At the recent Nonprofit Leadership Development Summit, held following the Cause Marketing Forum Annual Conference in Chicago, the question was posed to attendees: “How many of you have received requests from your corporate partners for employee volunteer opportunities?” Nearly every hand in the room shot up, and knowing glances and nods were exchanged among the nonprofit executives in attendance, who agreed providing meaningful volunteer experiences can be a challenge. In fact, many nonprofits likely struggle with this issue. Unless you’re an organization that deals with community revitalization or environmental clean-up, or are a food, tool or clothing bank, you might think you have nothing in the way of employee engagement opportunities to offer a corporate sponsor. I’ve even heard it said as plainly as “We’re not Habitat. We don’t have volunteer opportunities.”
But the fact remains that in order to remain competitive for corporate sponsorship dollars, nonprofits should try to think outside the box to come up with ways to engage with a company’s employees, even if it seems there’s not a natural fit for extending your mission into volunteerism. The measure of an employee’s satisfaction and retention has long been one of the main ways companies gauge the success of corporate contributions and cause marketing programs, and that trend isn’t likely to subside anytime soon.
Later in the day at the Nonprofit Summit, we got to hear from a couple of organizations who have been successful at keeping their cause programs fresh year after year. One of these presenters was Angela Appleton, Director of Cause Marketing for World Vision, an international relief and aid organization. Angela spoke about World Vision’s popular Kit Program, a long-running volunteer program that previously focused primarily on outreach to local churches and community groups. Recently, though, World Vision has made some enhancements and additions to the Kit Program that have made it a very attractive property to key corporate supporters.
World Vision’s Kit Programs empower companies, large and small, to purchase pre-identified supplies which are critical to the organization’s work. Companies assemble the supplies into individual kits which are donated to World Vision. The Kit assemblies can be large or small-scale, can take place anywhere a group of employees may be gathered, and have an immediate and lasting impact on both the volunteer and beneficiary. World Vision is even experimenting with allowing groups of employees to travel with staff to personally distribute the kits to victims of natural disaster in the U.S.
WORLD VISION CURRENTLY OFFERS FOUR TYPES OF KIT PROGRAMS:
77,000 volunteers are currently providing comfort and care for people living with AIDS in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. One main Caregiver Kit plus four refills will equip a caregiver with critical health care items, including soap, washcloths, and latex gloves for a year.
These kits provide basic school supplies, personal hygiene items and a blanket for children orphaned or made vulnerable by extreme poverty and AIDS.
School Tools Kits provide a quality backpack full of school supplies for at-risk children here in the U.S.
PERSONAL CARE KITS
These kits contain basic hygiene supplies designed to assist those who are homeless due to poverty or natural disaster in the U.S. Prices range from $16 to $28 per kit, and the price covers the cost of the supplies, shipping, and incremental overhead. While currently its vendor needs three weeks to fulfill all orders, World Visions is working to come up with a more immediate solution for companies who want to assemble Personal Care Kits in the aftermath of natural disasters.
A program like World Vision’s Kit Program provides a large number of volunteers the opportunity to work together, solving a big challenge for corporate relations managers looking to place large groups who have come together for sales or regional meetings. Most nonprofits don’t have the space or amount of work to handle a sudden influx of hundreds of volunteers at once. With the Kit Program, the work comes to the volunteers, and can easily be set up at a hotel or convention center. Instead of paying a vendor to re-assemble the kits, World Vision took the initiative to transform a vital part of its mission (delivering necessary items to people in the field), and turned it into a unique corporate engagement opportunity.
Recently, World Vision sponsor McKesson took advantage of the program to build 10,000 Caregiver Kits at a National Sales Meeting, while Qwest, in World Vision’s hometown of Seattle, assembled 600 School Tools backpacks. You can see from this YouTube video that the volunteers had a great time while helping a worthy cause.
World Vision has also captured footage from the field in Zambia to create several videos that illustrate the impact of the Caregiver Kits Program internationally. Both are on YouTube, with the newest one here, and a shorter version available here.