5 Steps to Running a Great Volunteer Event

By Kris Balarezo | June 6, 2019 | Philanthropy Cloud, Volunteering

Salesforce volunteers gathered for a group picture after volunteering providing virtual advice on their computers to young students in San Francisco with Career Village. Career Village is an online platform for students to ask professionals for career advice.
Salesforce volunteers gathered for a group picture after volunteering providing virtual advice on their computers to young students in San Francisco with Career Village. Career Village is an online platform for students to ask professionals for career advice.

Leading companies are engaging top talent by implementing giving and volunteering programs. Indeed, recent research shows that a majority of employees of all ages say they would be likely to take advantage of paid time off to volunteer, ranging from 62% of Boomers to 79% of Millennials.

While talent is universal, opportunity is not. Volunteering is an essential component to moving forward toward a more compassionate, tolerant, and unified world. Together, we can make a difference. Here are some great strategies to consider when putting together a successful volunteer event.

1. Be clear on the “why” of the volunteer activity

Why: As TED speaker Simon Sinek says, everything should start with “why.” The cause you plan on supporting should be clear. Why will this work impact those in need? What structures can you set up for creating context and space for reflection so that volunteers can develop empathy? Transformative learning happens when people are personally affected by their experience.

Salesforce volunteers worked with the Red Cross to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The “why” was clear: to help people impacted by the disaster quickly connect to resources. Here’s more on our “why” of CSR. What’s your why?

Connect the “why” of your event to the “what,” or the activity that volunteers will do. The volunteer activity should directly support the cause, if it’s direct service, or help train nonprofit staff on some skill or provide professional services, if it’s pro bono. Create an engaging description to entice volunteers to sign up. Ideally, find a way to help document the results of your work, so nonprofits can report on that to donors. For more on that, read this article on how to combine impact measurement and program management.

Be prepared with materials for your volunteering event. Photo courtesy of Lyra Lopez.
Be prepared with materials for your volunteering event. Photo courtesy of Lyra Lopez.

2. Choose a date and time to maximize attendance

When: When does it make the most sense for your event to take place? Things to consider are weather, seasons, availability of components for the project and the time of day. A lot of nonprofits run gala fundraiser events around the holidays, such as Giving Tuesday, so consider how you can both take advantage of popular event times as well as have events when you don’t have to “compete for airtime.” Ask the nonprofit you work with about what works for them, too, and be flexible with your dates and times. Ensure you are fulfilling a need for your partner and adding value for the nonprofit.

Where: Another component of the planning process is where the event will be held. What makes sense is specific to your activity. Some will require outdoor space, such as painting buildings outdoors, while others will need to be held indoors. Some activities are more flexible than others and some will have strict necessities that the event planners need to work around. For example, gardening and beach clean-ups have obvious limitations regarding where they can be held. For fundraisers or networking events, location may matter less, but it helps to be near public transit or have adequate parking for volunteers.

Employee volunteers showing completed interview kits donated to Dress for Success. Practice interviews go a long way towards making sure the next generation of professionals are empowered to be successful in their career paths. Photo credit: Lyra Lopez
Employee volunteers showing completed interview kits donated to Dress for Success. Practice interviews go a long way towards making sure the next generation of professionals are empowered to be successful in their career paths. Photo credit: Lyra Lopez

3. Make volunteer events easy to attend

Events need to be accessible to volunteers and program participants. Potential volunteers need easy access to relevant information regarding the event and you want to make their journey from inquiry to volunteering as seamless as possible. One way to do that is with Philanthropy Cloud!

Philanthropy Cloud aims to connect every employee to the causes they are most passionate about and provides each individual full visibility into his or her social impact footprint from any device.

Image of a donation page in Philanthropy Cloud

With Philanthropy Cloud, employees have unique profiles that generate volunteer recommendations based on each user’s unique skills, interests, location, and past participation. Employees can also search for opportunities by campaign or nonprofit. Once they sign up for an opportunity, they have the option to add it to their calendar with a single click. Track giving and volunteering* side by side. See reports of how, where, and how much they contributed to each organization in both dollars donated and hours volunteered.*

4. Have a dedicated volunteer as a point of contact for your event

You want your volunteers to contribute as much as possible during the time they are there and leave inspired to do more. This means having a great facilitator or a dedicated point of contact to be able to respond to questions before, during, and after the event.

Salesforce.org brings two nonprofits together to maximize productivity and impact.
Salesforce.org brings two nonprofits together to maximize productivity and impact.

Also, more gets done when there are more hands on deck. Consider bringing organizations with similar goals together to increase awareness of the common cause and have a bigger impact! For example, Salesforce.org hosted a joint event for Wardrobe For Opportunity and Dress for Success, which both provide interview clothes to under-resourced individuals.

A Salesforce.org Future Ready speed networking event with 100 employee volunteers and 100 participants. Young professionals from COOP Careers, College Track and Year Up built social capital by engaging in career panels and networking with HQ employee volunteers from diverse backgrounds. The career panel was focused on professionals sharing their career journeys in marketing with participants.
A Salesforce.org Future Ready speed networking event with 100 employee volunteers and 100 participants. Young professionals from COOP Careers, College Track and Year Up built social capital by engaging in career panels and networking with HQ employee volunteers from diverse backgrounds. The career panel was focused on professionals sharing their career journeys in marketing with participants.

5. Promote Your Volunteer Activity

To get volunteers, it helps to have some marketing skills! Consider when to use emails, printed flyers, info sessions, or get creative to share volunteer events with both prospective and existing volunteers. If your company has an internal social network, you can use that to promote upcoming events and summarize the impact of past events.

To learn more about how to manage volunteers for nonprofits, take this Trailhead Trail. To learn more about how Philanthropy Cloud will support volunteering,* download this Solution Brief. Get excited: Volunteering features in Philanthropy cloud will launch* on June 13!

LEARN MORE

*Any unreleased services or features referenced in this or other blog posts or public statements are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase Salesforce applications should make their purchase decisions based upon features that are currently available. Salesforce.com and Salesforce.org have headquarters in San Francisco, with offices in Europe and Asia, and Salesforce.com trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “CRM.” For more information please visit http://www.salesforce.org, http://www.salesforce.com, or call 1-800-NO-SOFTWARE.

About the Author
Kris BalarezoKris Balarezo is an Employee Engagement Intern on the Global Philanthropy & Engagement team at Salesforce.org. He plans, coordinates, and implements 8 or more volunteer events per month. He also supports the volunteer program including tracking and promoting volunteer activities, Prior to Salesforce.org, his experience has included work in sales, account management, customer service, and hospitality. Kris has a degree from Skyline College in Psychology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.