Key Considerations for Launching a Skills-Based Volunteer Program
Skills-based volunteerism can take many forms, from pro bono engagements to board service; but all have the potential to drive significant impact in the community. Following is a list of key considerations to take into account when initiating a skills-based volunteer program. But, keep in mind, developing an effective program within your organization will require a great deal of careful thought, informed planning and strategic customization; there is no set formula.
Build interest in your skills-based volunteer program
Find examples in your current community involvement platform to help sell the skills-based concept to stakeholders. Showcase those nonprofits which have been most receptive to the concept of skills-based volunteerism, so their leadership will be open to providing testimonials on your behalf, as well as those whose needs are most appropriately matched to your volunteers’ unique skill sets. In all likelihood, your employees are already volunteering their business skills on an ad hoc basis (e.g. board service), so these examples shouldn’t be hard to find.
Ensure flexibility of choice
Resist urges or recommendations to support only one cause or initiative. To do so may jeopardize the energy of volunteers and limit your organization’s potential scope of impact in the community. With a consistent and strategic approach, there is room for multiple beneficiaries.
Consider integrating skills-based volunteerism into your existing signature programs
At Deloitte, nonprofit capacity building is our “signature issue.” Rather than focusing exclusively on specific causes, we believe that an important social issue, in and of itself, is the fact that nonprofits are hampered by business challenges and often lack the resources to deal with them. Skills-based volunteerism is designed to directly impact this issue, and it can deliver value to your community outreach efforts regardless of what your organization’s “signature issues” are.
By incorporating skills-based volunteerism into your existing programs and leveraging your employees’ business knowledge to strengthen the infrastructure of the nonprofits you work with, you can expect to make a deeper impact on the “signature issues” you work on together.
Be consistent in implementing skills-based volunteerism across all programs
Skills-based volunteerism represents a strategic approach to community involvement, not a once a year program. It should be consistently woven into year-round community involvement initiatives and universally applicable across all programming.
Approach your nonprofit clients as you would your business clients
If you provide the same level of planning and management to your nonprofit clients as you do to your business clients, the results will be equally as powerful. With this in mind, consider taking the following steps when executing a skills-based volunteer project: 1) Clearly outline what the project will entail and put all expectations in writing; 2) Obtain approval from your manager or other senior leadership to manage expectations internally, as well as externally; 3) Stay within your approved scope - adhere to the original project plan and consider any additional work as a separate project; 4) Communicate effectively - avoid corporate jargon, acronyms or technical terminology; and 5) Practice good stewardship and deliver what you promise.
Allow for Time and Patience
Developing an effective skills-based volunteer program takes time. It is not an employee benefit, like casual Fridays or vacation leave. Rather, it is a corporate priority that will require considerable commitment, consistent communication and buy-in from top leadership to integrate into the fabric of your organization’s culture.
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