The message from the Pyxera International Corporate Volunteering Conference, #Catalyze14, was clear “International Corporate Volunteering (ICV) has massive benefits for volunteering professionals, the sponsoring corporation, and the receiving social impact organization.” As such, it is no surprise that ICV programs are growing at a rate of over 150% year over year.
In fact, almost every Fortune 100 company with an ICV program is expanding it. Most notably, IBM increased the number of employees it sends overseas to volunteer every year from 400 to 500.
This summary of the conference provides statistics, resources, and information you need to know about international corporate volunteering programs – including how to start your own.
I. Why Should Corporations Have International Corporate Volunteering Programs
The benefits are resoundingly clear. ICV programs are proven to
- Have bottom line benefits for the corporation
- Create a positive social impact
- Develop leadership and innovation skills in program participants
We recently published a blog post with a wealth of information about the benefits of volunteering overseas. In summary, the following infographic summarizes extensive research proving how ICV programs help with recruitment, retention, engagement, and performance of employees.
II. How to Start an International Corporate Volunteering Program
Hint: “Learn by doing”
The key to starting a successful international corporate volunteering program is actually starting an ICV program. Perhaps easier said than done, but thought-leaders at the conference shared the following which should help:
1. Understand Your Business | Programs will only grow if businesses can justify the expense. Most programs develop leadership skills or foster innovation as its stated benefit. If you understand your business, and the initiatives within it, you can build a strong case for designing a program that creates social good and helps your business.
2. Find Executive Support | All programs that were growing had a senior leader who personally supported the initiative.
3. Create Program Goals That Align with Business Goals | While most programs are designed for leadership development, some are designed to foster innovation, understand new markets, or give employees field experience in a geography/country of strategic importance to the company.
4. Start Small | Convincing leadership of benefits of an ICV program is not always easy. There are enough programs touting benefits to justify a full-fledged program, but ICV programs should be unique to your company, so start a pilot first.
5. Collaborate | Some ICV programs are in HR, CSR, or even in individual business units. Regardless of where it sits, there is data, resources, and know-how in other departments that is useful for design, support, and reporting. As an example, HR might have data about employee engagement that your program can benchmark against, and CSR will want to know about the impact the ICV program created for its annual report.
6. Find External Partners | Organizations like Pyxera Global, MovingWorlds, RealizedWorth and others can help you efficiently find social impact organizations overseas where your institution’s know-how, and the skills of the people within it, can actually make a positive difference. These organizations also provide guidance for program setup, evaluation, training, and resources.
7. Measure Impact | ICV programs are proven to benefit the corporation, the employee participants, and the social impact organization that receives support. Establishing success metrics, measuring them, and reporting impact to ALL stakeholders is vital to program continuation and growth.
III. How to Measure and Increase the Impact of ICV Programs
The most effective programs measure success on a number of factors, and by surveying stakeholders at multiple points in time. Surveys should go to:
- Volunteering employees for program perception and ways to improve
- Managers of volunteering employees for skill development in participants
- Business partners in the company (i.e. HR and CSR) for possible efficiencies
- Executives on program perception in the company
- Partnering organizations on impact created
- Other stakeholders on program perception in the field (i.e. local governments)
In addition to surveys pre, during, and immediately following the volunteer engagement, successful programs also follow the long-term impact on the hosting organizations and the participating employees for the years following the international volunteer assignment.
The following picture shows 7 ways to grow the impact of ICV programs:
- Linking to the Business Market Growth Strategy | If your corporation has an interest in expanding to a new country, volunteering there first will provide invaluable insight on country and cultural dynamics.
- Cross-company Partnerships | Unify efforts across your company to create efficiencies and buy-in.
- Issue Focus | Pick a cause-area that is relevant to your corporation and its employees.
- Complementary Support | In global volunteering, learning happens both ways. Find field partners that can support and teach each other, and you.
- Country Development Agenda Alignment | Align your corporate efforts with the country’s development efforts so that local governments will welcome and help with program implementation.
- Repeat Engagement | Build long-term partnerships with organizations in the field.
- Linking to CSR Strategy | To improve reporting and executive support, show that the program can enhance existing social impact initiatives.
IV. Companies with ICV Programs
Many companies have formal international corporate volunteering programs, some of the most recognized brands include IBM, Pfizer, SAP, Intel, Microsoft, Credit Suisse, DOW, Ernst & Young, and Google. Many more encourage and support individual efforts on sabbaticals and vacations. For more information on international volunteering, this previous blog post provides statistics about volunteering overseas.
Here are some great news articles about how companies are using international corporate volunteering:
- International Corporate Volunteering: Rapidly Growing Trend to Advance People, Planet, and Profits (Huffington Post)
- Social Sabbaticals and the New Face of Leadership (SSIR)
- Volunteering For Impact – Best Practices in International Corporate Volunteering (Report)
- International Corporate Volunteering: Profitable for Corporations (Huffington Post)
- Behind the Growth of International Corporate Volunteerism & What to Consider When Starting a Program (CSRWire)
- Making Global Impact Through International Volunteering (Realized Worth)
- International Corporate Volunteerism: A Game Changer (Forbes)
- High-value Skilled-based Volunteerism (TrueImpact)
- Why International Corporate Volunteering (Pyxera Global)
- The Ultimate Employee Do-Gooder Perk (FastCompany)
V. More Information on International Skills Based Volunteering in Corporations
If you have more questions about kick-starting a corporate volunteering program, I do free 30 min calls to help people volunteer their skills around the world. Find time with me here.
The following Infographic from Pyxera Global also provides some very useful information about ICV programs.
In summary, the 2014 ICV conference by Pyxera Global, Catalyzing Growth in Emerging Markets, was a massive success. Companies in-tune with the message will certainly help advance people, planet, and profits.
(If I’m missing any valuable resources, please let me know in the comments below).