A short guide to businesses who are paying volunteers

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?


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How to recruit paid volunteers

Did that title grab you?? I sure hope it did. Because today, I have a quick guide about something I think could be one of the most revolutionary things to hit volunteering since its invention – get this – more and more businesses are now paying their employees to volunteer with causes that those employees care about. In some cases as much as three weeks per year! And this is in addition to any other paid time (e.g. vacation/sick time) that is already offered. In fact, a recent HR study found that 20% of organizations in the study offered paid volunteerism as a perk – and it’s continually growing! (source)

On the one hand, I see how this might seem a bit disconcerting – after all, I know we want volunteers who are dedicated to the cause for the cause’s sake, but if we can have a volunteer who is both genuinely dedicated AND being encouraged (via a paycheck) by his/her employer to volunteer, why not? Also, consider this, the Independent Sector has recently reported that the average economic value added by a volunteer can be as high as $38/hr!! (source). If volunteers are able to make themselves this valuable to an organization, I am fully supportive of their receiving financial rewards whenever possible.

But – how can we as volunteer coordinators take advantage of this? I couldn’t track down a stat on this, but I’d be willing to bet that a pretty significant number of these paid volunteer hours go unused annually. And I’d also be willing to bet that the hours go unused, by and large, because potential volunteers just aren’t presented with the kinds of opportunities that suit them…but what if they could be offered such opportunities??

That’s where we (volunteer coordinators) come in!! 🙂 I’m going to put forth a theory here – I think that if we structured opportunities to take advantage of paid volunteer time we could really link up with this growing trend. Here are a few important steps you should take to recruit paid volunteers:

1.) Structure opportunities that fit the employer’s constraints. This one will seem daunting because businesses range from offering 6 hours per year to 8 hrs per month! So how can you find a dedicated volunteer within that? By shifting the employee’s definition of what volunteering means. See, most companies seem to prioritize one time volunteer events with paid time off – after all, 6-8 hours per year, on the surface, really only equals a 1 day volunteer event, hardly the definition of a regular volunteer. But what if that time were split up? For example, what if you presented an opportunity to coach one family for 2 hours per month? The employee could complete the time in the evening, and then get a couple of extra hours off from work every other Friday (to make up for the volunteer time earlier in the week). Even if they ended up volunteering more than their ‘paid time’ in the year – you’ll find that most everyone will be more than happy to do that once you make them a regular part of the organization.

2.) Offer an opportunity than can be manned (or womanned 🙂 by a different group each week. This is an excellent article talking about how a DC homeless shelter did just that. They had a need for a volunteer crew at a recurring time each week. US Bank offered it’s employees a limited amount of paid volunteer time (aka ‘VTO’, or Volunteer Time Off – which is exactly how I’m going to refer to it from now on because I’m typing it a lot – ha), so the shelter approached the bank and took advantage of that by encouraging US Bank to have employees sign on for different shifts of the same opportunity. The result? US Bank had a specific cause that it could dedicate itself to, and its employees (many of whom wouldn’t otherwise use their volunteer time) had a ready made opportunity that made a lasting difference.

3.) Write up a ‘job description’ that is designed to take advantage of VTO. Treat this volunteer position listing like a job description, and be really specific about the kind of skills you’re looking for. When you get to the ‘pay & benefits’ part- I’d really have fun with this – play up the benefits like ‘job satisfaction’ or ‘working with a really awesome team’, and then when you get to the pay part, you could write something like ‘your employer will actually pay for your time here! But, if you choose to volunteer more than the VTO time they gave you, we’d love it (and we’ll reward you with appreciation, praise, and probably even a volunteer party or two :)!

4.) Use that ‘job description’ to target your recruiting. Okay, now you know what you’re wanting, and you know employers in your area are offering paid VTO – it’s time to get real focused about where you’ll recruit. 20% of employers are offering this, so you should have a few in your area to choose from. If you can, find a company whose mission you think would align well with your own – then, show them how you would benefit from the unique skills of their employees. If you can do that, it’s highly likely that the business will publicize the opportunity companywide.

5.) You’ve GOT TO be organized. Businesses will want to know what their employees are doing, how many hours they’ve contributed, and the value they are adding to your organization. They’ll want this in a consistent way, that matches their HR structure (sorry folks, but excel sheets will probably not be allowed…). As businesses add this benefit, they are also adding systems to track it. In fact, many for-profits are actually using Volunteermark for this exact purpose – it makes it so much easier for them to express their community impact to their customers, and frankly, we cannot deny that businesses are doing this, at least in part, to contribute to their own image in the community. The easier you make that for them, the easier it will be for you to recruit paid volunteers.

Question of the day, for commenting below: Is this something you’ve tried at your non-profit? Why or why not?

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Keeping your employees engaged

This post is adapted from Catchafire’s blog. Catchafire is an online service that connects professionals to projects that benefit the social good sector. Catchafire matches individuals based on their time availability, skills, and passion to contribute pro bono services to microvolunteering opportunities.

Nonprofits rely on two things: donors and volunteers.  But what about the people who run the organization?  It can be hard work doing good. This is exactly why keeping employees engaged is a crucial responsibility for any nonprofit leader, but one that is much easier said than done.

Working at a nonprofit is often times physically and emotionally draining.  Ask yourself how you are supporting your staff?  Do you set clear expectations and check-in on a regular basis to track progress and troubleshoot issues?  

Remember that your mission inspires and motivates both volunteers and employees. Day to day activities, data entry, and tedious reporting tasks can bog down some of your best and most dedicated people.  Make work fun!  Celebrate success along the way. Set regular one-on-one meetings with supervisors to listen to, inspire, lead, and energize your team. It’s just as important to thank your employees as it is to thank your volunteers and donors.  

We believe it’s extremely important for nonprofits to recognize how crucial people are to your mission.  Our friends at Catchafire provide a comprehensive list of tips to help you create an intentional culture that combines purpose with passion. “By keeping employees engaged, you’ll increase their happiness, productivity and performance, making the long journey worth the while.”

To learn more about how to keep your team engaged visit the original post on Catchafire or our article on advice for volunteer managers.

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Red Auto Protection sponsors second charity of the summer

Kansas City-based company partners up with VolunteerMark again to revitalize volunteer operations for High Aspirations.

Written by: Brent Lager, brent@volunteermark.com

One wasn’t enough for Red Auto Protection CEO Elijah Norton. After donating a $1,000 scholarship to the Shepherd’s Center of KC Central in early June, the vehicle protection company founder quickly realized he wanted to do more for the Kansas City community. So he did.

Thanks again to the generosity of Norton and his Red Auto Protection company, VolunteerMark is proud to announce its second corporate social responsibility scholarship of the summer. This $1,000 donation went to High Aspirations, an urban Kansas City-based nonprofit organization that strives to help young African American men improve the quality of their lives socially, emotionally, academically and spiritually.

“As a believer in hard work, education, and dedication, High Aspirations is making a major impact on the world,” Norton said. “I felt that by helping them, I not only have the opportunity to give back to the community, but also contribute to a cause RED Auto Protection and I firmly support.”

With the scholarship, High Aspirations will be able to utilize VolunteerMark’s volunteer management software for free over the next 12 months. The software’s scheduling, communications and reporting tools will enable the nonprofit to more effectively and efficiently operate its volunteer-based programs.

“This scholarship will help High Aspirations build stronger Kansas City neighborhoods in a more efficient way,” High Aspirations President and Founder Henry Wash said. “In like manner, it also shares our mission with our new partners and allows them to participate at a maximum level.”

Similar to its other corporate social responsibility scholarship, Red Auto Protection and VolunteerMark have also agreed to develop a continuing partnership with High Aspirations to better help the organization with its overall mission. Volunteer opportunities, media campaigns and online outreach are just a few of the ways the trio hopes to work together and improve the lives of Kansas City’s youth.

Eventually, VolunteerMark hopes that partnerships like these will lead to an improved future — the more businesses that take up the community involvement crusade, the better American society will ultimately be. To find out how a company can get involved in the corporate social responsibility program, contact Brent Lager at brent@volunteermark.com.

“This scholarship is just another example of quality organizations coming together to enrich their local communities,” VolunteerMark CEO Andrew Stanley said. “With the generosity and leadership shown by Red Auto Protection, plus the vision and commitment by High Aspirations, it’s partnerships like these that will shape the future of our city.”

RED Auto Protection prides itself on offering the highest quality vehicle protection plans at affordable prices. Originally founded in Overland Park, Kan., the company now has multiple locations across the nation and handles thousands of accounts yearly.

High Aspirations’ vision is to be a recognized resource in the Kansas Cityurban core for developing personal and life skills in African-American young men, thus enabling them to live socially productive lives.

“VolunteerMark is a brilliant program that I feel will help nonprofit organizations such as High Aspirations automate monotonous back-end processes,” Norton said. “It allows their staff and volunteers to focus on the most important thing — helping others succeed. Because of that, this is a great partnership.”

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Red Auto Protection makes commitment to Kansas City community

Vehicle protection company partners with VolunteerMark to revolutionize Shepherd’s Center of KC Central’s volunteer operations.

When companies decide to make community involvement a priority, the decision deserves to be recognized. In fact, it needs to be so other businesses have social service leaders to follow.

To that end, VolunteerMark is proud to announce the inaugural member of its new corporate social responsibility programRed Auto Protection. Earlier this month, the vehicle protection company donated a $1,000 scholarship to Shepherd’s Center of KC Central, a Kansas City-based nonprofit organization that empowers mid-life and older adults to live healthy, engaged and independent lives.

“I believe as a successful business in the Kansas City area, and nationwide, it is our obligation to give back to our community,” Red Auto Protection CEO Elijah Norton said. “Supporting an organization like the Shepherd’s Center, whose central mission is to help keep the elderly independent and active is both a noble cause as well as something that we believe our product enables the elderly to do.”

The generous monetary donation will enable Shepherd’s Center Central to utilize VolunteerMark’s state-of-the-art volunteer management software free of charge for the next 12 months. With the software’s extensive scheduling, communications and reporting tools, Shepherd’s Center Central will now be able to more effectively and efficiently manage its 1,000-plus volunteer force.

“We are pleased to receive this very valuable scholarship from Red Auto Protection,” Shepherd’s Center Central executive director Pam Seymour said. “The use of VolunteerMark software will help us become much more efficient with our volunteer recruitment, management of those volunteers and the many opportunities we have available. We also hope that by using new technology like VolunteerMark, we will generate more interest from a younger group of volunteers.”

Going beyond the scholarship, Red Auto Protection and VolunteerMark have also entered into an ongoing community partnership with the charity to help the organization achieve its ultimate mission. From media campaigns to online outreach to volunteer opportunities, the trio has agreed to work together to improve the lives and impact of Kansas City’s aging generations.

Ultimately, VolunteerMark hopes that partnerships like these will be the catalyst to a better future — the more businesses that embrace community involvement, the more improved our society can be. To learn how a company can partake in the corporate social responsibility program, contact Brent Lager at brent@volunteermark.com.

“We wanted to help develop lasting and worthwhile partnerships between for profit corporations and the nonprofit world,” VolunteerMark CEO Andrew Stanley said. “It needed to be more than money and donations, but an actual investment into the success of these great organizations and I’m so glad that we were able to find such willing partners.”

RED Auto Protection prides itself on offering the highest quality vehicle protection plans at affordable prices. Originally founded in Overland Park, Kan., the company now has multiple locations across the nation and handles thousands of accounts yearly.

To empower the mid-life and older adults of Kansas City, Shepherd’s Center Central delivers numerous free or low-cost programs and projects. Meals on Wheels, Senior Companions, Caregiver support services and community engagement programs are just some of the offerings the nonprofit supplies.

“We hope that this is just the beginning, that others will follow Red Auto Protection’s lead of helping charities revitalize their volunteer operations,” Stanley said. “It’s a great way for corporations to show they care about the communities that support them.”

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‘Getting Corporate’ Involved

Corporate Social Responsibility program will help businesses and nonprofits make even larger impacts in their local communities.

Written by: Brent Lager


It’s no secret that to be successful, businesses need to build relationships with the people they serve, employ and represent. Thus, one of the foremost goals for any type of organization is to find ways to better connect with their local communities.

What better way to do that than by actually investing into the communities themselves? Through grants, scholarships and volunteer service, major corporations like Cerner, BSNF and many others have developed lasting partnerships with their cities and beyond.

Through corporate social responsibility, businesses are giving back to those that need it.

Therefore, with community outreach being apart of VolunteerMark’s core values, the volunteer management software company has decided to put a renewed effort into helping develop these partnerships between corporations and communities.

With our newly launched corporate social responsibility program, ‘Getting Corporate’, VolunteerMark will actively focus on matching up area businesses wanting to help with charitable organizations that need it.

From management software to marketing platforms to community service endeavors, the ‘Getting Corporate’ program will facilitate area partnerships between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. The hope is that through this combined effort, we will be able to produce greater philanthropic impact and involvement in our communities at large.

It’s important that no matter who we are or what we do, we don’t lose focus on taking time for those in need,” VolunteerMark CEO Andrew Stanley said. “That effort can come in many forms and fashions, and so we hope this new program will help facilitate getting as many people involved in community service as possible.”

If you own a business, or wish to request more information for your current employer, contact Brent Lager at brent@volunteermark.com or 877-551-5250 ext. 2 to start the application process. Also, any nonprofits wishing to apply for the program should contact Mr. Lager as well for details.

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