At the 2014 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, volunteerism emerged as one of the major themes of discussion. To keep the conversation going, it also became the topic of our April webinar, titled “Innovations in Volunteering.” This one hour webinar highlighted two companies that have utilized volunteer programs to enhance their corporate citizenship programs at their companies and provided key takeaways.
Skills-based Volunteering at AstraZeneca Canada, Inc.
Our first speaker, Helen-Marie Seibel, Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility at AstraZeneca Canada, Inc, spoke of the importance of providing skills-based volunteering opportunities for the benefit of three different groups: community, company, and employees. In her discussion she mentions the importance of collaboration and support from HR. Helen said, “90% of surveyed corporate professionals agree that contributing business skills and expertise via skills-based volunteerism can be an effective way to develop leadership skills.”
Helen then went on to discuss AstraZeneca Canada’s own skills-based volunteering program, entitled the Endeavor Project. Launched in 2012 as a pilot program, AstraZeneca sought to test the business case and the company’s own assumptions about the value of engaging employees in a long-term skills-based volunteering project. Partnering with one of AZ Canada’s existing partners was a deliberate choice designed to strengthen relationships with an already known client, have employees gain insights into the work of this partner, and in turn make employees stronger internal champions of the project when it concluded. With six initial volunteers from all areas and levels of the company including government affairs, business development, marketing and scientific affairs, in its pilot year, AZ logged 400 volunteer hours and was met with great success both internally and with the outside community.
Helen believes that conducting pre and post-evaluation measurement was crucial in the initial success of Endeavor and enabled enhanced planning for future programs. The pre-evaluations gave AstraZeneca an understanding of participant expectations, both internally with employee participants and externally with the partners, as well as something to return to at the end of the project to evaluate whether objectives had been achieved.
Helen left webinar attendees with 4 key takeaways:
- Gaining leadership buy-in from the top will help integrate the program into company culture.
- Integrating with HR will ensure the program aligns with the company’s talent management objectives as well as helping to identify strong candidate for the program.
- Integrating with existing corporate citizenship initiatives will deepen community engagement and impact.
- Leveraging the expertise of a non-profit intermediacy will provide support and expertise in helping your company design and manage your skills-based volunteer program.
Board Service Training Program at State Street
Regina McNally, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship at State Street, discussed her experience creating a board service training program, which was launched in 2009. Through this program State Street partnered with their HR department and the Arts and Business Council in Boston. By partnering with HR, State Street identified 20 executive vice presidents who expressed interest in engaging with boards. Once the participants were selected, State Street provided in-house training to educate participants on the workings of a board, legal issues, and fundraising issues. In addition, they offered a history of the sector and an update on State Street’s own corporate citizenship policies which allowed the company to make sure the executive participants were all on the same page about expectations.
Once again, Regina highlighted the benefits of such a program to the company, community and employee. She emphasized the experiential learning aspect of participating in board service as a chance for executives to get out of their normal space and learn about the opportunities and constraints of the nonprofit world. She said, “They learn in a whole new environment to let their brain work in a different way and bring those new skillsets back to the office.”
Regina left webinar attendees with several key takeaways:
- Collaboration with HR from the beginning ensures the program fits with the needs of the company and that both the Corporate Citizenship and HR departments define and communicate about the program in the same way internally.
- Get to know the organizations your company partners with so you can better align your goals with theirs and communicate more clearly about program objectives.
- Seek local partners who can help navigate legal and tax issues, match employees to boards in the area seeking participants, and provide insight into the time and financial commitments of each board.
- Executive buy-in creates a “trickle-down effect” of encouraging a passion for corporate citizenship within the teams of the executives.
- Start slow and look to grow and build as your program develops over time
We would love to hear from you. What type of volunteer program are you using within your company?