GUEST BLOG SWAP: Employee Engagement – Work It!

HeatherLeaning

Heather Nelson and I are hosting a blog swap to share our corporate fundraising ideas with our audiences across the pond (although Heather has been WAY more efficient at getting her article together so you get to read hers first).

Heather is an experienced and passionate fundraising consultant specialising in non-profit and corporate partnerships and sponsorship. Building great relationships that meet shared goals is her playground.  

Over to Heather…

Are you one of those fundraisers who gets the call from a company and then, when they ask about employee volunteering, you run screaming from the room?

I mean, I don’t blame you. Most fundraisers I know who receive this kind of request suffer a mild panic attack before finding a nice-ish way to shut down the company representative or trying to redirect their enthusiasm.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Heather, you worked for food banks, employee volunteerism has always been easy for you!” Well, it’s true. I’m the first to admit that food banks do have it easier. They have a clear, tangible offering that is ready-made for groups of volunteers. There’s a host of charities that have this advantage. It’s just not fair!

All valid points … but, are we done whining yet?

Here’s the thing: A) Just because certain charities have a clear offering doesn’t mean designing employment volunteer programs is easy. And B) What these organizations don’t want you to know is that anyone can do it, including you. Keep reading.

All fundraisers know that hosting an employee volunteer group requires time and effort (and a lot of it). If you want to raise some funds, your program has to be thoughtful, impactful and have a mind-blowing follow up. The truth is, if you want to grow corporate support, having the ability to support employee volunteers is not just important – it’s a must. And despite the seemingly obscene amount of effort that goes into it – it’s worth it.

3 Reasons to Engage Corporate Volunteers

  1. Employee engagement is important to companies because of (at least!) three factors: it increases their staff retention rates, improves their reputation internally and builds a positive workplace culture. There is tons of research on this, you can trust me! Or email me and I can send you proof. The bottom line here is, if it’s important to companies, and you want money from companies, it needs to be important to you.

 

  1. Corporate support can be fickle. We have all been in a situation where you work so hard to solidify corporate support only to have a staff member leave, and with it, the money you worked so hard to get. Engaging employees is a great way to build additional relationships within a corporation! I call this having a “sticky” corporate partnership.  Sticky partnerships have multiple connection points between the charity and the company, meaning that while you never depend entirely on one advocate, you’re constantly building a rolodex of champions, corporate representatives who are involved with your charity in a deep and meaningful way.

 

  1. People LOVE a good story. There is nothing stronger than the ability to weave together a story that illustrates links between employees, the cause, your charity and the company. It’s a win-win for everyone involved and basically results in one big powerful pile of (very marketable) awesomeness. Send newsletters, share on social, tag your partners and keep the message moving.

 

Now that we all recognize the need to engage employees, the question becomes not why – but how?  Of course, if you’re a food bank, an environmental clean-up organization, or an organization that requires bodies to build homes, the how is pretty obvious. But what about the rest of us?

Ten Heads are Better Than One

This is not a job for one person. First things first – gather the troops. Host a meeting comprising of program staff, current volunteers and whoever else is pretty much available into a room and start brainstorming! Come up with an offering or two that you have available, so when you DO get that call about employee volunteer opportunities, you have an answer. Remember, the answer doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to not be NO!

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer placements on event committees
  • Support roles at your annual gala, run, walk
  • Participating in a quarterly focus group on different topics
  • Writing thank you cards
  • Decorating for your beneficiary holiday party
  • Providing homework support for beneficiaries
  • Mentorship program for staff, volunteers or beneficiaries
  • Building a joint workshop for other volunteers
  • Building a joint social media, awareness raising campaign

 

You get the idea. Be ready with something that you can offer up at a moment’s notice. Next, figure out what you’re asking for from them and think of ways to continue the conversation. Remember, they called you! They wanted to engage with you! So, engage. Have a conversation and start building a relationship.

And, when you do get those employees into your organization, treat them right! I mean REALLY thank them, make them feel awesome. Do not let them know how much work it was for them to be there. Let them know that you APPRECIATE them! In the end, that feeling is what will have them eager to move forward and continue to grow the partnership. And that, is what matters most.

Want to talk more, I love talking to fundraisers, especially those tackle the corporate fundraising challenge. Drop me a note heather@bridgeraise.com or tweet with me @heathernelson12

Heather Nelson is a Canadian corporate fundraising consultant, who loves cheer leading fundraisers on, cuddling her puppy and dreaming about her next vacation.