Ten tips to maximise the impact of corporate volunteering
The Impetus-PEF venture philanthropy model provides a combination of management support, funding and pro bono specialist expertise. We believe the pro bono element – working with professional volunteers, tapping into their day job skills – is an essential ingredient to charities unlock their full potential.
In celebration of National Pro Bono week, we have compiled our top ten tips that every organisation should consider when planning for skilled volunteering to ensure they maximise social impact and staff satisfaction, and feed into the professional development of your staff along the way.
1. Determine your motivation and shape your programme around these objectives
Corporate volunteering is a great way to attract and retain talent, and reward and develop staff. Keep your motivations in mind and be sure to consult the organisations you plan to work with and draw on their experience to help shape the most effective programme to deliver your objectives.
2. Choose a suitable engagement model to increase your programme’s effectiveness
When employees feel confident that volunteering complements their work, the volunteering programme will really thrive. Chose the engagement model that best aligns with the needs and routines of your business, and establish and clearly communicate internal processes for pro bono management, including eligibility criteria and how activities will be managed/monitored.
3. Encourage employees to volunteer their skills, not just their time
Stuffing envelopes and painting walls has its place, but donating day job skills can be much more impactful. For example, sharing expertise on a strategic project adds real value for charities.
4. Encourage planning for volunteering as you would for any new job
Clarifying objectives and expectations at the outset is critical to creating shared successes down the line. We suggest a formal kick-off meeting or call with all parties involved, to forge relationships and to ensure clarity on the process and deliverables.
5. Commitment from volunteers is crucial for success
Semi-committed volunteers reflect badly on your company, so be clear to employees that they are expected to deliver a project professionally to set objectives and within an agreed timeframe. Equally, the charity must commit adequate time, resource and buy-in to ensure the project is a success.
6. Leverage this challenge to contribute to your staff’s professional development
Professional volunteering can be a major challenge, as volunteers must learn about a new sector and apply their skills in a different context. Consider how the experience will contribute to future professional development goals, for example will your volunteering policy encourage employees to take on new professional challenges?
7. Promote partnership and cross-team learning
Charities are professional organisations with talented staff, often with different skill sets and experiences than traditional clients. Take advantage of this by encouraging volunteers to partner with them and explore different ways to solve problems, rather than dictating solutions. Building productive and sometimes on-going relationships with the charity is often reported as the most rewarding aspect of volunteering.
8. After completion, reflection can help maximise the value of the experience
Create a forum for feedback for both employee and charity to review successes and challenges and reflect on the impact and outcomes of the work. Investing time in a debrief meeting or written feedback will quickly contribute to a more valuable volunteering experience for both staff and the charity.
9. Use volunteers as advocates for further engagement or to highlight this work externally
Staff with successful volunteering experiences are powerful advocates for your partnership with the charity. Harness that enthusiasm and use them as spokespeople to encourage others to get involved. Successful volunteering can also have external benefits: promoting your activities can help recruit the best talent or demonstrate expertise in an important area.
10. Get help from an intermediary organisation
If you are interested in corporate volunteering, but need help or advice, consider using an intermediary organisation to research and vet potential charities, scope out projects, timeframes and deliverables, match volunteers to compatible projects and monitor progress. Intermediaries can get a strategic volunteering programme off the ground quickly and save time administering it.
At Impetus-PEF, we link the best corporate talent with strategic, capacity-building projects for the high-potential charities in our portfolio. By aligning pro bono projects with a critical path agreed with the charity at the point of investment, and providing support of a full-time Investment Director, our volunteers know their work will deliver sustainable social impact. Our supporters work with us because few things are more rewarding than helping a great charity to become more effective and extend its reach to children and young people who need it most.
If you would like to be considered for pro bono opportunities with Impetus-PEF, please register your details, or get in touch with our pro bono team to find out more.