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Five key building blocks of an effective staff volunteer programme

As with all the best things in life, the hallmarks of a great staff volunteer programme has everything to do with passion and commitment. Addressing the CSI Dialogues this week, Kaelo Engage managing director Sarah Campbell highlighted that whilst it is important to initially inspire and motivate staff to get involved, gaining longer-term commitment requires strategic support.
The series of CSI Dialogues, held throughout November at Liliesleaf Farm in Sandton, was hosted by Kaelo Engage, producers of e.tv's Kaelo - Stories of Hope and South Africa's leading multimedia CSI communications platform.

This week's dialogue was addressed by senior managers from Kaelo Engage, Transnet Foundation, First Rand Volunteers Programme and Cotlands, all with extensive experience in managing employee volunteer initiatives. Their shared expertise revealed the following five keys to a great volunteer programme:

Choosing a project

Some companies believe that it is best to let employees choose projects that are close to their hearts. Other employers prefer to make the selection themselves, choosing projects that are aligned to the social development goals of the organisation. In the latter case it is still possible to achieve a high level of buy-in from employees, as long as management solicits their input and involvement at various stages.

The general consensus was that it is wise to support fewer projects, and support them well.

It is important that whatever projects are chosen, they are entered into as long-term partnerships with the emphasis on building relationships in communities, not simply once-off engagements.

Planning to succeed

Proper planning is critical to ensuring a project's success and ensuring that volunteers have a positive experience that will keep them coming back for more. When planning, find out: what the organisation needs, who will be providing what is needed for the project to be a success, and get clarity on the organisation's restrictions and rules.

It is also vital to arrange training for volunteers so that they know what to expect and what's expected of them.

Giving the right kind of support

Support from top management is essential. To this end it helps to select projects that are aligned with management objectives, as does presenting the project to the organisation's leaders in a manner that resonates with them.

With management's support, it will be easier for a volunteer programme to secure resources, i.e. money and time - employees should ideally be permitted to volunteer during office hours.

It is also important for the organisation to create a framework that supports volunteering - taking care of details like providing a SAP code for leave forms that report progress in terms of BEE objectives, as well as considering the risk of possible injury while volunteering.

Sell it well

Once the programme is in place and the beneficiaries are lined up, it is important to 'sell it well'.

Put time and effort into marketing the idea of getting involved to potential volunteers in a compelling way, highlighting the fact that they're going to be instrumental in making a difference in people's lives, while having fun! Inspire without demanding, engage through encouragement.

Say thank you

Volunteers also need to be recognised. Such recognition may take the form of an awards event. It is also a good idea to include volunteerism as part of an employee's key performance indicators (KPIs), so that they can be recognised and rewarded for their efforts outside the office as well as inside.

    
 

Kaelo Engage's press office

Kaelo Engage
Kaelo Engage provides communication services specifically around Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Brand and Cause related marketing needs of corporate clients in Southern Africa.
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