Was my employee volunteering initiative successful?
Without a clear definition of what success looks like, it is challenging to answer this question. While many companies offer employee volunteering opportunities, few design programs to make the greatest impact. At Corporate Citizenship, we help leading, multinational corporations answer questions such as these. We also manage LBG – a global community investment standard and membership group with focus on impact measurement and benchmarking. Based on this experience, here are three simple tips for companies to optimize the impact of employee volunteering projects.
1. Think Big
Too often, corporate sponsors adopt a narrow view of potential benefits and focus only on building reputation and increasing employee attraction, motivation, and retention. While these are real, important benefits, a wider perspective can lead to greater positive changes for the business, for employees, and for the community.
As we outline in our white paper Volunteering: The Business Case, we believe volunteering programs can also serve as a vehicle to develop employee skills and competencies, ranging from general (e.g. communication skills) to position-specific (e.g. engineering experience) areas. A well-managed volunteering program can deliver tangible benefits to community partners, which gain from the guidance, knowledge, and experience of the volunteers. Recognition of this broader range of impacts can lead to greater value for all stakeholders involved.
Research shows clearly that volunteering produces real tangible benefits for the community, for business and for staff. It helps challenge the perception that community involvement is a corporate add-on and takes it right to the heart of the business – the people ‘assets’ that firms employ
2. Make it Count
Clear, measurable KPIs and targets can help lead to greater impacts. Effective metrics focus on measuring not only corporate contributions (e.g. value of employees’ time; management costs), but also the outcomes and impacts on individuals, nonprofit partners, and the company itself (e.g. changes in behavior, changes in organizational capacity; changes in employee skills). Targets provide a benchmark by which companies can evaluate their performance. These assessments can inform decisions around where to allocate limited resources to deliver the greatest value.
Many companies do not capture the data needed to make informed decisions around volunteering initiatives. For example, the 2013 LBG Annual Review of data collected from across members reports that there were over half a million employee volunteers within the LBG network alone. Yet, members only measured the impact on 26% of those volunteers. Without understanding the impact of their initiatives, companies will find it difficult to effectively assess and select volunteering opportunities. Goal setting provides program managers with the guidance needed to make strategic, impactful decisions.
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Companies should draw on the myriad of resources available to help measure volunteering. The LBG framework is free and accessible to all. Companies can refer to the LBG Guidance Manual which provides a top-level introduction to LBG, including how to value employee time. The nonprofit network Independent Sector calculates and publishes figures on value of volunteer time, by US state, to help companies quantify their contributions.
We firmly believe the same concepts that Alice Korngold shared in an earlier post: Employee volunteering can have a large impact on your business, employees, and community partners and beneficiaries. By recognizing the range of potential benefits, measuring performance against targets, and drawing on available resources, companies can capture the real value of employee volunteering. Doing so accurately will help provide more resources and support to grow these programs
About our Guest Author
Linnea Texin is a Senior Consultatant at Corporate Citizenship. An organization advising corporations on how to align corporate responsibility with business objectives to create long-term value for business and society. It also manages LBG, a global community investment standard and membership group with focus on impact measurement and benchmarking.