As CSR professionals will be well aware, communication around a corporate volunteering programme is key.
However, effectively communicating CSR information via the right channels can be a challenge – particularly in a corporate environment. In July 2015, the London office of international law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges launched its partnership with Benefacto. Since then, the office has seen more than 50 employees book volunteering sessions through Benefacto. In light of this success and such a significant uptake in employee engagement in just over two months, we asked Rob Powell, Pro Bono and CSR Manager in Weil’s London office, to talk us through some of the tactics that helped to generate such a positive response to Benefacto at Weil.
One of the main features of the Benefacto platform is the simplicity of the online booking experience; however, while this may not involve the CSR team directly in the booking process, the team still needs to ensure that they a) continue to generate awareness and interest of the programme, and b) maintain the momentum to keep filling volunteering opportunities. At Weil, we have found that the key to this momentum is variety. Below are some of the tactics we have used:
Despite our launch event being held during lunchtime on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, turnout was excellent, with over 60 people attending. The key to this? We had a long lead-in time for promoting Benefacto, which allowed us to plant ‘Benefacto seeds’ in employees’ minds well in advance of its launch, including via five minute ‘teaser’ presentations at various team meetings. We also promoted the launch and limited it to 30 minutes.
Volunteering through Benefacto couldn’t be easier, so keep it that way. The day after our launch, we arranged an office-wide desk-drop, which was essentially an instruction manual on how to use Benefacto – it was A6 in size and had three short “how to” bullet points – that’s all that was needed!
Key senior personnel across the firm have shown their support for Benefacto, including one Director already volunteering twice, our Managing Partner and his team signing up for their volunteering day, and endorsement of the Benefacto programme by our Charity Committee Chair at our launch – all of which has been a great voice of encouragement from our senior to others.
We piloted two family community days in August during the school holidays, which involved employees inviting their children, nieces or nephews aged 13 and over, to spend an afternoon volunteering with them and their colleagues. Volunteering yourself is a rewarding and positive experience; volunteering with children and family is not only this, but also unique and memorable – seeing loved ones flourish in an unfamiliar setting was a hugely rewarding experience for participants.
Include information about Benefacto (and any other volunteering initiatives) into existing communications within the office – such as newsletters, e-bulletins, weekly/monthly team update emails, etc. – as opposed to competing for standalone airtime, effectively promotes Benefacto, without adding to the number of emails employees need to get through.
Posters are always a useful way to promote CSR initiatives. However, leaving them up too long can mean they become part of the furniture and no longer noticed. We mix things up by having short bursts (no longer than a week at a time) of different Benefacto posters, each with different messages, which we regularly place at various areas throughout the office.
We have created a ‘Benefacto Hall of Fame’ on our CSR intranet page. Employees take a ‘selfie’ on their volunteer day, which is posted on the Hall of Fame. The real magic is not just seeing your colleagues in community action, but also seeing the breadth of Benefacto volunteering opportunities available visually. Our Managing Partner also sends a link to the Hall of Fame in our office-wide CSR monthly email update.
We recently started distributing cheques from the ‘Bank of Benefacto’ to say “thank you” to our volunteers. The cheques are signed by our London Managing Partner and are distributed each month with employees’ payslips. They ‘pay’ our employees ‘two thumbs up’ or a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’. This tongue-in-cheek approach acknowledges the reason 99 per cent of people volunteer – pure altruism.
Once you have your first tranche of volunteers, good old fashioned word-of-mouth kicks into action. When combined with some of the tactics highlighted above, including promotion through posters, emails and presentations, you keep it varied and obtain – and keep – momentum.
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