Virtual Volunteering – A deep-dive into how companies are adapting and adopting
In an hour-long panel discussion titled, Reimagining week of service for the hybrid workforce, Goodera’s founder, Abhishek Humbad talks with global industry leaders on how they adopted virtual volunteering, with emphasis on the “Month of Service”. The discussion talks about adapting to the pandemic, the current status and success of the movement, and the future of virtual volunteering for companies.
Over the last year and a half, companies have had to pivot on a variety of operations, with volunteering being no different. As the possibility of physical volunteering opportunities reduced, they’ve had to adopt virtual, or hybrid ones and the feedback has been positive.
We’ll outline the impact virtual volunteering has had, with Goodera’s founder, Abhishek Humbad in discussion with global leaders:
The statistical impact of virtual volunteering
The discussion opened with some statistics on the pandemic, which included the overall number of surveyed companies that shifted towards virtual volunteering (52%) – a 2.5X jump in volunteering experiences since 2017 in the U.S., and up to 110,000 more volunteering opportunities added.
Apart from that, we learned that the reasons why companies embraced virtual volunteering were for higher employee engagement, better community impact that aligned to Goodera’s cause areas, and employee mental health and well-being among many others.
Of all the factors that contributed to helping companies transition to virtual volunteering, lower costs ranked first, followed by existing nonprofits assisting in the shift. The other factors included easy sourcing and participation for interested employees.
Ultimately, virtual volunteering is a virtue out of necessity, simplifying the volunteering process by making it more inclusive, more globally accessible, more affordable for corporations, and most importantly, having a deeper impact on the beneficiaries.
Here’s a breakdown of the discussion:
How did your company transition to virtual volunteering over the last year and a half?
A: Eleazar Gutierrez, Panasonic:
We had to work as a team when the epidemic hit. Our first move was to urge our staff to halt and prioritize their own and their families’ health. We next checked in with our local and international community partners, offering assistance where we could.
After a month or two of realizing this was the “new normal,” we had to brainstorm ways to engage volunteers that would give them pause while keeping the spirit of involvement alive.
At Panasonic, we also made our portfolio virtual, and it worked. We could only service in New York and New Jersey before COVID-19, but now we can service globally. We also rapidly noticed that virtual volunteering was growing, and so was participation and involvement! 2020 was entirely virtual, while 2021 saw a few in-person, and hybrid events at local food banks and communities.
Last but not least, we recognized that hybrid and virtual volunteering is here to stay.
Marissa O’Rourke , ServiceNow: Global impact as a function and corporation started in 2019 at ServiceNow, so this new normal has been most of my experience promoting volunteers. We’re still working on integrating it into our culture.
This last year, we’ve focused on learning from our staff, listening to their input, and striving to meet them halfway.
Even among those most interested in social causes and volunteering, we learned how difficult it was to prioritize owing to challenges ranging from bandwidth to weariness.
We’ve learned that meeting people where they are in this hybrid environment is crucial, and we’ve talked with managers about how to encourage and promote that.
Managers began repurposing meetings to incorporate volunteering opportunities. With virtual volunteering, everything can be finished in an hour, from icebreakers to activities. We’ve been online for almost a month, and we know employees can find that hour to serve – whether with family, friends, or colleagues.
Connecting with your team in a virtual global volunteering setting has been tremendous for us!
“What can you do in an hour?” is what we ask, and with the virtual volunteering setup, the answer is – “a lot!”
We make it simple for them to optimize their time and make an impact.
Monica Garrett, LexisNexis Risk Solutions: Initially, we discovered our staff had a lot going on. We had to take a backseat as they tried to acclimate to the new normal in their homes.
As a company, we had to change. We lacked a virtual volunteering partner and conducted most of our work in person. Trying to find content and help people accomplish anything in the early months was difficult.
We learned a lot and eventually got through it by listening to employees. We moved our focus from time to money, as we weren’t spending money on in-person initiatives. That was our method of listening and supporting our charities. Our dedication never faltered during the entire phase of COVID-19.
We’ve also eased certain volunteer rules. We allowed people to volunteer for 16 compensated hours within their communities. We were OK as long as our employees were doing something for the community.
We also understood we needed virtual volunteering partners. As it’s online, we needed to provide a decent experience. We were able to engage hard-to-reach personnel via virtual volunteering.
We just finished our service month and are pleased with our leadership and teams for stepping up. I doubt we’ll ever return to the pre-COVID volunteering ecosystem.
Sarah Atkinson: At Micro Focus, volunteering is in our DNA. Before COVID-19, all of our volunteer work was done in person. Early on in the pandemic, we noticed an increase in in-person volunteerism.
We doubled our workers’ volunteer days since there was such a high demand for them to help their neighbors and others.
As the problem worsened, we realized we needed a virtual solution and contacted Goodera in 2020. COVID-19 has shown us the value of our Micro Focus Inspire programs for workers.
Virtual volunteering will be an important part of our worldwide teams and will be the primary choice for many of our workers. It’s given us a chance to expand inclusivity and provide people with more options. We’ve also collaborated with Goodera to create opportunities that promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Employees want to get out there and help once the markets open up, and we always encourage that. Virtual volunteering also reduces the cost barrier. It’s a lot simpler and easier to facilitate, and it’s worked well for us.
To support individuals affected by COVID-19 and get them digitally included, we established Micro Focus Inspire…A Million Lives. Our workers can continue to contribute and volunteer for many charities via the Goodera platform.
How have you been able to engage yourselves as leaders in the volunteering journey?”
A: Marissa: Our managers love the range of options available to interact with employees and the methods to self-serve and book those opportunities.
During the Month of Service, I wanted to do something different and tap into our executives’ enthusiasm. Your enthusiasm is contagious, and I feel it is part of who you are.
We asked our CEOs about their passions. We then created a virtual opportunity that relates to that cause and if it inspires an employee, they may take action. For example, one of our executives fought childhood cancer. I knew Goodera could record audiobooks for hospitalized children, so I could arrange it.
We provided our staff with information and directions on how to participate. It became simpler to present them with such possibilities when they could work at their own speed.
Two of our other leaders wanted to urge young females to pursue STEM jobs. We created virtual possibilities for the same by developing flashcards on women in STEM fields, to encourage girls. We also set up ways for our staff to share their own stories and encourage the next generation.
Other virtual options included engaging in a virtual 5K, asking supervisors to go on a virtual “walk”, and more.
This can motivate employees to step forward and discover a connection with a cause they care about, even if it isn’t in the same area. This is proving to be a huge success, and more employees are stepping forward to help!
Monica: Having Goodera as a virtual volunteering partner allows us to build customized volunteer opportunities for communities within and beyond the US. We were able to connect those offices to Goodera and perform projects in English from there. It benefited both the teams and the charity by increasing volunteerism.
Brazil, for example, reacted positively to our timely delivery. Our crew was tiny, but their engagement was 100%, so we could create something huge.
Our “Cares” initiative allowed us to contact ERGs, and a subset of workers could participate in events like Black History Month and Pride Month.
We were able to engage with them better by giving their membership greater significance, and virtual volunteer possibilities were key. Employees may also connect with topics they care about by becoming an “ally” of sorts.
Sarah: Our leadership team and our 10 ERGs loved it. We found it helped staff stay engaged and more interested in our various outreach programs. October, for example, is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and we’ve developed a variety of chances to assist this cause online.
Our most anticipated event is our Annual Kickoff Meeting in early November. We hope to include 5,000 employees in a day of activities. We are excited to operate this program with the Goodera team.
Customers, investors, partners, and workers all want to know how ESGs help communities.
Engaging with these communities is important to Micro Focus and is part of our story. Volunteering is one of the finest methods to involve ESG in community service.
Eleazar: Early on in the epidemic, several of our partners reported there were hundreds of thousands of pupils at home, and how we might help. We stepped in and assisted with résumé checks, student mentorship, etc.
It was a dynamic and engaging event where workers and students learned from one another and were followed up with by industry experts. That wouldn’t have been possible without the local university partners’ help.
Every individual from the C-Suite, to the marketing and communications teams to local stakeholders, must be involved in the Month of Service.
We recognize that every Panasonic company site has a unique culture and knows what needs to be done better, and we must respect that. We plan ahead of time and know what employees desire, and let them take the reins of organizing it from there.
When food insecurity arose in the second year, we were able to assist by connecting with food banks. We stayed true to our educational values and helped instructors get instructional materials. In addition, we guarantee that local first responders receive wellness kits that may be sent to their stations.
We don’t only involve one volunteer, but their family, friends, and coworkers. It now includes the employee’s family, which is vital in our drive to remain inclusive.
We also sent a “thank you” kit to all our staff to convey our appreciation for their efforts, and it helps foster a positive environment.
Please share a few tips and tricks for “Hybrid Service Month” and describe the future of volunteering in one word
A: Monica: Always work within the boundaries and listen to staff. Recognize the needs and how you can assist. Knowing our employees’ interests makes our job easier and helps us to provide opportunities that they will like.
The future of volunteering is alive and well! If I had to describe it in one word, I’d say, “exciting!”
Marissa: Virtual or hybrid volunteering requires flexibility. This has become more engaging, effective, and significant by allowing employees to pick events. If you’ve always wanted to help rescue the planet, now is the moment!
The future of volunteering hinges on one word, “flexibility.”
Sara: I think making an influence is critical, as is assisting volunteers in having fun. It’s vital to make these activities repeatable and enjoyable.
For me, the future of volunteering is all about “relevance.”
Eleazar: Now more than ever, it’s all about engaging numerous teams and fostering a great culture for our company and community partners. It’s vital to lead and guide the story as a whole!
The one word for me is, “well-being.”