This section covers the advanced steps companies can take to "go the distance" and actively increase the level of civic engagement through the establishment of formal corporate programs, policies and procedures. The following represent the key components required to build formal volunteer, public service and giving programs/campaigns (Please note: while the following steps can be applied to/utilized by all businesses, the degree will vary according to size and available resources).
Value / Mission Statement
The first step in creating and managing any formal employee volunteer program or giving campaign is defining or stating why the program is being undertaken – a mission or value statement does just that. The mission statement, which outlines why a company values civic engagement, is targeted at both internal and external audiences. In short, the mission or value statement defines the degree to which any company plans on encouraging, promoting and supporting employee volunteerism, public service and giving.
Goals & Objectives
If the mission statement "sets the stage," the goals and objectives provide the direction. Goals and objectives explicitly state what the company hopes to achieve, as well as how, or by what means, it plans on doing so. Often, goals and objectives are utilized to: establish participation targets; highlight the specific community needs/issues that will be addressed; pinpoint the business and employee benefits to be achieved; and outline the other program components that will be instrumental in accomplishing the goals and objectives. Examples include:
- Number of employee volunteers
- Number of volunteer hours performed
- Number of volunteer events conducted
- Number of organizations and constituents served
- Number of employee-voters registered
- Number of employees participating in public service
- Number of employee donors
- Total dollars donated/matched to nonprofit organizations
In order to maintain highly successful programs, companies should review and revise their goals and objectives each year, based on the evaluation of the previous year's initiatives.
Like any business function, a corporate-sponsored civic engagement program's ultimate success is dependent upon the extent which management endorses it. The failure of managers to recognize the value or business benefits of employee volunteer, public service or giving programs undermines the credibility and success of those programs. Therefore, educating managers as to the benefits of supporting civic engagement, as well as actively involving them in the various programs and campaigns, will help to secure their confidence and support, and send a positive message to employees, further elevating their level of civic engagement.
Formal Policies & Guidelines
Formal guidelines and policies are necessary for establishing the scope and parameters within which employee volunteer, public service and giving programs will operate. Guidelines and policies serve to define just a few of the following:
- Which employees are eligible to participate
- Which organizations/services/activities will be supported by the company and employees
- Which organizations will employees be allowed to work with or donate to
- When can employees participate and for how long
Formal Program Structure
The way in which employees and activities are organized is another key component. Most often, companies utilize employee councils or committees to organize, plan and conduct employee volunteer, public service and workplace giving programs and campaigns. However, a number of companies also utilize networks of employee "coordinators" or "champions," while others task the community relations, public relations, government affairs or human resources department with the responsibility of organizing and planning such activities. Yet some companies rely on external groups, both for- and nonprofit organizations alike, to design and manage their volunteer and giving programs/campaigns for them. Whichever choice is made, the main point is that companies need to choose a structure which best fits its organization and business culture, and assign/establish the duties and responsibilities of the employees, management and various departments accordingly.
Formal civic engagement programs, like any other business function, require that a company dedicate adequate personnel and allocate sufficient funds so that the programs may successfully achieve their stated goals and objectives. While the amount of resources companies allocate will vary depending upon the size of the company, without some sort of dedicated staff and/or budget, companies will find it nearly impossible to maintain employee volunteer, public service and/or giving programs with any degree of success. Items that are often accounted for in volunteer and giving budgets include: T-shirts, posters, flyers, activity supplies, pledge forms, processing fees, transportation and recognition items, Matching Gifts and Dollars For Doers (grants to support the work of outstanding volunteers).
One of the most important components to running and maintaining a successful program – whether a volunteer, public service or workplace giving program/campaign – is generating and sustaining a high level of participation. Without a consistent and/or increasing level of employee involvement, even the best programs are doomed to fail. To accomplish this, companies will need to have in-place a highly developed communications plan and marketing strategy to continually recruit and retain participants. The key to recruiting and retaining employees is knowing what information they need to know, developing the right messages to convey this information and utilizing the correct mediums; in short, knowing what to say, how to say it and to whom. Successful programs:
- Communicate general information on the various volunteer, public service and giving programs/campaigns and how to participate
- Highlight employees' achievements and the success of past initiatives
- Provide detailed information on up-coming events and activities (i.e., who, what, where, when and how)
- Entice employees by selling them on the various benefits of the program
- Utilize multiple internal and external communications mediums, such as: word-of-mouth, e-mail, flyers, memos, bulletin boards, internal postings, intranet postings, Internet posting, press releases, newsletters, annual reports, etc.
- Solicit employee feedback, both criticisms and recommendations, on past and future initiatives
Organize & Conduct Activities
A company, in order to "formally" support civic engagement, among other things, must plan, organize and conduct/sponsor events and activities on an on-going basis, or encourage its employees to do so on its behalf.
While there are an infinite number of volunteer, public service and employee giving events and activities a company may undertake and/or support, choosing those that simultaneously address community needs, employee interests and business goals and objectives will generate the greatest benefits for all parties involved.
The following represent just a few suggestions on the types of activities companies can undertake to foster a greater level of civic engagement. For additional ideas and recommendations, there are a number of nonprofit organizations that can provide more extensive lists.
- Conduct food, clothing and blood drives
- Establish a mentoring or tutoring program
- Clean-up local parks and playgrounds
- Assist a disabled person with household tasks
- Paint and refurbish schools and community centers
- Build or refurbish a house
- Provide companionship to a Senior
- Conduct voter registration / "get out the vote" events
- Host speaking engagements for public officials and political candidates
- Help coordinate civic pride events and festivities, such as holiday parades
- Establish a workplace giving campaign
Reward & Recognition
Countless numbers of studies show that recognizing and rewarding employees' hard work and initiative builds morale, favorably impacts retention rates and helps to maintain, as well as encourage, a higher level of performance; the same can be said about civic engagement. Acknowledging what employees' do in their communities, whether through volunteerism, public service and/or giving, will not only help maintain current levels of civic engagement, but help to increase those levels by inspiring others. Interestingly, regardless of what a company does, where it is located, how many people it employs or how much money it has, it always has the ability to recognize and reward employees' civic participation. Furthermore, while companies can reward and recognize employees on either a formal or informal basis, there are two main points to remember. First, a company can never say "thank you" enough. And second, always ask employees if it is okay with them before recognizing them publicly – many employees do not want to be recognized or have the general public know what they do. The following represent just a few simple recognition ideas:
- Verbally thank employees face-to-face
- Send out thank you cards and e-mails
- Issue certificates of appreciation and letters of recommendation
- Offer small gifts, such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, etc.
- Provide food and beverages at various events and activities
- Host informal pizza parties and ice cream socials
- Feature employee accomplishments in company publications
- Issue press releases recognizing individual or group efforts
- Take out advertisements in local newspapers thanking employees for their efforts
- Host employee appreciation days/events to recognize employee volunteer, public service and charitable efforts
- Organize breakfasts, luncheons and/or dinners for outstanding employees hosted by the CEO
- Implement a prize-based program which awards employees based on the number of hours they volunteer or serve
- Establish an employee volunteer and citizen of the month/year awards, including the presentation of cash awards and/or plaques to the recipients and/or their organizations.
- Become a Certifying Organization for the President's Volunteer Service Award
Measure & Evaluate
Measurement and evaluation incorporates a myriad of informal (i.e., anecdotal stories) and formal (i.e., focus groups, surveys, questionnaires, etc.) tools and techniques. The reason why measurement and evaluation (which also incorporates tracking) has become such a hot topic and is considered a "key component" is that it is the only way in which the "true" success of any corporate-sponsored program, such as volunteerism, may be determined. By tracking, measuring and evaluating the results of volunteer, public service and giving programs and campaigns against pre-determined goals and objectives, companies are not only able to see how successful or unsuccessful their efforts are, but are often able to use the data to generate significant buy-in and support from senior management.