April Volunteering in Oregon program presented full 360-view of corporate volunteerism

Last month, GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington convened corporate funders to discuss corporate volunteerism. The program’s speakers were Callie Lambarth, of Portland State University’s School of Social Work, Becky Blumer of Hands On Greater Portland and the Corporate Volunteer Council, plus a panel of four corporate funders: Nicole Stein of Umpqua Bank, Claudia Knotek of New Seasons Market, Kathy Belge of Airbnb, and Kristel Wissel of the Portland Timbers.

Callie presented the research data and methodologies of the Volunteering in Oregon report, and Becky presented on what nonprofits said corporations can do to be better partners. One major challenge nonprofits face is having the capacity to create and manage a volunteer opportunity that dozens of people can engage in together, in a single day, that provides a meaningful experience for the volunteers.

The panelists described strategies they’ve used to engage employees in volunteerism, and the three major benefits of having a volunteerism program: employee engagement, community service and goodwill, and creating lasting partnerships. An important component of employee engagement is management engagement, since front-line staff take their cues from their immediate supervisors. Kristel Wissel emphasized the importance of having Timbers players dig in and do whatever the nonprofit needs, setting a good example for youth who look up to them as athletes. Nicole Stein talked about offering a volunteer program that lets employees contribute to their children’s schools, and how employee engagement roots Umpqua in the communities where it has stores. Claudia Knotek talked about the powerful team-building value of employee volunteerism, and Kathy talked about innovations Airbnb is looking at to include not only employees and hosts, but travelers.

Others in attendance mentioned their strategies to get corporate employees engaged in volunteers. Boeing brings staff and sponsorship dollars to large festivals, so they can do the “done in a day” volunteering without burdening a nonprofit that lacks capacity to coordinate dozens of volunteers. Social Venture Partners has matches seasoned professionals with local nonprofits for a 1,000-hour project, typically over twelve months, as Encore Fellows. Other organizations provide small grants along with volunteer hours, giving $10 per hour to support volunteer training and coordination. There are many strategies to get corporate employees engaged in community service, all of which have real benefit to companies; what are your favorites?