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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
Win-Win Community Service Programs
Many companies encourage employees to volunteer at local non-profits. Some companies plan entire community service days for their employees. How can you make volunteering win-win for both your company and for the non-profit?
What companies can do to make volunteering effective:
- Match the project with your employees' skills and interests. Some companies let employees pick the organizations and the programs they will assist.
- Work with the non-profit to design a program that is helpful, appropriate, and convenient for both groups. A food pantry was overwhelmed by a delivery of more boxes of food than the pantry could store or distribute.
- Set realistic expectations concerning what you can accomplish in the available time. A volunteer designed a database for a non-profit but left before populating the database. Unfortunately, no one estimated how long the job would take, and no one in the non-profit had the time or skills to complete the job.
- Plan to do the work at a time that is convenient for both groups. It is disruptive to call one day about volunteering the next day. It is even more disruptive to schedule a volunteer day and then to fail to show up.
- Appoint an employee to be the liaison with the non-profit - someone who is organized and has good people skills.
- Stay out of the way. The non-profit must be able to function while your employees are volunteering. A very small food pantry was overwhelmed by more volunteers than could fit in its small facility.
What non-profits can do to make volunteering beneficial and mutually satisfactory:
- Work with volunteers to plan useful programs that will satisfy both parties. Tactfully try to redirect offers to help that are not helpful.
- Provide the equipment and guidance that volunteers need.
- Following the service day(s), hold a debriefing with the volunteers. What went well, and what could have been better?
- When volunteer days are effective, ask the company to return.
- Be appreciative. Tell volunteers how their efforts help your organization achieve its goals. Follow up with a letter describing what the volunteers did and how their work helped your organization (yes, a snail mail letter).
Well-planned community service days can be very satisfactory for everyone. Corporate volunteers have painted walls, planted flowers, built houses, and performed many other helpful tasks. When successful, these events can lead to an ongoing relationship and follow up events. Long-term relationships are more satisfactory for both parties than one-offs.
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Copyright © 9/15 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.
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