3 Volunteering Engagement Lessons Corporations Can Learn from Nonprofits

May 8, 2018 3:00 PM ET

3 Volunteering Engagement Lessons Corporations Can Learn from Nonprofits

So often, we focus on what nonprofits can learn from corporations, whether it’s borrowing marketing best practices, taking an ROI-focused approach to measurement, or segmenting audiences with technology to fuel maximum engagement. But corporations can learn a lot from nonprofits, too, particularly around volunteer engagement. Since nonprofits realize the critical importance of volunteers to help achieve their mission, it’s only natural that they’d have lessons to share about getting the most out of volunteers’ time. Here are three lessons corporations can learn – or reinforce – from nonprofits:

1. Share as much detail as possible, set expectations, and sprinkle in some inspiration. Put another way, avoid the dreaded, “OK, we’re here, what should we do?” kickoff to a volunteering event. Nonprofits know firsthand that by providing comprehensive information early, they can set the right expectations with volunteers and get the most out of their time. When corporations present a volunteering opportunity to employees, it’s important to share as much detail as possible with your employees in advance. Details such as the key point(s) of contact at the nonprofit, background on the organization, descriptions of tasks to be performed, information about any skills that might be required, and most importantly a sense of how their volunteer efforts will specifically help your nonprofit partner reach their programmatic goals, realize their mission, and maximize their long term impact At the end of the day, a positive and inspirational volunteering experience can go a long way toward building a lasting culture of philanthropy & engagement within your organization.

2. Take volunteer feedback to heart. Nonprofits tend to be made up of good listeners. They know they’re most effective when they really listen to the needs of the people they serve and the feedback after initiatives and events. The same goes for volunteers. As Blackbaud’s Tanya Fitzgerald put it, “Volunteers who feel ignored won’t be volunteers for long.” Corporations can embrace this listening lesson by making efforts to hear from employees about what matters most to them, what they hope to get out of a volunteering experience, and feedback about how things went. This will make your employee volunteers feel heard, plus this from-the-field feedback can help to refine your volunteering efforts and the capacities of your nonprofit partners.

3. Boost employee volunteer satisfaction by showing your appreciation. My colleague Rachel Hutchisson once called volunteering “a huge endorphin rush, a positive jolt to the system that helps us truly feel like citizens active in making our world what we want it to be.” To keep that endorphin rush going, nonprofits tend to make a point of expressing appreciation to volunteers, whether that’s through a thank-you letter, throwing a volunteer appreciation party, or anything in between. Corporations should also look for ways to demonstrate appreciation for volunteers. Put them and their volunteerism story front-and-center inside your employee engagement platform or company intranet, send a note of thanks for their participation, or something else that feels true to your corporate culture. Employee volunteers who feel appreciated for their contributions are likely to engage in future volunteer opportunities.

Take it from nonprofits: Make sure your employee volunteers are as informed as possible before heading into an event, listen to their feedback, and show that their time matters.

Want more? See how we’re helping corporations give their employee volunteering programs an endorphin boost.

- Andrew Troup, Director of Corporate Giving and Engagement Strategy (Blackbaud Corporate Solutions)​