Corporate Volunteering: Converting Opportunities to Benefits

Connecting with the corporate world can provide nonprofit leaders to a world of opportunities. Not only can nonprofits offer — and teach — the business world so much, nonprofits can also learn from (and leverage) benefits from your for-profit counterparts.

This article provides an overview of three opportunities and easy-to-implement tips to ensure your organization is making the most of corporate volunteerism.

Opportunity #1: Educating new audiences

By default, exposing volunteers to your work provides an opportunity to educate a new audience about your mission. Connecting with corporate volunteers broadens your reach, allowing for a captive audience that might otherwise never seek you out.

To make the most of this opportunity:

  • Encourage your corporate volunteers to become advocates of your work. Gift them with Swag (stickers, notebooks, koozies, etc.) to take back to their office, friends and family. Help them practice a clear elevator pitch about your work so when they share their volunteer story with others, they’ll be well versed in your mission and consequently may become your own corporate spokespeople.
  • Depending on the situation and relationship with the company partner, consider requiring corporate volunteers go through a standard introductory training to ensure they are adequately educated about your mission and what you value. This high-touch approach will help ensure every volunteer, no matter what their source, will leave your volunteer experience with a very clear understanding of your work.
  • Cater your message to make sure your corporate volunteers can relate to your work. Not everyone is wired or trained to see the interconnectedness of society, economy, and environment. If you’re working with bankers, help them see how your youth advocacy work provides opportunities for young people to learn about financial literacy. Or guide those bankers to see how your mission to help clean up waterways can bring an economic boost through ecotourism. You get the picture… a little bit of creative intellect spoken clearly to your unique audience can make all the difference.

Opportunity #2: Many talented hands make light work

If done correctly, corporate volunteerism provides an opportunity for your organization to accomplish a lot. I mean, a team of connected individuals, who offer a diverse set of talents, coming to offer their services to your agency for an allotted amount of time. Um? Yes please! 

*And for all those saying, “But wait. It’s not all sunshine and butterflies!” We hear ‘ya. We recognize there a potential downsides of engaging with the for-profit world. Click here to read more about the drawbacks (and how to avoid them!) of corporate volunteerism.

But regardless of the pitfalls, you can (and should!) squeeze the most out of your biz volunteer gig. Here’s how:

To make the most out of this opportunity:

  • Only say yes if it’s a good fit. Not all projects are ideal for a corporate group. Projects that are? Think galas, races, jubilees. You’ll potentially have a large number of volunteers (who most definetely want to have a good time) so plan accordingly, and plan ahead!
  • ALWAYS remember that you’re a professional and your organization should (and does!) have as much clout and power as our for-profit colleagues. Call the shots. Design the stipulations. If the company you’re engaging with tries to lay all the ground rules, remember you have just as much to offer their team as they do yours. Make sure you have your needs and a plan buttoned up tight before they even get the impression you’re unsure of what you need or want.

Opportunity # 3: Turn volunteers into dough(ners)

Corporate volunteers can (and should!) become not only your best advocates, but definitely your best donors. You’ve got a group of (most likely) successful individuals getting to experience your work first hand, on a very intimate level. Make the most of that opportunity and ensure those folks feel not only obligated — but also excited — to support your work.

To make the most of this opportunity:

  • Collect their digits and follow up! Research shows that waaaaay too many of us nonprofit folks collect contact and even demographic info from volunteers, but fall short when it comes to capitalizing on the opportunities presented from our volunteer teams.  All volunteers present a fantastic group of potential donors, and we’re here to really cheerlead (and insist!) that you follow up quickly. Sending a company-wide thank you note is an obvious bare minimum, but we recommend going a step further, as follows…
  • Utilize a system that demonstrates volunteer impact and present that corporate-volunteerism impact in a specially catered presentation. Picture this… a professional presentation, delivered in a corporate conference room, to a bunch of “shakers-and-movers”, cheerleading how much their own employees helped x, y, and z. And also how much is still left to be done. If your company teams up with us to do e, f, and g, we can accomplish, l-m-n-o-p.  You get the point.
  • Send individualized thank you notes. Yep. To. Each. Volunteer. (and of course, include an *easy* way they can donate, join, stay involved).
  • Make sure you get each volunteer’s permission to keep them connected to your work. On your volunteer release forms/sign-in sheets, make sure you’re including the default option to receive your emails and newsletters.
  • Encourage them to post photos of their ever-so-helpful volunteer work on your facebook/twitter/instagram accounts. Make a snapchat filter for their day of service. And make sure they “like” all your pages and connect with your digital outreach strategy – and if you’ve yet to have a digital outreach strategy (ahem…) click here to read more about why you need to….yesterday.

In summary…

Engaging with the corporate-world-volunteers can be a huge win for nonprofits… if cards are played correctly. Have a plan, understand their needs, use personal follow-up and don’t settle for just the minimum when it comes to impact reporting. If your team understands and is well prepared for the opportunities corporate volunteerism provides, you’re agency will surely reap the benefits.

Courtney Baines is Content Specialist for ServeHub. She has over 10 years experience in the nonprofit world, serving as a Founder, Program Director, and Executive Director for a variety of organizations. With a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, she specializes in curriculum design, nonprofit success, science literacy, and interdisciplinary education.