Corporate Volunteer Program

(New York, NY)- The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) operates an extensive corporate volunteer program that tailors volunteer opportunities to meet the needs of corporations, who in turn make a financial contribution of between $30 to $100 per volunteer. In 2007, this program will include over 50 projects, involve more than 1,500 volunteers and earn approximately $200,000.


Category: Partnerships, Volunteerism
OVERVIEW
Corporate volunteer activities include planting trees, shrubs and flowers, cleaning up litter and debris, removing weeds and invasive vegetation, painting, and small building projects. Project sites are located throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. NYRP coordinates all the details of the program for participating corporations and assists with transportation and food service. In addition, NYRP partners with an organization that provides team-building workshops that can be integrated into the volunteer project for an additional fee.
BACKGROUND
Founded in 1995 by Bette Midler with a “dream of a cleaner, more beautiful New York,” NYRP restores, develops and revitalizes underserved parks, community gardens and open space in New York City, primarily in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Working in partnership with city, state and federal agencies, NYRP has an impressive list of accomplishments over the last decade, including:
* Removing over 875 tons of garbage from project sites
* Reclaiming more than 4,000 acres of under-resourced and abandoned parkland along the banks of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers
* Rescuing scores of community gardens from commercial development
* Providing free recreational and environmental education programs to more than 8,000 economically disadvantaged youth
* Transforming an illegal dumping ground into a 5-acre public park on the Harlem River
* Commissioning and funding an economic revitalization plan for upper Manhattan and the Harlem River waterfront
Approximately five years ago, NYRP developed a corporate volunteer program through which employees from New York City-based companies could work alongside its field crew to help clean up neglected parks or community gardens.
Two years ago, NYRP restructured the program in order to better tailor the volunteer experience to the needs and goals of participating companies. The program is no longer “one size fits all.”
Under this streamlined program, corporations can select projects that fit their interests and pick additional services to make the experience more enjoyable and meaningful for employees who volunteer. For example, since many corporate employees have limited time available for handling logistics, such as transportation and food, NYRP now offers assistance with these services. In addition, if desired, corporations can incorporate team-building activities into the volunteer project.
In order to coordinate and deliver these additional services, NYRP requests a financial contribution from participating companies. Contributions vary depending on the scale of the project.
“What we offer to corporations participating in the corporate volunteer program is service, service, service,” says Drew Becher, executive director of NYRP. “These corporations expect value for their buck and we need to deliver a meaningful, quality experience.”
COMPONENTS
Role of NYRP
NYRP acts as a “concierge” of services for corporations involved in the corporate volunteer program. NYRP has a list of projects from which corporations can select their event. The majority of these projects are self-contained with a beginning and an end so that volunteers can see their results. The list allows corporations to select the location and type of work that best reflects their interests.
NYRP works closely with corporations to help them find the best location and tasks for each volunteer team. For example, Home Depot is especially interested in projects that involve small building jobs whereas Target is particularly attracted to projects that involve design.
Once the project is selected, NYRP works with the corporation to determine what other services they would like the event to include. Do they need help arranging shuttle service to the event for employees? What sort of food do they want provided? Do they want a half-day or a full-day project? Would they like an NYRP staff member to lead volunteers on a guided educational tour of the park after lunch? Would the volunteer team like reservations for happy hour drinks and hors d’oeuvres at NYRP’s New Leaf Café in Fort Tryon Park after the project?
In addition, NYRP partners with The Krysalis Group to provide team-building activities as part of the volunteer experience for interested corporations.
NYRP coordinates all these services. The corporation only needs to “show up.”
Pricing
NYRP requests $30-$100 per person for the project depending on the services selected. The ideal number of participants is 20 to 30. NYRP tries to keep the number of participants under 80. With more than 80 participants it is difficult to manage the project as efficiently and the quality of the experience can decline.
NYRP also offers packages to companies who want to offer their employees several volunteer opportunities each year. For example, Lehman Brothers has asked NYRP to provide a variety of volunteer events for 250 employee volunteers this year. A $25,000 contribution from the company will help with project-related expenses and support NYRP’s on-going efforts to clean and green New York City.
Staffing and costs
NYRP has one full-time staff member who manages the corporate volunteer program. (There is a total of about 70 full-time staff.) In addition, staff members from NYRP’s operations, horticulture, and facility management departments devote approximately 10 percent of their time to the program.
The fees charged by the corporate volunteer program not only cover its costs but also allow NYRP to contribute to the funding of its other activities.
Marketing
NYRP markets the corporate volunteer program to its existing donor base, to participants at its events and to targeted corporations. Staff researches potential customers in local business journals as well as online. NYRP then sends information on the program to companies who have shown an interest in environmental or similar issues.
It is not unusual for NYRP’s first contact with a corporation to be through the corporate volunteer program. This has proven to be an excellent way for corporations to get to know NYRP, its mission, its staff and its accomplishments.
RESULTS
In 2007, this program will include over 50 projects, involve more than 1,500 volunteers from 30 different corporations and earn approximately $200,000.
Equally important, the corporate volunteer program has given NYRP the opportunity to develop and grow relationships with corporations. This has led to increased support for the organization – financial and otherwise.
LESSONS LEARNED
1. Research the corporations with whom you are working or wish to work. What is their mission? What is their strategic plan? In what areas of your service area are they most focused? What are the major interests of the chief executive officer?
Look at the organizational structure. Do they fund community activities through the marketing department, community relations department or through a separate foundation? To what causes/organizations do they currently give?
Most of this information is easily available online. Use this information to help develop a volunteer event that will be meaningful to them.
NYRP targets both large and small companies in the New York City area. Some large corporations, like Goldman Sachs, have entire departments devoted to philanthropy and employee volunteerism. Many of these corporations have an annual “day of service” or “month of volunteerism” during which employees make a coordinated effort to volunteer with local nonprofits. Smaller companies may only have a single individual who plans volunteer events along with other responsibilities. Most small companies can be approached informally, while large corporations appreciate written proposals.
2. Price your service correctly. Nonprofits have a history of not charging or undercharging for their services. Corporations will pay for quality, and in order to provide quality your organization needs to have the appropriate resources available. Develop a business model based on how much it actually costs to run the program effectively.
3. Follow-up after the event. Corporations want to know what was accomplished. NYRP sends statistics as well as before and after photos to participating corporations within five days of the event.
4. Know the quality of the sub-contractors with whom you work. They represent you. A bad experience with the transportation company or the food service reflects on your organization.
5. Integrate this program into your overall organization. Make sure your staff understands how this program fits in with your organizational mission and health. Educate staff about the corporations you are working with and where your missions intersect.
6. Your organization’s mission should shine through at these events. Help volunteers understand why this work is worthwhile.
7. Have fun. Do not show the strain involved in making it all go smoothly.
Contact Information
Drew Becher, Executive Director
New York Restoration Project
254 West 31st Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: (212) 333-2552
Fax: (212) 333-3886
(c) 2007 Alliance for Community Trees