Making CSR volunteering work for you
They’re the words that fill every fundraiser and volunteer manager with dread. “Hello, I’m calling from [large business]. We’re a ‘small’ team of 40 people and our company is giving us a day off to volunteer in our local community. We’d love to come in and support your charity/project, do you have something we can all do together like gardening or painting? Oh, and we’d like it to be next week if possible…”
With the recent buzz around Corporate Social Responsibility, and a number of large companies encouraging staff to take a day of paid leave to make a difference in their local community, I receive these requests on a weekly (and some times daily) basis.
You hear horror stories on the charity circuit of a fence that is repainted every single week by a different group of volunteers – a thankless task for both parties! So, how can we as fundraisers manage this to ensure that these activities are beneficial to both the charity and the employees involved? And how can you use these volunteering days to our fundraising advantage?
- Don’t instantly dismiss it. By volunteering at your charity or project, employees are getting a first hand look at your activities and the impact you make – the most powerful tool you have to engage people with your cause.
- Think about what you are offering. Once you start looking at corporate volunteering days as product, you can market it accordingly. Try and move away from the ad-hoc/’first come first served’ system, and think about how to use this to your advantage. Could you only offer volunteering projects to Charity of the Year partners to encourage people to nominate you, or will you use it as a way to engage with potential new supporters by showing them what you do best?
- Work out responsibilities and manage expectations from the start. You should cover everything from how many volunteers are needed to contact with service users (the amount of times I’ve had to turn down well-meaning companies who want to bring a large team of people onto a busy, working hospital ward to ‘do something with the kids’). A pre-site visit can help you plan the day, and allow the volunteers to scope out the job.
- Be clear about any costs. Make sure everyone knows who is providing what. As part of our CSR volunteering policy we ask the company involved to cover all the costs of materials, either through their own CSR budget (most businesses have one) or employee fundraising. You don’t want your charity to end up out of pocket.
- Think outside of the box. Employee volunteering doesn’t have to involve manual labour. We were recently approached by the Service Excellence Design team of a large bank who wanted to use their day to make a difference to offer their specialised internal auditing skills to the charity – something that has helped us improve how we work, and would’ve cost us thousands if we had gone through a consultancy. Are you working with a company that has a skill set you could utilise, or if there something your charity could really use help with that you could approach a particular business for?
- Don’t forget to follow it up. Something as simple as a certificate for each team member and a follow up email to the team leader thanking them for all their hard work can really help cement relationships. Don’t be shy about using this as an ‘in’. Now the employees know who you are and what you do, this is the time to get them involved. Ask if you can visit the company to give a presentation on your charity to the whole staff team, get volunteers signed up to your next event, or simply ask everyone who took part on the day to nominate you as their company’s next Charity of the Year.
Katy Sandford, Corporate fundraiser, Sick Kids Friends Foundation Edinburgh
Starting her fundraising career in London, and with a background in trusts, events & community fundraising, Katy Sandford is now the Corporate Fundraiser for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in Edinburgh. She volunteers on the IoF Scottish Corporate Fundraisers SIG committee and is a trustee for advocacy charity Kindred. She is currently the Junior Chamber International (JCI) National Public Speaking Champion for Scotland and is often puzzled why she never has any free time. Follow her on twitter @katy_sandford.
Want to learn more about corporate fundraising? Come to our Corporate Fundraising Training Day in early 2016 (exact date TBC). This course will help you to brush up on your corporate skills; hear about what makes a partnership great (or not so great) from the company themselves; as well as how to pitch and secure that big account. To register your interest in this course, please email us. We also have a Corporate Special Interest Group – join their LinkedIn group to find out more about upcoming meetings.