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20 of the best virtual volunteering opportunities for your employees

In this blog I will give an overview of the cultural and business response seen to Covid-19 volunteering and then provide a detailed list of virtual volunteering opportunities and resources you, and your staff, can tap into during the crisis.

 

Caught off guard

The unprecedented speed at which the Covid-19 crisis has impacted society as we know it has been frightening; with governments, businesses, communities and our own families all caught off guard.  And it is now, as the stories of heart-breaking personal loss and the immediate economic impact on businesses and the charitable sector begin to emerge, that we are starting to build a picture of the hardships to come over the next year and perhaps beyond.

However, there is a ‘wartime spirit’ that this crisis has envoked which is galvanising us more as a society than anything else many of us have seen in our lifetime. In the UK, a national call for 250,000 healthcare volunteers was exceeded twofold in 24 hours, harking back to Lord Kitchener’s recruitment drive during World War I. In the US, the private sector’s rapid rallying to build 200,000 ventilators, reminding us of the frenetic activity seen in footage of munitions factories in World War II.

Although we were ‘caught napping’, we can be uplifted by and proud of how we are reacting as a society.

 

So, what can businesses do to help?

At Thrive CSR, we sit at the junction between medium/large business and the charitable sector and we’ve always believed in the power of business to change society.

If we quickly look at some numbers around this (anyone who knows me knows I love a good statistic!):

  • In the UK, there are over 250,000 businesses employing 10 or more employees which in total employ over 18 million people. If even half of those adopted a typical volunteering leave policy (say 1.5 days per year per employee) that would be more than 100 million volunteering hours contributed every year.
  • The same stats for the USA are around 6 times this number – resulting in over 600 million volunteering hours.

Given that the employee engagement benefits of employee volunteering are now well documented, and the need in the community is clear, there are incredibly strong reasons for the 1.5 million businesses cited above to deploy their “troops” via a volunteer army to assist with the Covid-19 fight. To those who are doing this already, our hats go off to you.

 

But we can’t volunteer, we can’t leave our homes…

In the UK, and globally, we are all in lockdown at present and most businesses have staff working from home or furloughed, which of course makes more ‘traditional’ employee volunteering such as team building events out of the question.

In my last blog post, I commented on how forward thinking CSR Managers are quickly adapting their employee volunteering programmes to enable staff to complete ‘virtual volunteering’ and community aid volunteering. And we have been reading more and more stories of how businesses large and small are adopting this approach, as well as continuing to hear this directly from our own customers such as Linklaters solicitors, Wessex Water and Avanti Trains et al.

What we have heard from many, however, is that they are struggling to find good sources of Virtual Volunteering opportunities for their staff. So we’ve put our team to work to help find you some of the best virtual volunteering available to help boost the mental wellbeing of your employees and assist in the Covid-19 fight. Below is the list we have curated.

We’ve seen that there a number of typical broad categories that these fall into, including: Community Support, Education and Mentoring, Skills Based Volunteering and Online Research Projects.

Please use this list to kick start your employee virtual volunteering and let us know if you can recommend any more sources and we’ll repost an updated list next week…

(As always, make sure you do your own due diligence on any of the organisations below recommending them to your employees)

Let’s all do our part from home in the fight against Covid-19! #alonetogether

 

COMMUNITY/EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

 

EDUCATION/MENTORING

 

SKILLS BASED

 

ONLINE RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR GOOD

 

OTHERS…

 

AND A MORE LIGHT HEARTED ONE TO FINISH:

  • Not exactly volunteering, but a fun way for your employees to interact online while doing good… Answer the quiz questions correctly and the UN World Food Programme donates rice to change lives! https://freerice.com

 

That’s all for now, if you have additional resources to share please comment below or email me – [email protected]

Corporate Volunteering in the Age of the Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Corporate Volunteering? Social Interaction? Really…?!

Yes. Now more than ever, the need for volunteering in the midst of this crisis is clear.

The last few weeks have been uncertain for everybody but it has been heartwarming to see the way our customers and other large corporates have pulled together in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many are quickly adapting their Employee Volunteering Policies to deploy in different and innovative ways to support both their employees and their communities.

At Thrive CSR, we have a unique oversight from our work assisting CSR Managers to track and report on their employee volunteering, so read on to find out what your company can do, and what you can learn from others….

(Of course, always pay attention to the government & health services’ advice and usual safeguarding steps with regards to your volunteering)

March 23 2020 Update: While government recommendations are changing daily this article is still relevant, even in a widespread lock down.

A Morale Boost for Home-bound or Socially Restricted Employees

At this stage it looks like significant social restrictions and the need to work from home will continue for some time – recent estimates in the UK put it at anywhere up to 6-9 months.

Thus during this time, it is important to focus on your employees’ mental health as the stresses from family health and economic worries build up. There are a number of things you can do here but volunteering is actually a key one to focus on. Multiple studies have shown that volunteering helps greatly in promoting positive mental health amongst participants.

Volunteering (of which there are several types, we will get to that shortly…) can provide a much needed break from this. It helps create and maintain human connections outside of the home. And it can also give them the sense of ‘doing more’.

Take Pride in Mobilising Your Employees in their Local Community

We need each other more than ever; however, Covid-19 provides a cruel juxtaposition – requiring significant social distancing at this time of increased human need.

Travel restrictions mean that national challenges now need to be addressed ‘hyper locally’.  Corporates are in a unique situation to empower their staff to play a key role within their local communities.

This is the time you can make a difference. Many corporations are altering their volunteering policies and options, away from well curated and pre-defined volunteering events towards a more fluid approach which will give staff the option to use their allowable volunteering time to assist in their local communities through self targeted staff volunteering. And to those of you who are, such as global law firm, Ashurst – we take our hats off to you all.

What New Volunteering Options Are Possible?

We have spent the last week working with our customers to understand the different types of community volunteering that are making a difference right now. Currently, it looks like three types of volunteering will be the most impactful in the months ahead:

1) Remote mentoring/teaching opportunities via Skype/Facetime/Google Hangouts etc.

Have your staff been working with groups of people (teaching, mentoring, buddy systems etc.) which could continue remotely? It’s quite possible this type of activity can still go on – providing a wonderful outlet to keep both volunteers and their benefactors engaged during this period, while still allowing complete social distancing.

2) Helping the isolated or vulnerable

The next few months are going to be incredibly tough on many people who have to isolate without constant company and assistance. As an individual you can offer your many services to local people without direct physical contact – print off a flier such as this one our own staff have been using and place it in the letterboxes of nearby house and highlight the jobs you are willing and able to perform, such as collecting groceries or even just daily a phone call.

Alternatively, another way for your staff to find vulnerable people to help locally is via established charities like Age UK.

3) Sole Volunteering with Community Aid Groups

Large volunteer gatherings are clearly off the agenda but helping vulnerable groups in their local community is still a possibility (as long as health & safety and safeguarding guidelines are met).
Mutual Aid and Community Groups are currently being established around the country, many of which have established Facebook groups.

Many of our flagship customers are encouraging staff actively get involved in these activities as part of their company Volunteering Leave and recording the results to share them with the whole company.

Make Sure You Capture Your Employee Volunteering & Recognise Individual Efforts

Having your staff out in the community during this problematic time is a noble goal but at the same time it is important to track what they are doing. HR/Health and Safety is one reason. The second is so you can follow the amazing work they are doing and feed that back into the organization (photos or short feedback snippets are great) to encourage more and more of your staff to get involved.

This is an outstanding way to start a ‘feedback loop’ where many staff see what early adopters are doing and that motivates them to do something impactful too. The sense of community and company pride this can produce is exceptional.

We’d love to hear how you are deploying your employee volunteers meet the current community crisis.  If you share these with us, we’ll pass the info around our network of CSR managers. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

Stay safe and we hope this helps!

Neil

5 CSR Trends That Will Dominate 2020

CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility is a corporate effort to improve the society and environment in positive ways. Larger companies want to give something back to society by donating money, improving local infrastructure, providing scholarships and supporting local micro businesses. Due to many industry changes, it is important for corporations to adapt their CSR efforts to better serve the community. This can be done by following the latest CSR trends that we are going to share with you now.

Here are 5 CSR trends that we will see this year:

Better Aligned Philanthropy- philanthropy can be less productive and less sustainable if it’s not aligned to the value proposition and core competency of the company. Philanthropy efforts work much better if they match with the company. More resources, products and experience can be devoted to benefit the society.

More Concern On Environmental Sustainability- it’s a fact that corporate operations have plenty of negative impacts on the environment. Millions of tonnes of toxic materials and waste are being dumped each year into the ocean, waterways and soil. CSR efforts in 2020 may include more comprehensive waste processing, better recycling methods and clean-up of local communities.

Accurate Information For The Public- it’s a corporate responsibility to provide truth and accurate information to the public. Alternative media sources, fake news and social media could easily spread misinformation and misleading facts to. Companies will hire external CSR specialists to ensure accurate and transparent spread of information.

Support For Local Workers- many companies hire workers who are part of the local community. Supporting local workers is an impactful CSR strategy. Strikes and other labor problems could happen if corporate decisions don’t fully support workers. In 2020, we will see workers exercise their voices more to work together with corporate leaders.

Purpose-Based Efforts- when practicing CSR, it’s easy to have passion, instead of well-defined purpose. While passion is crucial to motivate business professionals to help the community, there must be a purpose to have and goals to achieve. Purposes can ensure long-lasting and sustainable impacts for the local community.

Contact Thrive CSR

     To learn more about Corporate Social Responsibility and how your business can benefit from better capturing and reporting of your CSR, contact Thrive CSR today and speak with a CSR tech specialist that can answer any questions you might have.

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it on your favourite social media sites.

 

 

Introduction to Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched by the United Nations in 2015 as a ‘global framework for a sustainable future’, aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all.  Whilst set up to be implemented by governments, the private sector is fundamental to their success, particularly in the areas of finance, economic growth and innovation. So business matters to the SDGs but why should the SDGs matter to business?

The clue is in the title. The fact is that the world – its environment, society, economy – in its current state, is not sustainable. Globally, we’re consuming more than the Earth can continue to provide, and we’re destroying our life support systems in the process.

That’s as bad for business as it is for all for us.

Hence, as populations grow, resources get scarcer and the social and economic disruption of climate change becomes evident, businesses will face challenges that limit their potential to grow or even survive in some cases. ‘Business as usual’ will not be an option.  It will be in business’ own interest to address the social and environmental challenges that the SDGs encompass, or face a very uncertain future.

The case is eloquently summed up by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman who said: “It is not possible to achieve long-term business success in a world which contains poverty, hunger and climate change. But can business really help drive a reboot of the current system?  At Unilever, we think the answer is ‘yes’.”

But how should businesses engage?

  • Firstly, using the SDGs as a framework for identifying and disclosing business risks and impacts is an excellent basis for improving strategic decision making, helping achieve better outcomes for the business, its customers, as well as society at large.
  • Secondly, minimising negative and maximising positive impacts in areas that are material to the business and its stakeholders, reduces these risks and results in a range of (often unanticipated) business benefits, such as investor confidence, customer loyalty, staff retention and efficiencies that cut costs for the business, its supplies and customers – a ‘win-win’ all round.
  • Thirdly, the Goals can signpost business opportunity in the form of new products, services and markets.  In a future that will demand different ways of doing things, business should do what business does best by innovating to provide ‘environmentally and socially’ better products and services, as leaders like Unilever, Patagonia and Interface are already demonstrating.

On this last and perhaps the most fundamental point, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission’s ‘Better Business, Better World’ report http://report.businesscommission.org/report estimates a $12 trillion per year business opportunity in new sustainable products and cost efficiencies associated with companies pursuing the SDGs.

But whilst the SDG’s can be seen as a great strategic framework for futureproofing the business, their comprehensive nature – 17 goals and 169 targets – can present a challenge.

So how should companies determine which goals to engage with?

  1. Start by assessing which SDGs are material to the business and its stakeholders, identifying the most relevant SDG targets and determining objectives around these, with the aim of optimising business and shared value in the areas of biggest impact and opportunity.
  2. Prepare a strategy to ensure these objectives will achieve their intended outcomes, ensuring the necessary incentives and systems and that these can progress can be measured, assessed and reported – but make sure this is aligned with corporate strategy and don’t assume that a CSR, HR or Comms dept. will be able to exert the necessary influence to deliver it, if production, operations and sales functions are not pulling in the same direction!
  3. Finally, there is the matter of measuring, managing and demonstrating attributable impacts, each of which has its own challenges, including how to collect and organise data, how to use data to drive performance and how to communicate and report progress – all of which is critical to implementing the strategy and realising the value.

Thankfully, technology is an ally in all of this, with modern computing power and the internet allowing data to be shared and analysed in large quantities, almost instantaneously. With the right software and set-up, performance against SDG targets can be centrally monitored, required improvements communicated to various business functions and overall progress readily communicated to internal and external stakeholders – an automated system, no less.

And yet so much data still collected on a spreadsheet, sent by email attachment and aggregated manually, with repeated iterations and report extractions.  This seems to be particularly the case for social impact, for example where organisations pursue goals through community investment, training or volunteering, resulting in inefficient or ineffective delivery of intended outcomes.

But it’s not only the Unilevers of this world who are using technology to facilitate action and communicate progress on the SDGs. International law firm Linklaters, who have a particular focus on Goal 16, are amongst an increasing number of innovative companies to use web-based software to manage and report on specific aspects such as their volunteering activities, for example.

Technology is essentially about better ways of doing things, and web-based technology is arguably the single most significant innovation for advancing corporate sustainability and the SDGs, the full potential of which has yet to be realised. Quite simply, companies need to make better use of it, now more than ever.

3 Big CSR Problems

I speak to CSR and Community Relations Managers all the time – in lots of different countries and in lots of different industries. I see fantastic diversity in the community support that is being given by our corporates all over the world and well developed community investment strategies.

Yet most of the people I meet face the same challenges…..they’ve got the strategy, they’ve launched the initiatives but….

  1. How do they track what goes on right across their organisation and out into the communities they connect with?
  2. How do they prove return on investment to their board?
  3. How do they maximize the use of their limited resources and budget?

These problems manifest in real daily struggles. Well-paid, senior managers are routinely bogged down in the admin of managing their initiatives rather than driving them from the helm, and collating and preparing reports is a nightmare.

Indeed, the life of the CSR or Community Manager is not an easy one – limited budgets expected to stretch far (both physically and metaphorically) and there is now constant pressure to convey value-add to the bottom line.

Yet, at its core, the solution is relatively simple – collect more data and communicate it better. This leads to a positive feedback loop and a win-win for both the company and the community.

So, how can more data capture and better reporting be achieved? ‘Easier said than done’, I hear you say! Well, I see lots of approaches. Here’s my comparison….

In my experience CSR managers don’t automatically look to proprietary software to solve problems. I’ve found that technical innovation is not something that’s naturally front of mind in the CSR sector, and often software is perceived to be too expensive with ‘I have no budget for software’, the standard line of the frustrated CSR/Community Manager.

The new reality is that, with the advent of cloud based software, the costs of proprietary software are plummeting and recent surveys* show over 90% of large businesses embracing cloud software. The good news is that cloud-based software is perfect for CSR managers – enabling easy oversight of community activity in one country or many scattered across the globe. Automated data capture and easy reporting also enables staff time to be channelled into more productive tasks.

So I tend to ask CSR and Community Relations managers these 2 questions:

  1. If a software solution could reduce you or a colleague’s admin time by 50%, what value could that person add to the organisation through more direct community outreach?
  2. If you could achieve feedback from over 75% of participants or recipients with automated software feedback tools, what value would that allow you to convey to the board, employees, and the wider community?

With those two questions answered, the choice to use cloud based software to manage CSR seems clear!

Neil Macdonald is CEO of Thrive CSR and ardent advocate of technology innovation in the CSR Sector. If you would like to learn more about how Thrive’s cloud software can assist CSR and Community Relations managers, you can read more on our website or get in touch directly with Neil at [email protected].

Impact Measurement

I have the benefit of talking to a diverse range of CSR and Community Investment managers in a whole range of industries which gives me a great overview of the day to day issues they face.

Yet I’ve noticed that a couple of themes are industry-agnostic. One is that community support, whether this be volunteering, donations or in-kind support, is now integral to almost all companies’ CSR strategies; with a growing understanding of how an active community programme can boost employee engagement and brand reputation.

The other is that, now that community investment strategies are in place, managers are coming under increasing pressure to measure, understand the impact and accurately report on the work that is being done. And this makes perfect sense – from a corporate viewpoint where Return on Investment is king, why wouldn’t the executive management want to know the benefit of the time and resources being spent? From a manager’s viewpoint, how can you know that your strategy is working if you don’t benchmark its performance? And from a community standpoint, providing information on the impact of corporate giving has been shown to increase the likelihood of future support.

That’s all well and good but the measurement and reporting of community investment is tricky. Firstly, CSR teams tend to be pretty stretched so finding additional time to capture more data / do more admin is difficult. Secondly, most CSR managers sit centrally but their initiatives cut across the entire company, so collecting accurate data from a dispersed workforce or across multiple countries is, frankly, nigh on impossible using traditional phone calls and emails and the time they have available. And finally, measurement of community impact doesn’t rely solely on stats, it requires additional, subjective measures of benefit that are difficult to capture on spreadsheets.

Thankfully over the last year we have seen a strong trend with CSR managers throwing out their old manual processes and embracing software to help get more useful insights, in a shorter period of time.

This has become so important to the sector that Business in the Community (NI) has chosen to partner with us (Thrive CSR) because these types of tools are now something their membership are demanding.

At Thrive CSR we have unique, easy to use, software that helps centrally capture data and gather feedback. It’s something, as a business, we are very focused on and excited about.

Once a ‘project’ is in our system, the system can automatically follow up with participants and beneficiaries using both email and text message. And the return of data is ‘friction-free’ and can even be done through short surveys straight from their smartphone. The result has been amazing. Companies like Coca Cola HBC and Virgin Trains have been receiving response rates of over 75% with ZERO time input from their CSR team. And the information they are uncovering is invaluable for their quarterly and annual reports and helping to shape the future direction of their community investment strategy.

Using a software solution, like Thrive CSR, to automatically capture your community investment activity and to understand its impact is now a no-brainer. Our experience shows you can slash your admin time, spend more time on strategy and active community engagement work, have full oversight on your activities and their impact and easily report to internal and external stakeholders.

To learn more about Thrive, click here

Feedback

I’m amazed how hard it is for a business to get feedback on the difference their donations, grants or volunteering hours have made to the community.

I understand why… both businesses and community organizations are so incredibly busy that after a contribution is awarded, the final and critical step of finding out what the community group did with the contribution is often difficult.

In this blog post I talk about the process we developed to help businesses like Coca Cola Hellenic and Virgin Trains get valuable feedback from their community contributions. Some of these business now see over 75% of their support projects returning feedback, whereas previously they spent hours on the phone or emailing and achieved under 10%. I have to say, it’s really exciting!

As a bit of background, our Thrive CSR software helps businesses manage their donations, grants or volunteering. We realized that while our system was saving clients tonnes of admin time, what they also needed was more feedback from the community they were supporting. Too often CSR staff would talk of the frustrations caused by giving something to a community and never hearing back. CSR staff wanted to collect stats, stories and even photos or video of the difference a contribution made. They wanted to use this to showcase their great community work; understand their employee engagement; measure social value; or to evaluate the use of their grants.

We have worked closely with community organizations and businesses over the last year to find the right way to elicit this feedback. It’s win/win because the more quality information the community groups share with a business, the more likely they are to get additional support in the future.

What we found is that community organizations will provide valuable feedback, if the process is as low friction as possible. So we built a system that automatically follows up community organizations after they have received a donation, grant or been the recipient of volunteering hours. Over 6 months trialling we have found the best way to do this is via a series of emails and text messages. These need to be perfectly timed to prime the community group on the feedback required and then to give them a low friction way (via text message or using a mobile app) to report their feedback directly to the business.

The results, have even surprised ourselves! Our customers are receiving feedback from up to 75% of recipients, with no effort at all on their part. And even better than this, when their feedback comes directly into their Thrive CSR portal, managers have a choice of how to use it; share directly to their web, intranet or social channels at the click of a button; incorporate into social value calcs, or add it to monthly or annual reports to showcase their amazing community impact.

It’s really exciting to see! So if you aren’t getting valuable feedback from your community giving, consider implementing an approach as we’ve described above. If you would like to know how our Thrive CSR software could help chat to us today.

Learn more about Thrive