One of the best team-building activities for any group of coworkers is volunteering. Imagine a day where, instead of the office, the department arrives at a different work site ready to give back together. Few things are more inspiring than the image of employees working directly to benefit someone less fortunate—especially when they rarely see one another socially outside of the lunchroom.
Corporate volunteering goes far beyond novelty or best practice. Michael E. Porter of the Harvard Business Review suggests your team’s sense of philanthropy has just as much to gain. “[Corporations] bring unique assets and expertise that individuals and foundations lack, enabling them to provide a wide range of nonmonetary assistance that is less costly and more sophisticated than most grantees could purchase for themselves,” he writes. “And because they typically make long-term commitments to the communities in which they operate, corporations can work closely with local nonprofits over the extended periods of time needed for meaningful organizational improvement.”
Leading the Leaders
You’ll need your boss’s support before rallying the troops, so call a meeting to present your case. Remember that most need to be especially creative to participate in the local community with company support. There may already be momentum in the right direction, but it’s waiting for the right coordination.
If your superior needs a little persuasion, consider presenting these direct benefits of corporate volunteering:
- More bang for your business buck. Often managers have a budget for team building and a separate allocation for philanthropy. Show your boss how, when you combine the two, every dollar can be put to work more efficiently.
- Free grass-roots advertising. Another bonus for your manager is organic marketing; once teammates work offsite together on a charitable project, the social media posts write themselves. Clients, partners, vendors, and shareholders can all witness your group in action, helping the community—a nice break from sales calls, business lunches, and mass-email newsletters.
- New skills. In your meeting, discuss the soft skills your team will hone while on the bighearted job. Communication, time management, and communal problem-solving all see unique boosts as a result of this field experience. Wouldn’t it be great to see those skills sharpened elsewhere, then brought back in-house and put to good use for certain clients?
- A renewable culture. Your office’s morale has so much room to grow when a single monthly or quarterly volunteer day reminds staff to reach out and empathize with one another. Would employees have a more positive perspective of the company as a whole? Could giving back together reinforce company values the boss would appreciate? Bring them up!
Assemble the Team
Once you’ve gotten the approval you need, it’s time to get the team’s buy-in. Many of your coworkers already want to volunteer together; they may just not be the “coordinating” type. Start with an announcement that specifies the purpose of your corporate outing, and emphasize the benefits to both your community and your team.
Next, narrow down your cause. Float a few ideas out there and see which ones resonate. If they’re all over the place, don’t worry—your boss can help focus your team onto one nonprofit to support regularly. Then, coordinate with your chosen cause to establish exactly what they need, including specific tasks. The list might become a checklist where, according to individual strengths and skills, employees sign up to fill roles they’d perform best in.
Now that’s the hard part. Once you’re on site, the job of organizing, instructing, and supervising goes over to the nonprofit’s leader.
Take a few pictures for your company’s website, and don’t forget to tweet them to @TomsofMaine so we can cheer you on.
Make It a Thing
Rest assured this initial event will have been the hardest one; from then on, it should be familiar. Once you’re back at work, however, the momentum of corporate volunteering may slow. Curb this tendency with employee volunteering activities that allow you to keep in touch with your chosen nonprofit. That way, as soon as you get back into the work routine, you can relay an invite to their next opportunity.
Keep your work mates motivated by periodically showcasing examples of other groups who have ventured out of the workplace to give back. Tom’s of Maine has a number of inspiring testimonials from fresh-faced employees who are on the charitable job, away from their daily tasks.
Don’t be surprised if a few of your teammates really blossom outside of your usual business environment. Many people have yet to experience the benefits of volunteering, and might become hooked for life. Watch for this quality in your work mates, and encourage it by presenting witty awards like “MVP,” “Best Off-Site Worker,” or “Most Volunteeringest.”
And of course, comment below: What works for your team? What doesn’t?
Image source: Bethany Johnson | Flickr
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.