Your Guide to a Successful Month of Service

Over the past decade, employer-supported volunteering (ESV) has become a mainstream practice of companies. We know that when employees feel good about the way their organization contributes to community there is a positive increase in brand ambassadorship, career commitment, employee impact and discretionary effort, while the company itself sees a growth in revenue, job applicants, innovation and a decrease in voluntary turnover (see The Business Case for Giving Back).

How businesses engage their employees in volunteering varies depending on corporate strategy and culture. With solid leadership, communication and planning, an established ESV strategy can grow with more employees becoming further engaged citizens corporately and in the community. 

SAP employees prepared 100 on-the-go meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House.

Volunteer Canada works with ten companies annually, organizing over 50 diverse group volunteering events and engaging approximately 800 corporate volunteers.

For over ten years Volunteer Canada has supported SAP during their annual Month of Service – their signature corporate-led volunteering initiative held every October across North America. With every Month of Service more lessons are learned, more volunteers are engaged, hours are contributed, and community partners are reached. We’ve learned a few things about creating a successful Month of Service that we’re happy to share. These tips can also be applied to most ESV group volunteering projects.

Start Early

A successful business strategy takes time, solid planning and a clear direction, and so does a Month of Service. You are organizing multiple events that need to be worked into your employees’ schedules. Volunteers want to make their contribution to community, but they need time to prioritize and plan for their time out of office. And, with multiple community engagement opportunities, they want to pick the one that resonates with them. So clearly and persuasively communicate the why and the how of the project.

Charities and not-for-profit organizations need time to plan and make accommodations for a group. Their opportunities may fill up quickly and if it’s something you or your employees are passionate about, you don’t want to miss out. Get in touch with community organizations at least three months in advance.

Money

Yes, every community partner appreciates your time and assistance but, staff time to coordinate the group volunteering activity, resources or materials all cost the community organization. This would be considered a fee-for-service, rather than a donation.  

While some organizations already charge a fee to assist with this cost recovery, many do not. We encourage companies to make it a policy, budget for this and pro-actively raise it with your community partner. A successful Month of Service (or any ESV project) has a budget for associated costs, make this fee or contribution to the organization a part of that.

Executive Support

We have all heard the importance of leading by example, and this is true also of a successful Month of Service. If you have established an ESV program and implemented a Month of Service, it’s already been signed off on by the executive leadership team. But it is the participation of executives and management in volunteering activities that really matters.  It encourages employees to become engaged and shows that the company is serious about making community engagement, volunteering, and giving a part of your corporate culture.

Executives and managers should also communicate and reinforce the company paid time-off policies for Month of Service to help reassure employees that they have their support to participate. Research indicates that 80% of employer-supported volunteers believe that group volunteering strengthens their relationship with colleagues, which can only lead to a more positive work environment.

Appreciation of Volunteers  

SAP employees planted 800 trees with community partner Ontario Streams at OSPCA grounds in Stouffville.

It’s just nice to feel appreciated.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be a gala or a parade! But volunteers do want to know that their contribution made an impact both for the community and for the company. Send personalized notes of thanks, post photos and share stories in your newsletter, throw a small wrap-up party for all those involved and review the impacts for the month.  Share how this Month of Service ties into your company’s overall corporate citizenship commitment. You’re all difference makers, let’s celebrate that!

This year, SAP’s Month of Service in Toronto engaged over 134 volunteers, for 480 hours of service and partnered with 11 community organizations. An increase of 24 volunteers, 101 hours and 3 new community partners from 2018. So, “THANK YOU” to everyone who participated. The impact from that month is immeasurable.  

Volunteer Canada aims to build on the success of every volunteer project, and we couldn’t do it without the passion and commitment of the corporate volunteers we work with. They help drive these initiatives and spread it throughout the corporate culture.

Executing a successful Month of Service is achievable with proper planning, communication, and a little bit of patience. Just remember to start early, budget appropriately, engage at all levels and show your staff that their contribution makes a difference. And if you need a little extra help, contact the experts (that’s us)!