A short guide to businesses who are paying volunteers

Corporate Social Responsibility / Monday, September 22nd, 2014

We’ve been having a great discussion via the blog and podcast lately on paid volunteer programs – this is a benefit program run by local and national businesses designed to get their employees volunteering in the community. On Friday I chatted about strategies that we as volunteers can use to take advantage of these programs and recruit great volunteers.  Today, I want to get practical here, and give you some real life examples of companies that are doing this.  I’m doing this so that you can have a practical reference for the businesses you may want to look at connecting with.

This guide is certainly not all inclusive, but it will give you a general idea of the types of businesses you should be talking to in order to recruit paid volunteers. Remember! Just because a business in your area is not offering this kind of a program, it DOES NOT mean you shouldn’t have a conversation with them about this anyway.  Businesses are generally very receptive to innovative ways of community involvement – especially these days.  What’s more, businesses are starting to realize that they have to start offering benefits like paid volunteerism, or they will lose out on the best and brightest employees.  So, have the conversation about paid volunteerism with local businesses – if you make a solid case for it, chances are they’ll be highly receptive.

Here are a few business types that tend to offer this:

1.) Credit Unions & Banks – Chances are, these will be your most likely partners – especially if your clients need financial coaching.  Banks & Credit Unions are keenly aware of the necessity for community involvement, and they are desperate for ways to get involved beyond their ‘traditional’ roles.  I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but this was exactly how Habitat got hold of me – I was working as a financial coach, my company offered paid volunteer time, Habitat recruited me, and it was a match made in heaven.  Here’s an example of a Kansas City credit union that offers it’s employees 12 hours of paid volunteer time.

2.) Faith Based Businesses – Dave Ramsey is probably the best known in this space – he offers all his employees 40 hours of paid ‘ministry time’ in addition to their normal vacation and sick time.  But many other faith based businesses do this as a way to allow their employees to minister in the way they see fit.  Even if a business is not explicitly faith based – if the leadership has a strong faith background, you’d have a great in from this standpoint – especially if you are a faith based non-profit yourself.

3.) Marketing Firms – Have a one-time event you need to promote?  Or maybe you want to raise more funds? Employees at marketing firms typically love getting involved with these sort of projects, and their companies love helping their employees show off – this often leads to the marketing firm paying their employees to serve the community. The benefit here too is that you don’t necessarily have to convince the business to create a set program – rather, you can just approach them with a one-time project and ask them to ‘donate’ some of their employees’ time to the project.  That can then open the door to longer term connections.  Here’s an example of a really terrific marketing company that has paid volunteerism at its core.

4.) The ‘Largest’ Companies in your Area – I know this may sound general, but think of it this way, here in the KC area, we have 5 companies that are just really massive.  Cerner, for example, is one of the largest employers in the area and while their work may not directly tie into most of our causes, they have thousands of employees and a massive HR budget.  Timberland is another great example here.  They encourage their employees to volunteer by paying them to do so – and most of the largest companies are now following suit because they have to do this to recruit top talent.  So, I’d highly recommend you use this knowledge, and seek out the largest employers in your area.  Chances are, you’ll find that hundreds of paid volunteer hours go unused at these places because no other non-profit has taken the time to approach employees about it.  

5.) The Service Industry – So this would be everything entertainment related, restaurants, bars, event planners, etc…they are in every town, and they specialize in running events, and helping people unwind.  They place tremendous value on community exposure, so why not present them an opportunity to help your non-profit with events or a party?  This can be a great way to run an event for your volunteers and clients, while helping these organizations build their image in the community.  What’s more – it can be a great way to start building long-term connections to these businesses, and open the door to paid volunteerism for their employees. 

I cannot stress enough how important this new trend is as we work to recruit volunteers.  It is a sad fact that far too many of these hours go unused, and we coordinators need to put a stop to that.  Question for today: how can we work to help these employees use their paid volunteer hours in ways that help us, and them?