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In the Business of Volunteering for the Arts

Posted by Chris Zheng
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In the Business of Volunteering for the Arts

Business professionals have a lot to offer arts nonprofits, and volunteering time to the arts ensures a healthier and more vibrant community overall. Sometimes, it can be challenging to establish the first connections necessary to get business-minded people working with arts organizations.

 

M Powered Strategies, one of Americans for the Arts’ BCA10 honorees for its commitment to the arts, has recently partnered with Points of Light (POL) to put together a volunteer recruitment program called Coach2Action, which connects nonprofit organizations across the nation with project management professionals. M Powered Strategies President Kendall Lott worked with Project Management Professionals Janet Schwartz and Jessica Giles to design Coach2Action, training and coordinating coaches for the pilot program. Through Coach2Action, 30 nonprofits were paired with 60 project management coaches who were trained in project management maturity framework and were guided by M Powered Strategies best practices. Nonprofits in the program were able to learn through personalized two-on-one Skype counseling sessions for twenty hours.

 

The critical skills that arts nonprofits can gain from programs like Coach2Action ensure that they are able to function to the best of their ability- raising sufficient funds, interacting with donors and partners, and gaining the business skills necessary to grow their operations. More businesses every day are dedicating their time and skills to arts nonprofits, whether it is to build their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives or to simply work to improve the communities in which they operate. Volunteering for the arts also boosts employee morale, and engages them on new levels.

 

If you are looking for a place to start, look no further than Business Volunteers for the Arts, a national skills-based consultant program that pairs nonprofit arts groups with specially trained business executives who volunteer their time and skills to assist with distinct management projects.

 

Congratulations to M Powered Strategies for a groundbreaking volunteer recruitment program, and for being recognized as one of the top ten businesses in the country with an outstanding commitment to the arts!

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Arts Volunteering Paints a Better Business

Posted by Chris Zheng
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Arts Volunteering Paints a Better Business

Long-term growth in business is only possible if there is a thriving future in which that growth can occur. Businesses that realize this almost certainly have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan or department, a company’s way of creating a vision for a compassionate company culture, supporting the creation of a sustainable and improved future for the community in which the business operates. CSR is taking off everywhere from small businesses to multinational corporations, and employee volunteer programs are the most popular method of engaging responsibly with the community.  

 

Currently, the average corporate volunteer participation rate now rests at about 31%, indicating that there is a lot of room for growth in the CSR sectors of businesses. Companies are finding ways to build employee participation in volunteerism through offering a wider array of charity and organization options. One of the most popular methods of volunteering- the arts.

 

Whether it is pro bono consulting or financial work with Business Volunteers for the Arts or simply going to a local arts organization and volunteering some time to staff an event or help prepare materials, volunteering with and for the arts is a perfect way to build a future of culture, creativity, and expression for employees and in the larger community.

The data backing up the importance of volunteer programs is clear–they are not only a great way to build an external company profile, but also an exemplary method for improving internal operations. Compiled data by Cybergrants, an employee engagement software developer, demonstrates that giving back also means getting back employee satisfaction and productivity. When polling employees on workplace failures, 97% cited a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication as the root issue. 64% of employees who currently volunteer stated that volunteering with work peers strengthened their relationships.

 

The benefits don’t stop there. 78% of people who volunteer say that is reduces stress levels, promoting wellness and efficacy in work. In terms of personal development, 90% of HR executives agreed that contributing business skills and acumen to a non-profit can aid in the development of leadership skills. Additionally, volunteering out of the office certainly translates into direct benefits in the office. Studies show that a well-designed corporate social responsibility program can increase employee engagement by 7.5%, raise productivity 13%, and can even reduce turnover by 50%.

 

Incorporating the arts into CSR volunteer programs allow for employees to directly participate in improving their communities. Starting an employee volunteering program now is a decision that guarantees a flourishing future for the arts. 

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Giving in Numbers: A Preview of the 2015 Engagement Survey

Posted by Stacy Lasner
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CECP, in association with The Conference Board, has released a brief of the 2015 Giving in Numbers, the most complete annual survey of corporate societal engagement. The full results will be released in autumn 2015 and will reflect responses from 271 multi-billion dollar companies with aggregate revenues of US $8.3 trillion.

 

The brief indicates that companies are increasingly seeing community investment as essential to their operations, and many companies are choosing to involve employees in their social engagement plans. For example, the survey found:

 

  • corporate matches of employee donations accounted for 12% of total corporate cash contributions.
  •  9 out of 10 companies offered an employee matching program.
  •  6 out of 10 companies offered paid-release time volunteer programs.
  • 30% of employees volunteering is average.
  • 50% of employees volunteering is the minimum to be in the top quartile.

 

You can find more statistics from the Giving in Numbers Brief here.

 

Does your company involve employees in your engagement with the arts? Tell us about it using #ArtsandBiz on Twitter or email pARTnership@artsusa.org.

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It's Pro Bono Day in New York: Give Back Your Time and Talent!

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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It's Pro Bono Day in New York: Give Back Your Time and Talent!

Business professionals seeking to give their time and skill set to organizations in need will come together today for Pro Bono Day in New York City--a daylong series of workshops and networking events revolving around skills-based volunteering opportunities, organized by the Taproot Foundation.

 

Many organizations that work to tackle social issues often have limited access to the marketing, design, technology, management or strategic planning resources they need to succeed. Pro bono opportunities allow business professionals to share their talents with the causes that are near and dear to them. The Taproot Foundation has partnered with the CECP to create industry standards and benchmarking for pro bono service. 30% of companies now report that they offer pro bono opportunities to employees.

 

Pro Bono Day is actually a week-long celebration, with events also happening in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Today in New York, the Arts & Business Council of New York has organized a panel discussion with speakers from arts organizations who will share their personal experiences with pro bono volunteers--how they developed and managed impactful projects and maintained lasting relationships.

 

Ready to get involved? Learn more about Americans for the Arts' leading pro bono program, Business Volunteers for the Arts® (BVA), which matches mid- to upper-level business professionals as pro bono consultants with arts organizations.

 

For more information on Pro Bono Day, including the Pro Bono Blog, visit TaprootFoundation.org.

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Volunteer Opportunities Help Employers Attract Talent, Report Says

Posted by Samantha Sharon
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Attracting young talent to a company may be linked to the company’s opportunities for workplace giving and volunteerism. A recent article from The Chronicle of Philanthropy cites the results of the 2014 Millennial Impact Report – a survey administered to 1,500 employed millenials between the ages of 20 and 34 by Achieve.org – which reveals that large percentages of this age group say that a company’s volunteer policies affected their decisions to both apply for a job and accept certain offers. In the article, President of Achieve, Derrick Feldmann, explains that millenials are “blending who they are, what they do, what they stand for, and the causes and things they care about into the workplace.” Ultimately, job-seeking millennials are looking for opportunities that will allow them to better themselves and the world at large, which in turn creates an engaging work enviroment. Click on the link below to read the full article from The Chronicle of Philanthropy. (Photo courtesy of Humana.)

 

Volunteer Opportunities Help Employers Attract Talent, Report Says

 

At Americans for the Arts, we understand how embracing a culture of volunteerism can benefit a business. Our Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) program encourages businesses to engage in volunteering opportunities in the arts as a way to attract new talent to the company while simultaneously increasing the satisfaction and broadening the experience of current employees. BVA works by pairing nonprofit arts organizations with business professionals who volunteer their time and skills to assist with unique projects, helping employees feel more engaged on the job, learn new skills and make new connections.

 

Visit Americans for the Arts' BVA page to learn more about the BVA program and how you can get involved.

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Time Warner Inc. Honors Volunteers

Posted by Caleb Way
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Employees of Time Warner Inc., a  2006 BCA 10 honoree and 2007 BCA Hall of Fame inductee, gathered this past Tuesday, June 3, in the name of corporate volunteering. The Richard D. Parsons Community Impact Awards, now in its 33rd year, recognizes the exceptional community and public service contributions of Time Warner Inc. employees. The company, which is a champion of employee engagement initiatives, holds true to the award’s credo of “honoring those who inspire us.”


If you joined the Arts & Business Council of New York on Twitter (@ArtsBizNY) last week as they dedicated Thursday, May 29 to the topic of employee engagement, you know that allowing time for and creating space for employees to exercise passions they already have increases productivity and creativity within the workplace. “I almost feel guilty for receiving an award for doing something that I love doing,” said Michael Rowell, a Shift Supervisor at Turner Broadcasting and 2014 honoree for his work with Open Hand, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that provides meals to the underprivileged.


This year, the arts, among many other worthy causes supported by Time Warner employees, had a seat at the table. Two of the five Richard D. Parsons Community Impact Awardees were honored for their contributions and civic work in the arts sector. Joe Raiola, Senior Editor at MAD Magazine, DC Entertainment is also the Artistic Director of Theater Within, a platform that he uses to present the performing arts as an agent of positive social change. He was recognized for his work in championing the Annual John Lennon Tribute Concert in New York City, the proceeds of which benefited local and international charities. Additionally, four HBO employees received accolade as a team for their involvement in California’s Young Storytellers Foundation (YSF). YSF works with students to build literacy and writing skills, turning their unique pieces into stage productions. The four honorees recruited a team of mentors from HBO for the YSF students, who advised them as they developed screenplays for an annual showcase.
Time Warner Inc.’s Richard D. Parsons Community Impact Awards serve as a great example of how to promote employee volunteering, engagement, and recognition. Not only are Time Warner employees engaged and inspired, they are given the chance to invest in causes that are near and dear to them, all the while giving support to worthy nonprofits.


For more from Time Warner Inc., join the Arts & Business Council of New York on Tuesday, June 24th as they host Alex Tapnio, Associate Manager, Marketing and Employee Programs/Corporate Responsibility for a workshop on how arts organizations can more effectively engage volunteers from the business community. Alex will be moderating a discussion between representatives from Free Arts NYC, Materials for the Arts, Only Make Believe, and Deutsche Bank as they speak to this topic of corporate volunteering and present proven methods and success stories.


View a short clip and read more about the 2014 Richard D. Parsons Community Impact Awards here.

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The New Face of Volunteering

Posted by Jordan Shue
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The old model of employee engagement and volunteerism is quickly fading. In a world where everyone can be an artist, a creator, an inventor, or a key player in a project far-removed from his or her own experience, volunteering has morphed into something vastly different from its original shape. Employees now crave the opportunity to be integrally involved in a major aspect of a non-profit’s work, which not only gives each a sense of purpose and completion, but also can greatly expand the services provided to an organization if the volunteer projects are designed carefully with these shifts in mind. The same tenets that apply to new marketing, crowdsourcing, and product design strategies also apply to volunteering, as more and more people crave deeper connections and ownership that lead to greater satisfaction in all aspects of life.

 

A great deal of this shift relies on building successful partnerships with businesses (the goal of our pARTnership Movement), which often serve as the gatekeepers to large volunteer bases. Part of securing these types of relationships with businesses is the ability to articulate not just what you need as an organization, but what you can give to businesses to increase employee engagement, encourage creativity in the office, stimulate productivity, and foster a community in which employees are excited to live and work. Click here for 8 reasons you can give to businesses to partner with the arts.

 

Blackbaud Inc., a supplier of services designed for nonprofit organizations, recently released a guide for small businesses seeking to start an employee volunteer program. This is a wonderful resource to direct local businesses to in addition to the pARTnership Movement, as 47% of businesses contributing to the arts had revenues of less than $1 million in 2012, according to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts.

 

The traditional model for the past few decades has relied on skills-based placements, which pair professionals in the fields of finance, law, marketing, and more with arts organizations that require specific skills for projects for which they may not have been able to complete otherwise. While this is still an incredibly successful enterprise, delivering nearly $1.1 million in volunteer services through 2012 Business Volunteers for the Arts programs alone, many employees are beginning to seek more flexible options.

Volunteers are looking for a bevy of different options, including team skills and non skills-based, virtual volunteering, volunteer hackathon days, and mentoring. Businesses that supply employees are increasingly looking for unique modes of engagement, including arts-based training for employees, ask-a-consultant events that can pair employees with more than one arts organization in a day, arts volunteer fairs, employee art shows, corporate arts challenges, and more.

 

Volunteering is a sign of a healthy nonprofit organization, not the solution for a failing one,” writes Greg Baldwin for VolunteerMatch, a wonderful resource for trends in the field. Volunteers are drawn towards projects that push an organization’s mission forward, and not ones that are thrown together as a bandage for a problem that will need to be fixed again later on down the road.

 

Click here for more information about Americans for the Arts’ Business Volunteers for the Arts program. For toolkits and other resources on how to engage volunteers, visit the pARTnership Movement website, and share your success stories with us!

 

Follow the Arts & Business Council of New York on Twitter (@ArtsBizNY) and tune in on Thursday, May 29th as they share tips and resources relating to #EmployeeEngagement throughout the day!

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Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon
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The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

 

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand.

 

Through the conversation, we reviewed a few frameworks that can help companies “reinvent the road,” including:

 

  • Go back and review the core reasons that your company has a volunteer program – other than for the community benefit. And be honest.
  • Look at the overlap between your employees’ passions, your corporate strategy and your communities’ needs. Think about the shared value between your company’s strategy and society’s needs.
  • Constantly adapt, assess and evolve using the program change model.
     

Towards the end of the presentation, we shifted to brainstorming specific program components. There were some great insights!

 

Communications Trends

 

We discussed communications, and two trends became clear:
 

  1. People are overstimulated with messages, so we have to think about creative, new ways to reach them, particularly focused on social, inclusive, lively, fashionable, and visual methods.
  2. We have to go back to basics. Sometimes the least efficient mode of communication is the most effective (meaning, sometimes you have to go back to face-to-face interactions).
     

Measurement Challenges

 

One area where most companies struggle is measurement. Everyone in the room agreed that the silver bullet is tracking impact, but we have not yet developed a way to successfully track this. By the end of the discussion, the trending idea was that corporations need to invest in nonprofit infrastructure to build open-source tools to track metrics that are mutually beneficial for corporations and nonprofits. VolunteerMatch loves this idea – who is up for helping us achieve this project?

 

Incentives that Work

 

Finally, we brainstormed on creative incentives. While we all agreed that awards, competition, dollars for doers and VTO are effective, there was one major idea that emerged: incentives need to be carefully implemented to feel authentic. The culture of philanthropy is not something that can be forced or created through incentives, as the true motivation to volunteer is inherently intrinsic. You want to create incentives that match this ethos: Make it easy and rewarding for the volunteers who already engage, and don’t try to force employees to volunteer who aren’t naturally drawn to it. In an ideal world, what if you could flip incentives on their heads, and instead recruit and hire employees based on their community-minded drive? So now our challenge for you – how can you innovate on your EVP to increase your impact? Think about how your program is unique, and what value your employees can bring to the community. Think critically about why you do what you do, and start to challenge your company to do more.

 

*This article was posted on ARTSblog.

 

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It's National Volunteer Week!

Posted by Patrick O'Herron
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National Volunteer Week is this week -- April 6-12, 2014. A program of Points of Light and sponsored by Advil® as a part of the Advil® Relief in Action campaign, National Volunteer Week is about taking action and encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change. This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week, demonstrating the enduring importance of recognizing our country’s volunteers for their vital contributions. We encourage everyone to celebrate volunteers' dedication to helping others this week, and encouraging others to join the movement.

 

Inspired to begin a volunteer program in your community, or to find out how you can get involved? Check out Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA), which matches skills-based business volunteers with projects at arts organizations, and our tool-kit, "Working with Volunteers."

 

For more information on National Volunteer Week, visit PointsOfLight.org.

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5 Tips For Connecting With Your Network Over In-Kind Donations

Posted by Eleanore Hopper
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Rosie’s Theater Kids (RTKids) was given a rare opportunity to advertise in Condé Nast publications at no cost to the organization. RTKids had a chance to take full-page, color advertisements in some of the most-read publications in US, but had no marketing team to strategize placement, or copywriter and designer to create the ad. They needed to submit the advertisement within two weeks.

 

This was the quick, first project I was given as a new participant in the Arts & Business Council of New York’s Business Volunteers for the Arts® program. As a consultant in the areas of communications and business development for clients in the arts, this was fun and very familiar territory.

 

Increasingly, donors are more willing and able to give in-kind contributions (non-cash donations of good or services). According to an annual report created by CECP in association with The Conference Board entitled Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition the “direct cash donations dominated at 47% of total giving in 2012, non-cash contributions have been growing at a faster rate of 10% or more in each year since 2008.” This means that organizations, like RTKids, sometimes receive a donation that does not directly support their bottom line as a monetary contribution would.

 

In my initial meeting with RTKids, many questions came up about how to maximize this special opportunity. What was the best message for the ad? How could RTKids summarize the organization’s mission in a way that would grab attention and drive home the impact of their work? How could RTKids get the ad in front of potential supporters? And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, would they encourage donations by advertising this way?As a consultant working with organizations that straddle the digital and print marketing divide, I can confirm that it is difficult for non-profits to measure the impact of traditional print methods of advertising, let alone use them to secure donations. In some cases, it can cost an organization more to take advantage of this kind of opportunity than it is demonstrably worth. It might have been costly for RTKids to utilize (strategize, write, design) the donated ad pages without help from the Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program.

 

However, clear, consistent and persistent reiteration of a non-profit’s brand and mission is valuable to the overall health of the organization. Every little bit helps when it comes to reinforcing the perception of your organization and its core values which are in turn the essential attractor for potential donors.

 

1)  DO consider potential benefits of a non-cash donation (goods and/or services) in light of the resources required to reap those benefits. DON’T forget to factor in the volunteer help you can get from your passionate community. Consider how a project such as the one described above can become an opportunity to establish a deeper relationship with a member of your constituency that possesses specific expertise.

 

2)   Seek help from a variety of sources. If you have a project you need help with, get the word out to your supporters, volunteers and community. As they say, you never know who may know someone who can help…

 

3)  Get the word out early. If you are seeking volunteer help, consider that many skilled helpers will be more likely to contribute if they can balance the project with their other commitments.

 

4)     If the project is simple and on a short time-line, take advantage of the many online volunteer matching services. Posting your projects to these online platforms can be a great way to reach supporters who are passionate about your cause but may not have heard of your organization.

 

5)    Sign your organization up to work with volunteers from the Arts & Business Council of New York’s wonderful Business Volunteers for the Arts™ program!

If you have specific questions about how your organization can implement these tips, feel free to contact me!

 

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

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