace.
Beneficial for recruitment
A prominent, well run volunteer scheme showcases the internal culture of your organisation to prospective applicants. It can help as an important differentiator, giving you a distinct edge over competitors. 65% of respondents within one report said they would be more likely to work for an employer that encourages and promotes volunteering, but 39% said their employer did not currently support such opportunities (source.) Does your business currently have a strategy for showcasing volunteering externally?
Personal and professional development
Finally, the range and scope of volunteering represents a fantastic opportunity for your employees to learn new skills, polish existing talents and to aid their own development. If you’re looking to optimise the intentional development of skills, a volunteer management platform that enables the tracking and measurement of impact upon your team can be a game changer.
Let’s examine six key steps towards successful volunteer management within your business.
1: Reduce Barriers To Participation
Think of your volunteering programme as a funnel – in order to guarantee a steady supply of available helpers, and good outcomes for the causes you’re looking to assist, it’s important to ensure that this funnel is being filled with keen participants. It’s important to remember that internal participation should be your driver here, as opposed to simply providing a constant stream of opportunities that your staff seldom fail to engage with.
As a result, it's essential to ensure that all barriers to getting involved in volunteering within your organisation are reduced (or ideally, removed entirely.) The success of a programme rests on your ability to motivate your team to join, so all blockers need to be mitigated in order to keep up the momentum and see optimized participation.
Ultimately, this is a matter of user experience. If they’re interested in getting involved, your employees should be able to find all the information they need contained within a “one-stop shop.” The minute learning about opportunities becomes arduous, or sign up is a lengthy process involving multiple people and stages, you’ll see drop off. The pathway to participation needs to be clearly signposted.
This is where a volunteer management platform comes into its own, offering a complete suite of functionality that helps organisation participation, promotion and measurement, giving employees a clear starting point that offers everything they need to get started and be successful with volunteering.
Learn from your employees to keep improving when it comes to participation. Work with a platform that enables you to easily run surveys, helping you learn more about what’s encouraging or holding them back from getting involved. This means you can problem solve and improve as you progress, refinding your schemes and the ways that people can come on board to contribute.
Finally - be very clear in communicating your official policy towards volunteering. You offer paid volunteer days for example, promote this fact to make sure staff will take full advantage of the offer.
2: Empower Your Employees To Take The Initiative
Finally, to truly set your volunteer management up for success, be sure to empower your employees. Enabling them to run with their own ideas, and act upon their personal motivation is one of the most effective ways to ensure engagement and satisfaction in your schemes.
Not only will you harness a great deal of existing but untapped passion - you’ll also remove the need for your core volunteering team to handle a lot of the smaller admin tasks linked to getting an initiative off the ground. This “heavy lifting” can all be taken on by those who are most motivated.
How can this be achieved? Internal culture lays the groundwork for success here, so be sure to clearly communicate the organisation’s approval of self-motivation here. Amplify the actions and success of staff who’ve been proactive in getting volunteering opportunities up and running, promoting their efforts through all internal communication channels.
You can also set your staff up for success by giving them access to the tools and resources they need to independently make volunteering arrangements. By taking action to improve the steps they need to go through in order to have impact here (for example, by streamlining the approval process) you can provide support and encouragement. A volunteer management platform makes it easy for individual employees to find opportunities, coordinate help and finally communicate their achievements through social media.
3: Find Opportunities That Will Engage Your Employees And Align With Your Business Values
Another key determining factor in the success of your volunteering schemes will be the opportunities that you offer your employees. If you’re going to see real buy-in from your team, you’ll need to really understand what motivates and resonates with your employees. Additionally, it's important to ensure that the causes you support resonate with your business strategy, model and values.
Once again, keeping lines of communication open is key here. Let your staff know that you’re listening, and fully invested in what they have to say when it comes to the causes that they care about. Running digital surveys or online suggestion boxes can help to inform and guide the direction of the opportunities that you offer.
Keep a responsive, adaptable mindset. What inspires your employees may change over time. Social causes often spring to public attention and prominence as the result of a significant event - have a ‘rapid response’ strategy in place that enables employees to help out when an urgent need arises and their desire to make a difference is at its strongest.
Think locally (this will more commonly lend itself towards practical help) and nationally or event globally (remote assistance might be more appropriate here - ie. skill sharing, teaching, donations of time for digital initiatives such as design or web development to aid a cause in need.)
A fantastic way to find causes that are actively looking for help is to consult the Opportunities Marketplace. This is a shared forum that helps link vetted causes to businesses ready and willing to help. You’ll be sure of a quick response and a great outcome – a much more efficient process than starting from scratch looking for opportunities!
4: Highlight The Benefits To Your Employees’ Personal Development
If a volunteering scheme is going to achieve real longevity and establishment within a business, it's important to understand and communicate the benefits of volunteering to your employees. - This goes beyond good PR for the company and the sense of personal well being that they may achieve – from new skills, to increased proficiency in everything from public speaking through to project management, volunteering has a lot to offer everyone involved. The benefits are certainly felt far beyond the recipients of the help given.
Volunteering provides a great opportunity for employees to gain experience in transferable skills which they are looking to improve upon but might not have the chance to include in their daily working practice – for example, offering to help with marketing for a local charity or developing branding for a charitable event.
Stress is an increasingly concerning component of modern professional life, and businesses are always on the lookout for ways to reduce the mental load of their staff. Volunteering has been proven time and time again to have a beneficial impact upon the mental health of those who get involved. A study by the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and happiness in a large group of adults based in the USA. The results clearly showed that the more people volunteered, the happier they were. In comparison with people who never volunteered, the odds of being ‘very happy’ rose by 7% for monthly volunteers – rising to 12% for those who volunteered more frequently, every two to four weeks.
5: Have A Way To Measure And Share The Impact Of Your Programme
As with all areas of business management, if you’re looking to truly optimize and improve your process, you must have a way of measuring ongoing success and the impact of your actions. When it comes to volunteer management, this goes beyond simply showing your employees the tangible impact that they’re having as a result of their kindness and effort. You’ll also be able to demonstrate improvements to your organisation’s volunteering program over time – showing growth and demonstrating the value of these schemes back to key stakeholders.
To achieve the best (and easiest) results here, work with a volunteer management platform. Huge amounts of time can be saved when it comes to compiling reports and tracking down information such as hours volunteered from a wide range of sources. With KindLink, you can quickly pull together surveys to quiz employees on their own perspective of the way your volunteering schemes are run.
Of course, the benefits of a volunteering scheme are felt far beyond you business – you’re making a tangible, positive impact on the world through your efforts and altruism. Our platform offers a complete impact tracking system, which means you can easily monitor and share the “real life” results your company is achieving. Functionality here includes widgets to seamlessly integrate some of your top results for showcasing across social media, your websites and more. It’s a great way to stay mindful of the real driving factor behind your volunteering success – the desire to be a force for good in the world, through the charitable donation of time, skills and effort.
When it comes to sharing success and impact, look for a platform that offers your employees a seamless way for employees to share their volunteering experiences externally, via direct integrations with their personal social media accounts. Not only does this help focus your employees on their successes, it also represents a great opportunity for improved employer branding.
Get Ready For More Successful Volunteer Management
The importance of volunteering to the culture and marketability of modern businesses should not be underestimated. This is a need and expectation which will only increase, so finding ways to manage your volunteering programmes with efficiency is essential. Get a plan in place before you start to scale your operations and this becomes increasingly complex.
When you make volunteering something that is synonymous with your brand, everyone benefits. KindLink’s intuitive and feature-rich volunteer management platform makes the process easy, efficient and enjoyable – everything volunteering should be.