As the founder of Revere Software, I have a clear view of the state of volunteer engagement. Our goal is to expand employee volunteerism and engagement, yet, like every company in the social impact space, we’ve seen a temporary decrease in both over the past year due to the global pandemic. In-person skills-based volunteerism has been stifled due to COVID, and virtual skills-based volunteerism has had some limitations due to employee Zoom fatigue.
That said, we are seeing substantive evidence from our platform that employee skills-based volunteerism is on the rise again. Employees are getting accustomed to the new normal, and realize that they just don’t get the same dopamine hit from donating $100 as they do when they make direct impact on a nonprofit’s mission by sharing their valued expertise. We are witnessing employers funding employee volunteerism programs again as we head into Q4 2021 and 2022.
So, what can employers do to help drive more employee skills-based volunteerism?
Some employees may be resistant to any commitments that require more time online amid the challenges of frequent virtual meetings. Added stresses include juggling work with children’s regular presence and the ever-present uncertainties we’ve all been facing. However, employees have shown by their financial giving during the pandemic that it is not as much compassion fatigue as it is Zoom fatigue.
Employers need to adjust their priorities. In addition to focusing on the needs of our nonprofit partners, we must also consider our skills-based volunteers.
Last month I wrote about The Challenge of Balancing the Needs and Demands of Pro-Bono Volunteerism, and this month I have a few more specific tips.
Focus on the passions and missions of your volunteers
An advantage of a comprehensive software program like Revere is the ability to tap into not only the skills each employee offers but their passions. An employee may be enthusiastic about the purpose of a nonprofit but reluctant to apply more of the same skills they use in their daily work.
For example, they may spend most of their workday in detailed data analysis, but they’d love to apply an interest in graphic design their daily work doesn’t allow. Can they find a position that allows them to expand their skill-set at the same time they help a valuable nonprofit?
It’s easy to assume employees understand the benefits of their pro bono work, but they may not. Don’t forget to remind potential volunteers of the chance to increase leadership ability, the opportunity to gain new job skills, and boost their experience in project management.
Offer company-wide recognition for their work and highlight how much their efforts mean to the nonprofit recipients. Appreciation goes a long way.
Encourage volunteers to join virtual TEAM projects
Nonprofits still need help, even though traditional, in-person volunteering has become less viable. My six years of experience in this world confirm that these experiences aid nonprofits and change the lives of the volunteers. Among many benefits, research has shown that helping others improves our moods and increases feelings of compassion, which is crucial right now. A couple of months ago, I talked about Bea Boccalandro’s 2020 book, Do Good at Work: How Simple Acts of Social Purpose Drive Success and Wellbeing. Ms. Boccalandro explains how job-purposing works and she describes its many benefits.
“We are so hard-wired to make work-based contributions to society that it’s actually good for us. Dozens of studies provide overwhelming evidence that social purpose boosts our work motivation, productivity, satisfaction, and performance.”
Boccalandro’s work coincided with the launch of our new team projects module in early 2021. By offering team project skills-based volunteering opportunities to your nonprofit partners and employees, you can offset some of the Zoom fatigue everyone is experiencing.
A recent study authored by Andrew A. Bennett, an assistant professor at Old Dominion University, confirmed my ideas.
Bennet stated, “…that feeling part of the group really matters. When these employees had a high sense of belongingness with others in the meeting, they were much less fatigued afterward.”
Team-based projects may allow volunteers to create new friendships and network with others they would not otherwise meet inside their company. In addition, volunteers working in small groups experience greater satisfaction and contribute more hours than those on solo projects.
Adapt programs to match the needs of your employees
Encourage employees to schedule their virtual volunteerism when it’s the best time for them.
Again, Andrew A. Bennett adds, “First, have meetings at the right time of the day. In this study, everyone worked 9-to-5 type jobs and, before they worked from home, they had been in an office setting. For these individuals, a videoconference in the middle of the day was fine, but later in the afternoon, people were much more fatigued than normal after a videoconference.”
I suggest streamlining projects and reducing unnecessary calls. Consider the needs of your skilled volunteers; is this person more comfortable on a voice call? Can the call be scheduled when children are at school? When working across time zones, it is complicated to meet the needs of all parties, but let your employees know you recognize their needs and appreciate their volunteer work.
Focus on creating a curated, efficient system
Always ask, is volunteering enriching employees’ experience? Match service opportunities with current lifestyles. For example, if they are short of time and hesitant to accept additional commitments, making shorter-term options available may expand the benefits of volunteering for more people.
Consider options. We must adjust our programs and think more about the needs of our employees in order to grow corporate volunteerism.
So let Revere Software help you navigate the complications and develop virtual and in-person programs to assure that corporations, volunteers, and essential nonprofits continue to experience the profound benefits of skills-based volunteerism. Your company has hundreds, if not thousands, of talented and passionate employee eager to drive positive change in the world by volunteering their skills with nonprofit organizations as long as it fits within their changing home/work lifestyle.
You’re ready. Your employees are ready again. Nonprofits are ready. The Revere team and I are ready. So, let’s do this! Together, let’s start sharing invaluable expertise across the world.