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Employee volunteer programs provide excellent opportunities for businesses to create a positive corporate image, establish friendly relations among staff members and, most importantly, do something good for the community.  This unique form of corporate philanthropy offers a bridge between employees and non-profit organizations, encouraging staff to become advocates of a cause through opportunuties ranging from a single day of volunteer service to long-term partnerships with non-profits. If executed properly, these volunteer initiatives can serve as employee engagement programs that enable businesses to create positive change in the community while improving morale within the company.

Ready to start volunteering?  Here are 6 quick tips for establishing an employee volunteer program for your enterprise:

1) Choose right

Select a cause that complements both the interests of your employees and your enterprise. Your staff will need to be fully invested in order for your volunteer program to be successful. Before deciding to partner with a specific organization, reach out to your team members to identify their interests.  Many people might already be engaged with a particular non-profit or campaign, and if so, they will be more enthusiastic about participating in your program if it supports a cause which they already support.  Distributing a survey or a questionnaire is an easy way to gather information about existing community involvement within your company. You might also encourage employees to nominate a cause.

2) Ensure a good fit

It’s important to select a non-profit that is appropriate for your company’s size, interests and objectives.  If your company is large, you’ll probably want to avoid a partnership with a small non-profit that can only accommodate a few volunteers at a time.  As Issie Lapowsky explains in her article “How to Start a Volunteer Program,” it is essential to not only confirm that the non-profit has a significant impact in the community, but also that your company will have an impact on the non-profit.  An organization and a company might, independent of one another, do great things for the community, but if your business is a mismatch with the non-profit, your partnership will not be successful.

3) Determine objectives

Your company will first need to decide on the duration of the program.  A day of service requires less planning than a long-term commitment; however, the longer the commitment, the greater the potential meaning and reward for your employees.  You should also consider the amount of money you can donate towards the campaign and brainstorm non-profit fundraising ideas that would bolster your efforts.  Create a budget andcorporate fundraising gameplan before approaching the partner organization so that you know exactly how much you’re able, and willing, to spend on the project.  It might be helpful to appoint a staff member or committee to manage and allocate funds.  Lastly, designate specific and realistic goals that you would like to accomplish by the end of the program.

4) Provide incentives

Employees might be hesitant to participate in a volunteer program if your corporation has never previously encouraged community involvement.  It’s important for the CEO and company directors to join their staff in volunteering to prove they are personally invested in the cause. Employees will be more comfortable to take off work to volunteer if management does the same.  In fact, one way to encourage involvement is to appropriate a specific number of paid days for volunteering.  For example, Ben and Jerry’s allots 40 days out of the year for paid service.  Many members take advantage of this opportunity and often become closer to one another in the process.  In addition, people are generally more motivated to be active if they are knowledgeable about an issue.  For instance, if your employees understand the root causes of poverty, they will be inspired to take action and continue involvement beyond the duration of your program.  Finally, make sure to recognize the work that your staff does.  Recognition can take the form of a certificate, celebratory event, or personal thank you from the CEO.

5) Evaluate your success
A crucial component of your volunteer program will be to reflect on the progress and results of your efforts.  Analyze the community impact of the campaign from the perspective of the organization, the company and the employees.  How helpful was your involvement for the non-profit?  Did your company benefit from the experience?  Did your employees learn anything from their service? Questionnaires, journals and interviews can help you collect the answers to these questions. Analyzing your involvement will help you improve the effectiveness of future employee volunteer programs.

6) Procure the right tools

Volunteer program success isn’t possible without the right management tools, such as Causecast’sCommunity Impact Platform.  How far do you think you’ll get if you’re relying on spreadsheets and manual processes to track all of the pieces of your program – from volunteer opportunities to dollars for doers, payroll deductions, matching gift programs, fundraising ideas, and so on?  Look for a comprehensive platform that can handle the myriad features of your program all in one place.  Easy-to-use, robust technology is so critical to program management that it could spell the difference between your program’s sizzle or fizzle.