Corporate volunteering projects that last
As the temperature climbs, so does the number of calls to nonprofits from corporate volunteer groups seeking projects. Before your business jumps to the plate with a group, ensure your approach is just as strategic as your other corporate initiatives and your goals for the day are clear.
Some common goals include:
Helping to build a more functional or beautiful community
Strengthening your team’s morale through an enriching activity
Connecting with organizations and people with similar values as your organization
Corporate groups can offer the most value to the nonprofit community and determine the best project fit by taking the following steps first:
Research first. Whether you’re a small or large business, the goal is to ensure missions align and projects are feeding nonprofit missions. The best approach is to visit the organization’s website to identify what they have specified as a need. If the information isn’t available, give them a call. This will mitigate divestment of charity resources and, by extension, donor dollars.
Orchestrate in advance. An ideal example of how this can work smoothly comes from Barrick Gold Corporation, which hosted a safety training in Reno in the fall of 2016 and reached out to Communities in Schools of Western Nevada months prior to inquire whether nearly 75 employees could help.
“We let them know Vaughn Middle School is one of our older schools that needed repairs and cleaning,” said Auburn Harrison, executive director of Communities in Schools of Western Nevada. “They came in donning equipment and supplies and volunteered an entire day, doing more than $12,000 worth of painting, landscaping, cleaning, and repairs to the school’s campus. It went amazingly well.”
A group that size could have easily overwhelmed the nonprofit’s staff and burdened teachers but the team at Barrick gave the charity ample time to proffer a project or say no. Giving too little lead time or a restricting window of service (e.g. we must complete this project next Tuesday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.) can set both entities up for an experience that could dim your employees’ spirit of giving.
Let results drive, not gifts. Collecting toys for sick children sounds like a delightful activity, but if the company’s goal is be a proactive player in enabling a self-sufficient community, will that task get the company closer to that end? For example, will gifts help a child who has hypothetically been paralyzed from the waist down? The more impactful, long-term project might be to identify and assign a group to assist in retrofitting that child’s home to be wheelchair accessible.
Faced with myriad challenges, nonprofits are strapped for resources. Corporate volunteerism is a valuable cornerstone of workplace culture, but regardless of the donation there are opportunity costs for the chosen nonprofit, just as there are for your company. Those community partners and volunteers who can help us maximize our resource (time chief among them) are priceless. As long as your company is integrating strategy into its giving approach alongside its heart, our communities will grow stronger each day.
Rachel Gattuso is the marketing and communications manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities Northern Nevada* and board president of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). (*Opinions are solely those of Rachel Gattuso and do not necessarily reflect the company position of Ronald McDonald House Charities.)
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.