This Post is All About You

Last week, I wrote about involving your staff, partners and employees in the entire volunteering cycle, from getting their feedback at the initiation to providing them with results after the event or program. So naturally, this week, we will be taking a look at the other part of the equation. You.

We all know and understand the struggles of running a small business. Trying to juggle staff, clients, finances and marketing along with your personal life can be daunting to say the least. And oftentimes, you just don’t know if you have the time or patience for it all.

As the person running the show, it is key that you understand what volunteering can do for you, not as a business owner, but as an individual. What you may find is that volunteering becomes the set of scales you desperately needed to find that delicate balance between your work and your personal life.

First and foremost, volunteering can often double as a form of relaxation. Being able to move around outside and take your mind off work for even just a day every month can do wonders to clear your mind and help you re-focus your thoughts. Volunteering can serve as an outlet to relax, both mentally and physically.

Secondly, volunteering can also serve to hone some of those skills so necessary for entrepreneurship, such as networking, communication, agility, prioritisation and adaptability. These are probably skills that you put to use on a day-to-day basis, but being able to practice and develop these skills in a completely new environment allows you to stretch and experiment with them even further.

Lastly, it can serve as an immediate sense of achievement. As a small business owner, you should understand the importance of celebrating quick wins. Being able to go out and do something for a day, immediately understand the impact it is having can be a hugely empowering, especially if you are currently feeling like you aren’t making much headway.

These are just some of the reasons I found for volunteering. What are some of your own experiences? Touch base in the comments below!

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Engaging Millennials: It’s a Lifestyle

This post is inspired by a comment I read from one of my readers. Part of it reads “We keep hearing that millenials, with the largest generation representation in the workplace, value purpose over paychecks and want to be emotionally and behaviourally connected to their job and company”.

The idea that millennials are more environmentally and socially conscious than generations that came before them is something that we come across quite often, so it seems fairly straightforward that having a volunteering program would be a great way to attract millennial employees and customers. However, the reality is much more nuanced, and here’s why.

While it is true that millennials are more environmentally and socially conscious, this often manifests itself in a different way than prior generations. For example, data suggests that despite their nature, millennials are donating less to charities now than baby boomers. Instead, millennials may choose to purchase from socially responsible companies. Millennials will try their best to integrate their philanthropy into their everyday lives.

What does that mean for you as a small business owner? It means that millennials value purpose in their volunteering. By engaging your employees throughout the entire volunteering process, you can show that their values and needs are accounted for when establishing the volunteering program. By providing input and feedback on the results of the volunteering activity, millennials can be further engaged because they are getting a real understanding of the impact they had.

In my past posts, I have reinforced the need to treat charity partners as a business partnership, where both parties share a common goal and agree on mutually beneficial terms. Nowhere is this more true than with millennials. By integrating philanthropy directly into their everyday lives, volunteering becomes a place where they live, develop and grow their own skill sets. That is why it is so important that the volunteering activities you choose are meaningful, and provide growth opportunities for your employees.

Keeping Your Employees Engaged

While I was looking around the office this week, thinking about something to write about, I noticed something that I’ve neglected this whole time that’s been right in front of my eyes.

Row upon row of tidy desks, each containing a friend or colleague diligently tapping away at their keyboards. And that’s when I realised, in my efforts to speak to you, the business owner, I had neglected to speak about them, your employees, colleagues, friends, partners. A major failing indeed. And one that you should avoid at all costs when setting up a corporate volunteering program, lest you find yourself short a few employees when you turn up to work tomorrow.

Employees should be engaged the whole way through the volunteering process, not just the part where they do the volunteering. Consulting with your staff in the early stages of planning allows them to feel engaged and allows you to get some much needed accurate feedback on activities or partnerships that excite them. If they are part of the decision-making process, they will be much more likely to support the program, and possibly even advocate it to others in the office.

It’s also handy to understand what your employees want to get out of volunteering. It may be that they wish to be part of a business that endorses corporate social responsibility, they may have particular interests in developing certain skills, or they may be interested in the networking opportunities that volunteering gives them. Getting a good understanding of what they are and are not keen on doing will allow you to construct a clear message of your business needs when approaching potential charities.

While volunteering, ask your staff for feedback. Ensure that the aspects of volunteering that excited them in the planning phase still holds true. Touch base often so that you have talking points for your next meeting with the charity partner, as this will send a message to the charity that you are engaged and keen on the partnership to iterate and grow.

Lastly, make sure that you get constructive feedback from the charity on the impact that your event has had on their cause and relay it back to your employees. Being able to substantiate the impact that they have had will only serve to further engage your employees and make them more willing to invest in the volunteering program in the future.

So there you have it. Just a few ideas on how keeping your employees engaged can make for a stronger, long-lasting volunteering partnership. Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Building Bridges: The Where and the How, Part II

Last week, I wrote about few key tools available to you to help foster a working charity partnership. I also acknowledged that due to the immediacy of platforms such as Good Company and Centre for Volunteering, they tend to focus on short term, one-time events rather than encouraging a strong relationship with charities.

As such, it forces us to think a little more creatively when it comes to building a solid partnership. Here are some of my tips to get this done.

Seek Volunteer (https://volunteer.com.au)

As opposed to corporate facing shared-value platforms such as Good Company, Seek Volunteer is a platform that caters to consumers and individuals. As a small business, you may find that this caters more to your needs. With a larger user base than Good Company, and one that has expectations set on individual volunteering over corporate events, you may find it easier to approach charities posting on Seek, and start buidling a rapport. The site also allows you to contact the charities directly and filter based on the cause, the type and the event so as to tailor your search based on your businesses’ interests.

Zoho Projects (https://www.zoho.com/projects/)

Another way to start connecting with a charity partner is to treat them like you would any other business partner. This involves creating a charter, aligning on needs and milestones, delegating roles and responsibilities and identifying stakeholders. It allows charities to feel included, and helps communicate that you are dedicated and treating their cause seriously. Ultimately, it can be treated like a contract between the project manager and the stakeholder, and makes future conversations about continuing the partnership easier. Charities may have less experience when dealing with complex projects and project plans, so a free web-based project planning and collaboration management software tool like Zoho Projects can help immensely in simplifying the process.

These are just some of the examples of thinking laterally to work around a long held belief. Feel free to comment below with any additional tips.

Taking Extra Care to Support Volunteers — volunteerplaintalk

The recent spate of natural disasters has cast a light on incredible volunteers across the globe helping people in need. Although not always news worthy, volunteers daily walk towards a crisis instead of running away. In organizations everywhere, volunteers are doing the hard work, the emotional work. Because they feel so deeply, they are […]

via Taking Extra Care to Support Volunteers — volunteerplaintalk

Building Bridges: The Where and the How

In my previous post, I wrote about some key qualities to look for in a non-profit organisation. Having clear goals, being enthusiastic and providing feedback are all highly important if you want to develop a one-time collaboration into a meaningful, long-lasting relationship. However, the question still remains: How do you find a charity that’s good for you? In a corporate survey in 2006, 40% of businesses cited that finding suitable volunteering opportunities for their employees was one of the main difficulties in maintaining a corporate volunteering program (Volunteering Australia, Corporate Volunteering Survey, 2006, Figure 10).

In this blog post, I will list a few of the tools available to you to help find the perfect NPO.

 

Good Company

Good Company is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a shared value platform for businesses and charities to collaborate and schedule for volunteering events. Their overarching goal is to connect willing businesses with enthusiastic charities and foster a culture of meaningful giving.

There are currently over 1,500 Australian charities already using the platform, ensuring that businesses can find a service or activity that is relevant to them. The platform also has an internal rewards system that enhances the engagement of your employees that rewards and measures their efforts and results.

 

Centre for Volunteering

Centre for Volunteering is another not-for-profit organisation supporting volunteering and community participation. They provide a platform for organising charity events and help mediate communication between businesses and charities. They provide a marketplace for charities to list available events and opportunities for a range of businesses.

When you find a suitable event, the site will direct you to Centre for Volunteering’s consultancy team who will help connect you with the relevant charity.

 

A common theme I found across these platforms is that rarely do they focus on establishing a relationship between the charity and the business. This isn’t unexpected, as these platforms strive for immediate results, and are often charity centric. As such, I encourage you use these tools as a solid starting point, but to make the extra effort to make yourself known once you are in contact with a charity. A little effort goes a long way.

Macmillan Cancer Support & Boots UK: A Case Study

Another case study this week, this time, highlighting the importance of developing a long term, integrated partnership strategy and making sure that you and the charity share clear, mutual goals.

Boots UK, a pharmacy chain operating predominantly in the UK and Ireland, and Macmillan Cancer Support, one of Britian’s largest charities, providing health care, information and financial support to those affected by cancer, formed what must be one of the most outstanding and effective charity partnerships to date. Beginning in 2009, the partnership has raised over £10m for those affected by cancer.

So let’s break down why this partnership has been so succesful.

1. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and the overall goal is clear

It’s clear that Boots UK and Macmillan Cancer Support have set out to deliver a service. Specially trained pharmicists called ‘Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists’ to support and offer guidance on cancer in their stores. It acknowledges that not everyone with cancer is willing, or are able to travel to a hospital and offers to provide the same services to a wider audience.

Not only does this raise awareness and the reach of Macmillan, it also draws more people to Boots UK.

2. It provides highly engaging work for Boots employees

Becoming a ‘Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist’ requires commitment, training and for employees to take on additional responsibility. And yet over 1,900 pharmicists have chosen to take part. This shows that employees are not adverse to skills-based volunteering, as long as the work is engaging, calls on their existing skill-set, or offers them to opportunity to develop new skills.

3. It doesn’t just stop at skilled volunteering

What makes this partnership truly successful is how it permeates the everyday lives of Boots employees. Apart form becoming a ‘Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist’, employees can also raise funds by participating in sponsored walks, marathons, triathlons, bike rides and an annual ball and raffle. In 2015, 60 boots staff climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Macmillan.

So there you have it. A clear, mutual goal, meaningful skill-based volunteer work and a deep multi-faceted relationship go a long way in fostering a strong, long-lasting partnership.

Vinnies CEO Sleepout – A Case Study

In my last post, I wrote about some key tips to finding a good non-profit organisation (NPO) for businesses in the SME space to partner with. Negotiating a successful charity partnership often comes down to how well each of the parties knows each other (and themselves), and how successfully they are able to align their values when they negotiate the partnership agreement. All parties involved need to be actively engaged, and willing to provide tangible results and feedback to continue to grow your endeavours and the relationship as a whole.

In this post, I wanted to look at another case study, and explore how it applies to the tips above. This time around, I set my sights on Vinnies CEO Sleepout, the annual initiative held all across Australia to raise funds and awareness for people in Australia experiencing homelessness.

The event invites corporate CEOs in Australia to experience homelessness for one night in June each year. In 2017, the CEO Sleepout successfully raised $5.6 million dollars in support of Australians facing homelessness.

The mission statement for Vinnies CEO Sleepout is simple, clear and easily accessible on their site and social media pages. However, what makes this initiative powerful is it’s ability to take a step back, and allow the business partners to experience the cause for themselves, and allow them to decide whether it aligns with their business values. It is a powerful way to reach an audience, and establishes a solid foundation for a strong, long lasting relationship.

The campaign also shows how enthusiastic they are about the relationship with the businesses that choose to participate. This can be seen in many aspects of the campaign, including the activity on the cause’s social media pages, to the way in which they involve the businesses on their website, showing the name of the CEO, their company and how much each has donated, and the way they celebrate their wins on social media.

All in all, Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a great initiative that found a great way to engage its business partners.

3 Things to Look for in a (Charity) Partner

I was speaking to a colleague at work this week, who went on to make an excellent observation. He said, “Your blog posts talk about what a business needs to do in order to maintain a good volunteering relationship with a non-profit organisation (NPO) or charity, but shouldn’t there be an onus on the charity as well?”. My colleague makes a good point. At the end of the day, a charity partnership should be a mutual understanding between two or more parties that seek to fulfil a common, and well-defined goal. So in this post, I wanted to discuss what you, as a small business owner should look for in a charity partner.

1.  Make sure that the charity has a clear goal that aligns with your own

If you’ve read my previous posts, you would already be quite familiar with this one. I often mention that in order to negotiate a charity partnership, you need to understand your own business values. This is true for the charity as well. A charity with a clear goal and mission statement will help you to define the terms of the relationship and ensure that the values of your business align with the values of the cause you are supporting. It will also have a greater chance to lead to a longer lasting relationship that serves to enhance the credibility and reach of both parties.

2.  The charity should be enthusiastic about the relationship

Negotiating a charity partnership is the same as negotiating a business partnership. Both parties need to be engaged and committed to the relationship, so that if you encounter any roadblocks on the way (and you will), both parties are willing to fight to overcome them. Engagement can be gauged in a number of ways, including the manner in which the representatives conduct themselves, to the speed at which they reply to your emails, to the the level of information the charity is willing to provide about how your contribution impacts them.

3.  Willingness to engage employees and provide feedback

When looking for a charity relationship, always keep in mind the benefits that you would like to get out of it. In most cases, part of that benefit will be employee growth and development. When finding a suitable charity, make sure that they have the capacity to engage a suitable number of your employees, provide unique opportunities to the employees who are willing to participate, and are willing to provide results, feedback and growth opportunities in unique, engaging and most importantly, tangible ways.

So there you have it. Three key tips to finding a good charity partner.

Homes of Hope: A Case Study

In my last post, I mentioned that the main focus for yourself, as a small business, when negotiating a charity partnership with a non-profit organisation (NPO), should be to first make sure that you understand your own business. This enables you to firstly, better understand the value proposition that they can bring to relationship, and secondly, it allows you and the NPO to identify key areas where both party’s values align, which can then become the back-bone of your partnership strategy.

 

In this post, I want to show you an example of this strategy in action.

 

In 2014, IKEA partnered with two charities: Animal Lovers League Shelter and the Save Our Street Dogs Shelter to create the very successful ‘Homes of Hope’ partnership. The partnership saw the charities creating life-sized cut-outs of dogs currently residing at their shelters, which were then displayed around IKEA showrooms all around Singapore. IKEA customers who were interested in adopting a dog could learn more about it and get in touch with the shelter by scanning a VR code embedded in the cardboard cut-out.

 

The campaign was hugely successful for all parties involved. For the charities, it meant a large boost in dog adoption rates, as well as increased interest in corporate partnerships. For IKEA, whose key message is about creating a welcoming and warm home for their customers, having cardboard cut-outs of dogs incorporated amongst their displays serves to do this wonderfully.

 

One key takeaway from this case-study, is that at no point in the partnership discussion was monetary funding the main goal of the campaign. The focus was always on the value that could be gained from the partnership for all parties involved. In this case, they identified that the key value shared by all parties was one of creating a welcoming home. For the shelters, they wanted a warm home for their dogs, and for IKEA, it was for their customers.