4 tips for a successful community service event

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And how to bring employees along for the ride

In one month, Intuit’s Boise campus will be hosting its second ever Week of Service—a community service initiative taken up by every Intuit site around the world. It’s a big deal because with a team of over 400 employees, we have the potential to affect change and channel our collective energy into nonprofits that change people’s lives on a daily basis. 

Last year, the Boise We Care & Give Back team learned a lot from our inaugural Week of Service. In the process of getting as many employees and nonprofits involved as possible, our team figured out the hard way how important it is to start early. We learned that communication is key, and that supporting our leaders so they can support our goals is critical. 

Of course, you don’t have to be in a company of over 400 people to make a difference in your community. You can give back with four people in two hours, as long as you have preparation, participation, and communication. With those ingredients and a few others besides (good intent, enthusiasm, flexibility, and team spirit to name a few), any company can initiate positive changes in their community. 

Want to host your own week (or day) of service? Here are four tips from a company that counts “We Care & Give Back” as an essential core value.

 

1. Play to your passions to gain support

Every company has a different culture, and if you want to host a successful event, your philanthropic offerings must be a good fit for the employees you love. For example, REI’s company culture revolves around the outdoors, so it makes sense that they put their philanthropic efforts behind environmental sustainability. Intuit’s Boise site is full of dog people, so we have three dog-centered activities on our 2019 Week of Service calendar. 

 

Dwight and Jess adopted new family members after participating in an Idaho Humane Society event in 2018!

 

As you plan your volunteer opportunities, consider the people who will be attending, as well as the cause you’re supporting. Just because it’s an easy activity or something the boss wants to do doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your team, especially if you expect people to give up an evening or weekend to participate. (And may we suggest giving employees PTO to volunteer during the workday instead?)

 

2. Start booking early to work with nonprofits

Despite the fact that many nonprofits are vastly underfunded and in need of volunteers, the really popular ones (likely the ones your team has heard of and wants to help) book up quick. 

Your best bet is to reserve all your nonprofits one to two months in advance or earlier. It might seem excessive, but signing up early means you’ll get the volunteer slot you want, and you’ll have one less item to stress about the week before.

Planning for our September event started back in April. This gave us time to spread the work around and give multiple employees the chance to run their own events. Not only did such an opportunity allow more people to practice their leadership skills, it also gave them a chance to show off their passion for a certain cause. 

 

Volunteers helped out at Boise nonprofit Giraffe Laugh in 2018, led by executive assistant, LeAnn (middle).

 

Then, once we knew who would be running each event, we were able to start confirming volunteer times with the nonprofits we wanted to work with. And from there, we began signing leaders up to sponsor the events happening throughout the week. Which brings us to… 

 

3. Involve your leaders to increase participation

The first time we hosted Week of Service at the Boise campus, the event caught us all by surprise. Not only was it more fun than any of us imagined, it brought together more employees across departments to participate and bond. But while employee involvement is a top goal for any volunteer initiative, you can’t do it without leader support. 

Let’s deconstruct: 

  1. We all know leaders set the tone. When leaders get involved, employees get involved.
  2. Taking time off to volunteer, however brief, may make employees feel like they’re “underperforming” in their job. Leader support empowers employees to set their regular metrics aside for a day and put their whole selves into a goal that’s different but, in many ways, just as important.
  3. When leaders have time to mitigate scheduling conflicts, customers see less disruption, metrics stay positive, and everyone benefits from less stress and fewer last-minute time-off requests.

Much of our team is made up of award-winning customer success experts who serve our customers via phone and chat. But because we rely on this team to be available for our customers day and night, it’s impossible for them all to volunteer at the same time. 

That’s why it’s so important we have a schedule nailed down early. Our leaders have been organizing employee requests for time off over the last month. And thanks to their partnership in this effort, many of our customer support specialists can take paid time off to volunteer during Week of Service. 

 

4. Try a new strategy to communicate broadly

The trouble with communication, as a blanket term, is that everyone communicates and responds to communication differently. For that reason, employ a variety of tactics when asking employees to volunteer. Here are a few examples:

  1. Communication and competition. Our team loves a good competition, especially if it’s to surpass a previous goal. Invite leaders to fan the flames, and reward the winning team with a donation in their honor.
  2. Communication and empathy. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves and respond well to stories that tug at the heartstrings—a nonprofit specialty. Share the message of your nonprofit partners or invite them to speak to your team themselves. Putting an identity to the people who will benefit most from your efforts may help team members better connect with their volunteer activity. 
  3. Communication and facts: Not everyone gets inspired through story. To attract those who find purpose behind facts and figures, share out the numbers behind a nonprofit’s impact. And here’s a bonus: Knowing how much good can be done through a certain size donation may help you set the goals for your activity. 
  4. Communication and FOMO. If you’re someone who can keep a secret, why not tempt volunteers with a little mystery? Tout the fact that if employees don’t sign up early, they may miss out and be sorry. And maybe tempt the masses with a couple surprises for the first group to sign up for your event. 

 

A successful service event is a well-organized service event

From its very name, “volunteering” sounds simple. If you’re doing it of your own volition, it’s got to be easy, right? But that’s almost never the case, particularly when you’re working behind the scenes to organize something great. 

The good news is that all the effort, all the frustration, and all the sleepless nights spent hoping for a positive outcome are worth it. Organizing a community service event may take ample preparation and communication, but the outcome has the potential to change lives and inspire others to do their part. 

We wish you luck in your next community service event, and if you’re on social, connect with us! We’d love to see what your team is doing in their community.