As the world around us has changed, so have many of our business operations. With more employees working from home than ever before, companies are challenged to find new and innovative ways to help their employees give back, derive meaning from the work that they do and stay connected while staying six feet apart.
Enter virtual volunteering.
We recently had the great pleasure of hosting a webinar with Chris Jarvis, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Realized Worth – a global agency for employee-led volunteering and giving programs that works with SAP, AT&T, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tripadvisor, New York Life, Estee Lauder, Walmart and Toyota…to name a few. In it, Chris shared the six critical steps for developing meaningful, purpose-driven virtual volunteering programs for employees that avoid the ‘one and done’ structure.
What Is Virtual Volunteering?
Just because your employees can’t volunteer in person doesn’t mean there aren’t valuable opportunities available, nor does it mean they have to strap on a VR headset and virtually stock shelves at a food bank. Rather, taking each employee’s unique skill sets online in the form of mentoring, online tutoring, crowd-sourcing and other virtual experiences is the way to direct these experiences.
Looking for a list of organizations and platforms that support virtual volunteering? Check out this list!
Choose The Right Opportunity
A crucial question to ask yourself – should you focus on one key issue, a few key issues or embrace causes of all sorts? Determine the best fit for your organization and translate it into a virtual reality.
A key piece of making remote volunteering work is treating it like an in-person event. Have weekly check-in calls, build teams of volunteers, appoint an ambassador for each team, share the impact that’s being made. The fact that you’ll be doing this remotely makes it even more important to check-in and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Choose The Right Platform
Are you looking for something paid or free? Are you looking for high-touch support or broad-based mobilization led by your own ambassadors?
Figure out what your needs and goals are and then find a platform to match. Maybe Zoom works for team check-in calls but you’d like something else for tracking impact and communicating with the beneficiary of your volunteer program. Maybe an aggregator of opportunities is best (e.g. VolunteerMatch). Or, perhaps, a single organization with its own platform (like Vello from United Way). Take a peek at this list of platforms and organizations to get started.
Choose The Type Of Program
Will your program be transactional or transformative (hint: the latter is better)?
- Transactional programs are “one and done”. You complete the activity and move on.
- Transformative programs, on the other hand, develop a lasting impact for your employees, organization and the cause you serve. Creating transformative virtual volunteering programs requires strong communication about the project, its meaning and the impact you’re making but it’s well worth the added effort. After all, better citizenship means greater value for your company, its employees and the community.
Six Crucial Steps For Building Employee Virtual Volunteering Programs
Chris dives into these six crucial steps in his webinar, but we wanted to give a taste of what they are. Check them out below!
- Build your program with a purpose (go past simply sending links out to employees)
- Select the best tech to deliver value
- Find the leaders you need
- Design to support transformative experiences (bring the elements of in-person programs to the virtual realm)
- Sustain ongoing involvement (check into the capacity and training initiatives needed)
- Track and measure involvement and impact
Those who attended Chris’s live webinar were eager to learn more and a fantastic Q&A period followed in which Chris provided in-depth answers to questions such as:
- How to replicate the “good feeling” that comes when teams volunteer together
- How success is measured for remote volunteering
- The pros and cons of going through a platform versus working directly with a nonprofit partner
- Suggestions for the nonprofit side – how a nonprofit can engage a company for virtual volunteering, especially when you typically need in-person support
- And more!
Looking for a step-by-step process for developing transformative virtual volunteering programs for your employees? Check out our recorded webinar with Realized Worth co-founder Chris Jarvis.
Looking for a non-video guide instead? Check out this Ultimate Guide to Volunteer Recruitment – which includes over 15 strategies!
Looking for other support and resources during the Coronavirus pandemic? Check out our COVID-19 Social Impact Resource Page and our Special COVID-19 Research Page.