One Way Companies Can Promote Virtual Volunteerism

What can you do when your company values volunteerism but your workers just can’t find the time to physically travel to schools during the day? Send them virtually. Using a webcam and a robust internet connection, your employees can share their expertise right from where they are working, be it the corner office, at a home office, or halfway around the world.

Volunteering brings a host of benefits to both employee and employer, according to numerous studies. Workers who volunteered through their company were 13% happier and 15% more satisfied with their lives, according to a 2017 survey from Neighborly. And today’s workers are not only willing to volunteer, but three of four millennials say they consider their ability to contribute to society when choosing a place to work, according to a 2016 study by Harvard Business Review.

Seventy percent of employees said volunteer activities were more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours, according to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey. In the same survey, an even higher percentage, 77%, said volunteer activities are “essential” to employee well being.

The biggest impediment to volunteering is finding a connection and helping your workers manage their time. Nepris, a company that has already linked experts with 600 school districts, has created a platform that matches your workers’ background, experience, and skills to classrooms across the country.

Leilani M. Brown, senior vice president of K12, an online learning provider of over one million k-12 students, understands the power of virtual volunteerism and connecting with people online. “We certainly have the opportunity to use technology to reach beyond boundaries, foster inclusion, and inspire hope for the future,” she says.

As schools increasingly incorporate online learning into students’ everyday activities, more networks of professionals and workforce coalitions are helping engage in more substantial ways. The State Educational Technology Directors Association is launching the SETDA Coalition for eLearning. The coalition, underwritten by AT&T, will compile and provide a one-stop eLearning resource center for state education agencies and school districts at no cost.

Using online resources can also help alleviate the shortage of subject matter experts, which limits the STEM options schools can offer to students. As the recent health crisis has made clear, the importance of scientists has never been greater, but finding experts to teach students or simply to get them excited about the potential to study science in the future remains a roadblock in many schools. A company’s professional can explain to students not only what they do, but how today’s situations, from global warming to international supply chains, are changing their jobs.

“Now is a time to promote STEM learning and growth. We can use this opportunity to support students on STEM pathways across the nation and the world,” says Ashley Szofer, senior director of STEMconnector. “STEMconnector is collaborating with members across our network to ensure access to virtual resources.”

Article Continues Below

There are two ways companies and workers can proceed. First, they can fulfill an existing teacher request. On this site, teachers have already listed what topic they hope to find a volunteer speaker. For instance, a teacher in Houston wants to introduce students to career choices, such as ones that involve working with heavy machinery.

Professionals can list their expertise on Nepris’s site, specifying what they could speak about. A teacher, looking to connect classwork with real-world jobs, will describe her needs, and Nepris’ systems automatically find a list of qualified speakers. If needed, Nepris will recruit those speakers from LinkedIn or good old-fashioned groundwork. All speakers are guided in how to prepare their session, and a moderator is present at all times.

Companies can also offer an industry chat on a set day and time. Teachers sign up their classes or, now that many are sheltering-in-place, parents can join in with their families. These chats can be viewed by hundreds of teachers, students, and families simultaneously across the country. Workers can sign up at Nepris or a company HR leader, or social responsibility pro can work with the company on a more formal partnership.

“The most significant change we can make in schools is simply to make a personal connection with a student,” adds Ms. Raja. “Every day, we see children’s lives change in the course of a one-hour chat on Nepris. They gain more from that interaction with an adult than they do from a textbook of information.” And, while children’s lives are changing, an employee reaps a tremendous boost in morale and motivation. “The benefits for companies and their employees is just as significant.”

Wayne D'Orio is an award-winning journalist specializing in education. His stories have been published in various publications, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Wired. He has written about topics as diverse as California’s higher education program inside prisons to the high school curricula tied to the hit play Hamilton.

Topics