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Simple Ideas For Making Corporate Volunteering Programs Fun And Effective

One of PhotoShelter‘s essential company values is “We Operate With Heart.” As we strive to better practice this value within our organization...

One of PhotoShelter‘s essential company values is “We Operate With Heart.” As we strive to better practice this value within our organization we want to highlight a few of the actionable ways we enable our employees to support National Volunteer Month throughout April.

Almost a year ago, our Workplace Experience Manager, Eden Seiferheld joined the company and since then, she’s made tremendous enhancements to the way employees connect with one another digitally and in the office.

As an experienced office manager and events coordinator with a passion for volunteering on offbeat projects like clothing swaps and dessert festivals, she’s developed programs that enhance PhotoShelter employees not just as employees, but as people who can be and share our authentic selves while simultaneously engaging with our New York community and learning more about the world around us.

Here are a few ways the PhotoShelter team pools resources and volunteers together to support communities near and far:

Knowing your office snacks are backed by a social good mission makes every sip or bite that much more satisfying. Eden doesn’t just find tasty forms of sustenance to keep the office crew going, the snack vendors also have to have a corporate commitment to giving back. She said, “Sourcing supplies for the office is something that I take great care with and I’ve found 2 great coffee suppliers that divert our dollars to great causes: Think Coffee’s Kellensoo Blend helps keep girls in Kellensoo, Ethiopia in school by providing them with menstrual supplies and Waka Coffee offsets the water waste in the coffee production process by donating funds to charity:water.”

Another initiative modeled to create equity within the coffee supply chain is Sustainable Harvest. Learn more about their sustainability efforts and try their roasts—rich with notes of altruism and opportunity!

Sharebite is a program that quite literally allows everyone to eat for free. Eden said, “I wanted to find a way to take some stress out of the day by providing employees with a simple lunch solution in the office. With Sharebite, folks can make sure they always have a meal scheduled to arrive and a portion of our costs go towards donating meals to City Harvest.” It incentivizes employees to share a free lunch in the office with coworkers and with every meal bought, money is donated to City Harvest, New York City’s largest food rescue organization.

If you’re based in New York and are looking for ways to provide access to nutritious food to your fellow neighbors, check out City Harvest’s volunteer opportunities, reach out to Bowery Mission, or find a food pantry to volunteer with through the New York Cares volunteer network.

Since 40% of PhotoShelter employees are currently working remotely, Photo Challenges have been a fun way to digitally Show-and-Tell-Off our individual creativity while crowdsourcing fundraising resources. Eden explained what drove her to create the program, and how it worked, “Staying connected with coworkers has been challenging since we’ve become a more distributed workforce, so I sought to create a sense of community within our company while also giving back to those in need during the holidays. Each day employees posted photos related to the prompts I sent out in Slack and for each photo posted PhotoShelter donated money that would be used to purchase food to fill some community refrigerators in New York or be donated to HIAS and Project Hope.”

Check out how Eden introduced the Holiday Photo Challenge on Slack and how employees engaged in the photos below.

Ukraine Fundraiser: Although we’re a New York-based organization, our workforce is made up of global citizens, so when news broke about the war in Ukraine, Eden announced an event and created a safe space for employees to share time volunteering together to gather menstrual hygiene donations for Ukrainian women during Women’s History Month.

Eden said, “We partnered with I Support the Girls to collect menstrual products and bras to send to refugees fleeing Ukraine. We received amazing employee support and packed up 12 huge boxes of supplies during a small happy hour fueled by local female-owned businesses Baked in Color, Macaron Parlour, and Talea Beer Co.”

During Earth Month, we all individually try to proactively practice waste reduction, but why is it hard for organizations to develop sustainable ways to affect environmental change? Scaling change doesn’t have to be a daunting initiative; in fact, effective change starts with adjusting mindsets and habits and holding each other accountable in nonjudgemental ways. Eden started a few programs this year that allow PhotoShelter employees to show up and share how we’re being better to this earth.

Eden said, “Sustainability is something I’m very passionate about and I love to find small ways to improve our relationship with the environment. For Earth Month, we’re offering all employees one volunteer day to be used this month in addition to running a shoe donation drive with Soles4Souls, recycling soda cans to use as herb planters, and a weekly Earth Month Bingo to reinforce some of these positive behaviors.”

If your chosen cause is supporting the environment, you can learn more about wildlife endangerment, water source protection, and more from a few of our clients: Defenders of Wildlife, Global Heritage Fund, Water Mission, Oceans North, Conservation Without Borders, and Wildlife Conservation Network.

At its core, volunteering shouldn’t be thought of as an occasional ego-boosting activity one can do to help a neighbor in need. A consistent practice of community care actually has scientifically-proven positive effects on one’s health and mental health; but in this case, practice doesn’t equal perfection, it just makes sense.

Depending on who you cite, volunteer rates across America might look stable or they might look grim. According to reports and reporting published by AmeriCorps (2018) and The Nonprofit Times (2020,) Americans seem to be volunteering at a stable pace since before the pandemic. On the contrary, Bloomberg Business News and Philanthropy News Digest have calculated a dramatic rise in charitable donations since 2015, but a drastic decrease in volunteers donating their time.

It doesn’t matter what research you use to back up your perspective, there’s no doubt that volunteers are necessary—just ask the organizations that rely on teams of volunteers to procure, assemble, and distribute resources, messaging, and communications materials to their partners and communities.

Volunteers are just as essential as essential workers, so tell us in the comments below—outside of your 9-to-5, where are you donating your time?

Shout us out on social media (Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn!) and share the organizations whose missions you want to amplify and help us all learn more about the causes you care about!

Ready to transform your team’s creative workflow?