If your not-for-profit is trying to fulfill its mission with less volunteer help these days, you’re not alone. A December 2021 Gallop poll found that although donating to charity has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, volunteering was still down. Only 56% of survey respondents said they’d volunteered in the past year, compared with 64% in 2017.

Given this shortage of helping hands, you may want to appeal to companies in your community. Many employees are returning to the office, and those who aren’t may welcome opportunities to volunteer in person with their colleagues. This can be a one-day volunteer event or an ongoing program. An added bonus is that some employees likely will continue supporting your organization beyond their employer-sponsored volunteer work. Here are some considerations for setting up a corporate volunteer arrangement.

Correlation between mission and business

The best volunteer partnerships generally are those where the nonprofit’s mission and the company’s core business correlate. For example, an athletic clothing manufacturer is a perfect match for an afterschool soccer league. A pet food company’s employees are likely to be enthusiastic about staffing an adopt-a-pet event.

Many businesses seek one-day volunteer opportunities that can accommodate all of their employees. If your organization is painting the walls of schools, serving free meals to the needy or setting up for a fundraising event, short-term assistance from an army of volunteers can be a lifesaver.

However, you shouldn’t create work where it doesn’t exist, particularly if coming up with activities or managing volunteers will put a strain on staff resources. Also be wary when companies offer volunteers on short notice. To be successful, corporate volunteer days take planning. For example, you may need to arrange such logistical details as meals or prepare training instructions and educational materials.

Getting what you really need

If you must turn down an eager corporate volunteer, do so carefully. Explain how the offer may, in fact, cost your nonprofit time and money. For example, you may be concerned about volunteer risk and your nonprofit’s insurance coverage.

Remember that group volunteer days aren’t the only way to take advantage of employees who want to help. Many companies provide paid time for staff to volunteer for the charity of their choice. Other companies make financial contributions to organizations where employees volunteer.

To find companies with volunteer programs, check with the Points of Light Foundation, VolunteerMatch or regional groups. Once you have a corporate partner, make sure you dedicate time to building the relationship. Think beyond a one-day volunteer event and try to gain an ongoing commitment, such as quarterly.

Try again later

The pandemic has eased considerably, but it’s not over yet. So don’t be surprised if some companies are wary of group activities. Let them know that you’ll contact them again in six months. And if you’re still worried about achieving all of your nonprofit’s objectives, consider cutting back. Contact us to discuss.

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