Tips for Establishing a Volunteerism Program

This article accompanies Volunteerism: A Win-Win Proposition.

Monday, June 11, 2012
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Several years ago, Winter Wyman, a staffing firm headquartered in Waltham, Mass., made a commitment to become more involved in the community.

Currently, more than 90 percent of its 150-person workforce participate in company-sponsored community-service activities during work and personal time.

Overseeing all volunteer services is Ruth Wyser, the firm's manager of community development. She offers these tips to organizations creating a volunteerism program:

Appoint someone to be in charge.

It is ideal if one person is accountable for heading up the program. At larger organizations, this would be the person's sole responsibility. At smaller companies, it may be part of other duties.

Either way, he or she should report directly to the CEO to demonstrate to staff that this position and the program are valued by leadership.

Secure management support.

Without buy-in from leadership, a corporate philanthropy program won't get off the ground. Employees must believe management isn't just tolerating a corporate philanthropy program, but fully supports it and encourages employee participation. 

Promote employee involvement.

Causes should be chosen based on what appeals to the majority of staff. To ensure employee participation:

* Conduct a companywide survey to get feedback about where people want to spend their time and the organization's resources.

* Put together an employee committee that represents different areas of the organization. The committee should research and identify nonprofit organizations and initiatives that support the identified causes and present them to the entire workforce.

* Use the results of the survey and committee research to whittle down the list to a manageable number. Then, let employees vote on where they would like to focus their efforts.

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Clarify missions and budgets.

The person in charge needs to determine with both management and the committee the extent of the company's involvement.

Will it support a lot of charities with small donations or solo activity, or concentrate efforts and dollars on a small number of nonprofits? Will the organization donate dollars or time -- or a combination? Will donations play a role? How will charities be selected? How will employees be able to give their time and resources? 

Don't just write a check!

A company can easily write a check to a deserving organization, but it won't have the same impact as allowing employees to give the gift of their time. Employees can develop a personal connection to their communities and causes by volunteering.

Offer variety.

A variety of programs, drives, donations and events will appeal to the broad range of employees' interests and increase the level of involvement. 

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