Volunteers contribute greatly to nonprofit organizations. According to the 2018 Volunteering in America report, 77 million people volunteered in the United States. These volunteers make significant impacts on the organizations they are serving and doing volunteer work not only benefits others, it benefits the volunteers as well. Many companies have taken the initiative to encourage workers to volunteer in their time off or have dedicated days to put towards service events. But, what can your company do to encourage employees to continue serving their communities while ensuring their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID Effects on Volunteering
COVID-19 has restricted the work people have been able to participate in. To prevent the unintentional spread of the virus, gathering is discouraged and attending in-person volunteering is not as feasible as it was before. Many are choosing to stay home to protect themselves and their families from being exposed. This means that communities nonprofits serve will start seeing a lag in service or decreases in resources available. There are many reports that nonprofits are struggling to keep up with the workload due to the decrease in volunteer numbers. For example, Hunger Task Force, Inc. doesn’t have enough volunteers to help pack food boxes for seniors living in the Milwaukee area. COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our lives, but many have found ways to continue supporting their communities through volunteer work while staying safe.
Socially Distanced Volunteering Opportunities
Safe volunteering can take place at home. There are plenty of needs that still need to be addressed even in a pandemic.
Virtual Volunteering Opportunities
Virtual volunteering events have also emerged in the past few months. These events can be just as beneficial as those that are taking place in person.
Group Volunteering Under Safe Conditions
Nonprofits looking to host in-person events still have the option to do so by taking advantage of outdoor spaces. Some have invited the community to a local park with socially distanced work stations for each household to work on service projects like blanket making, card writing, or food or toy collections. The key guidelines to keep in mind are to maintain distance, sanitize often, ask those who show symptoms to stay home, and implement tools so contract tracing is easy in case there is an exposure.
While the pandemic has shut down many activities, it’s important to continue encouraging acts of service. Especially in times of global crisis, these volunteer hours can end up being more impactful than before. Whether your company decides to look into remote volunteering projects or seek out safe and socially distanced opportunities, the work provided will make a difference in the lives of others.
The Board of Directors of a nonprofit organization is tasked with the responsibility of considering, discussing, and voting on the affairs, actions, and decisions of the nonprofit. Being a member of the board can allow you to have some say in how money is spent, where resources are allocated, which steps the nonprofit will take next, and much more. If you are particularly interested in or dedicated to the work being done by the nonprofit, working on the board can allow you to make an impact on a cause you care about.
While some nonprofits are desperate for board members, and will happily take volunteers that are willing to dedicate their time and energy, others are more selective and require potential board members to prove themselves before being considered for a slot at the table. If you have found a nonprofit that you feel passionate about, and want to become more involved by joining their board of directors, here are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind:
Want more tips, tricks, and advice on living a philanthropic life? Visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors today, and be sure to visit our blog for more information.
Creating a thriving and efficient work environment isn’t always about what happens in the office - sometimes, it’s the time you encourage your employees to take off that makes the biggest difference. Offering your employees volunteer time off is an amazing way to get them engaged in the community, can help boost the image of your company, and can help further the mission of your business.
What is VTO?
Like paid time off, volunteer time off (VTO) policies offer employees the chance to take a day off with pay. Rather than going on vacation or taking sick leave, VTO is for volunteering. Offering paid days off to your employees encourages them to take advantage of the opportunity, and can even help boost employee morale.
Most companies that offer VTO offer somewhere between 8 and 80 hours per year, with some even offering employees the chance to take paid sabbaticals to dedicate themselves purely to volunteering. An organization offering VTO can choose just how much time they will allow, and can even dictate which organizations employees should volunteer with to qualify. By requiring employees to volunteer for specific causes and organizations, you’ll be able to direct time, energy, and effort toward a cause that matters to you and your business.
Some companies require employees to take at least 8 hours of VTO throughout the year, implementing mandatory minimum volunteer hours for all members of staff. Other companies leave the choice entirely up to the employee, allowing them to request as much or as little VTO as they want. Approving employees for VTO is a relatively straightforward process, and requires little more than a simple scheduling protocol for employees to submit requests for VTO with reasonable advanced notice.
What Are the Advantages of a VTO Policy?
Some business owners might frown at the idea of paying their workforce to ‘work’ elsewhere for a day, but despite the lost working hours, there are plenty of advantages to implementing a VTO policy in your organization.
Companies that Offer VTO
If you decide to begin offering your employees VTO, you’ll be joining the more than 65% of companies that already have these programs in place. Some of the biggest, most well-known corporations are also those with the most generous VTO policies, and more and more professionals are beginning to expect their employers to dedicate a portion of their resources to community and social programs. Here are just a few of the companies that offer VTO to their employees:
How You Can Create a VTO Policy
If you haven’t already, now is the time to begin offering your employees paid volunteer time off. Creating a basic VTO policy is fairly simple, and if you already have a PTO policy in place, you will be able to follow its basic framework. Some important details for your VTO policy to include are:
Ready to take it to the next level?
These are companies who are going above and beyond and offering an even greater depth to their community service programs:
Want to learn more about making a difference in your community? Visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors insights blog to discover much more.
Some people give simply because they know they should, and offer up charitable donations out of some kind of moral obligation. While it is true that we should all do our best to give back, this sentiment of obligatory philanthropy is readily going out of style.
The next generation of philanthropists, the 20-somethings, are giving to those causes they feel personal connections to, rather than giving simply for the sake of giving. Young people like to engage personally with the causes they support, and are building philanthropy plans that reflect their interests and values.
If you are a 20-something and have been wondering whether it is time you create a philanthropy plan, the answer is: it’s never too early to start giving! Building the habit of generosity and learning support causes that impact you and your community from an early age will help you to feel more connected to your community, and will help you to build patterns of empathy.
Many younger people with charitable sensibilities shy away from engaging in philanthropy because they believe that they need to have tons of expendable income to make an impact. In truth, young philanthropists can contribute to nonprofit and community organizations in many ways, including but not limited to financially.
How You Can Give Back Without Having Money
While even the smallest financial donation is appreciated by nonprofit organizers, not all young philanthropists can afford to donate money. Instead, try donating something else, like your time. Volunteer, serve on boards or committees, offer professional pro-bono services, or find some other creative way of donating your time.
Many nonprofits often need additional volunteers to help with basic administrative tasks, to help organize or clean their facilities, or to simply spread the word about their cause. Donating your time is just as rewarding - if not more - than donating your money, and the sooner you begin contributing to causes you care about, the sooner you will feel the benefits of generosity.
Once you start giving back, we know you won’t want to stop, which is why we encourage you to keep changing your philanthropy plan as often as necessary. As you, your career, and your life grow, you will find new ways to contribute to the causes that mean the most to you. Creating a basic philanthropy plan in your 20s is just the first step.
Learn more about philanthropy and how you can make a difference when you visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors. We offer more information like this on our blog, where you can discover tips, tricks, and advice for volunteering, corporate giving, fundraising, and much more.
Philanthropy might be a big word, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a super kid-friendly topic! Kids loving giving and being generous, and often have a great sense of compassion and duty to their friends and family. Because of this, engaging your kids in conversations and activities to help them start thinking about philanthropy can be a great way to spend more time together, and to foster good habits for their future. Here are just a few simple ways you can get your kids excited about philanthropy.
Show Your Kids Positive Results
You can explain the concept of charitable giving to a child, and they will likely understand, but younger children may not fully be able to understand the real impact of philanthropy. A good way to help your kids understand the impact they can have is to choose a cause that offers visual results. Consider donating, for example, to charities offering treatment and surgery to children with cleft palate or cleft lips. Before and after photos of these kinds of operations can show your children exactly where their donations are going, making the action seem more important and real.
Volunteer as a Family
Younger children may not have the same understanding of the value of money as older children, which is why it can be extremely valuable to expose them to volunteer opportunities. Volunteering within your community is an excellent way to show them that there are things that can be done within your community and that they are an important part of said community. Volunteering can also help to solidify the real impact of philanthropy, showing your kids that there is value in work and satisfaction in helping others.
Encourage Kids To Think with Empathy
Shielding children from hardship and pain is an instinct, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share facts of life with your kids. If, for example, a person experiencing homelessness approaches you and your child, be kind and generous with that person. After, be sure to engage your child in a conversation regarding what kinds of things might lead to a person being homeless. Your kids can empathize with other people, and early fostering of this skill can help to make them more understanding, empathetic, and kind as adults.
Want to learn more about becoming involved in philanthropy? Visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors online today, and be sure to check out our blog for many more helpful tips, tricks, and bits of information!
Our brains are hardwired to serve. Here is why businesses and their employees benefit from embracing meaningful causes.
By Susan SteinbrecherCEO, Steinbrecher and Associates@SteinbrecherInc
Published by Inc. Magazine, May 31, 2019
At a recent celebration for Harvard Business School's Class Day, speaker Michael R. Bloomberg, extolled the value of graduates aligning themselves with companies that were deeply committed to philanthropic efforts, stating that at Bloomberg, "...philanthropy gives us a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent -- and it's as good for the bottom line as anything a company can do."
Literally translated, the word philanthropy means "love of humanity." By very definition, philanthropy is only philanthropy when it stems from giving without personal gain. It begins and ends with a selfless motive -- that of helping one's fellow man without seeking recognition or reward.
Most of us know that charity is its own reward. The true wealth of charity is measured by good deeds, not ego and material gain. That's why many affirm that they get back far more than they give. In other words, what they receive is the joy of love in action, the manifestation of their gift of time or money in such a way as to make a visible difference.
Interestingly, good people doing good work experience benefits that go beyond just their contentment in the knowledge that they are advancing the well-being of humanity. A well-known study examined the brain activity of a group of people, each of whom was given money ($128) and asked to make choices about whether to keep the money for themselves or to give some or all of it to charity anonymously. The outcome was fascinating. The participants who gave the money to charity experienced an extremely high level of pleasure. The researchers concluded that, "The warm glow that many donors get from giving to charity involves the same brain mechanisms that evoke pleasurable sensations after sex, eating good food, and using heroin or other drugs."
Companies that embrace philanthropic efforts enjoy significant advantages that contribute to the mutual benefit of both management and employees on every level such as:
Loyalty and morale rise.
This occurs in direct correlation to the enhanced sense of personal engagement and connectedness of the employees since they are proud to be associated with a company that cares and does good for others.
Employees experience an increased sense of personal satisfaction.
The reward that goes with being part of a meaningful community effort is something bigger than themselves that makes a difference in the lives of others.
This happens at a higher level since all employees are working side by side together towards a common goal.
A sense of accomplishment.
The collective group can work together to achieve something for the community while serving as a profound team-building event for the employees.
We've been taught since we were children that it is better to give than to receive. This Chinese proverb illustrates the intrinsic worth of charitable works:
"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."
Many people wonder if their volunteer time at a charity completing professional tasks can be deducted on their taxes. You cannot deduct the value of services rendered in volunteer service to a nonprofit. You can, however, deduct the expenses you incurred while volunteering or traveling to and from the volunteer assignment.
Example 1 - The Artist:
An artist who paints a mural on the wall of her local local Boys & Girls Club can deduct the cost of paint, paint brushes, and other supplies needed to complete the mural. She can also deduct the gas mileage it took to get to and from the charity to complete the volunteer service. She cannot deduct for the time it spent her.
Example 2 - The Nurse:
A Red Cross volunteer who is a Registered Nurse travels to Florida to help with hurricane disaster relief recovery. He can save the receipts for his airfare, lodging, and meals while on assignment. He cannot calculate the hours he spent working as a nurse for Red Cross and deduct the pay he would have been paid in his workplace.
Always consult with your tax advisor to be certain.
Volunteering is a great way for teens to explore higher education and career options while forming their identities as individuals. Through volunteer work, teens can build confidence, independence, leadership, and social skills that will catapult their lives into adulthood. In addition to building soft skills, teens can gain valuable hard skills related to computer systems, basic financial transactions, care taking, etc. that will show future employers and college admissions teams that they are responsible, reliable, and self-directed.
In general, volunteer jobs involve more scheduling flexibility than paid youth jobs and could be ideal for youth who are interested in holding a job but who cannot due to sports, extracurricular, and other academic commitments.
How to Find the Right Cause
Teens are often so curious about many different things in life. Volunteering on day projects for organizations is a great way to narrow down your interests to make a fuller weekly commitment to a cause you care about. Many communities have a local United Way who can serve as a liaison to match a teen volunteer with a cause of which they find to be interesting. There is no shortage of fantastic nonprofit organizations who rely on volunteer labor to fulfill their mission.
Different Ways to Help
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for bright, dependable, hard working young people who are committed to making a difference in the world. Once you narrow down the cause you are most passion about, write an email to the nonprofit’s volunteer coordinator or administration and make your case. You may start off working on menial or repetitive volunteer tasks but if you prove yourself to be committed and reliable, a volunteer position could turn into something even more valuable and rewarding. If you’re a budding writer, instead of stuffing hundreds of envelopes with a newsletter insert, they may eventually rely on you to write a feature or two in the newsletter. If you’re a basketball star and want to be a coach one day, you may go from cleaning the gym after youth practices to coaching one of the teams.