One question we often receive at the Center for Corporate Citizenship is how to increase employee involvement in corporate volunteerism programs. Center member Fidelity partners with Common Impact, a unique program that gives employees a chance to apply their professional expertise to a volunteer initiative. Dennis Duquette, Fidelity's Vice President of Community Relations, told us more about the program.
Volunteerism at Fidelity
Fidelity has a long and proud tradition of employee volunteerism. Fidelity employees volunteer with a wide variety of organizations, ranging from food banks to schools to other health and human service organizations. With 41,000 employees at ten regional operations centers across the United States and Canada, Fidelity is constantly striving to find innovative ways to expand their volunteer ranks and engage employees who are not participating in some of their existing volunteer activities.
Partnership with Common Impact
Knowing that not all employees are attracted to traditional volunteer opportunities, Fidelity wanted to find a way to give employees the chance to apply their professional expertise to a volunteer initiative. That's where Common Impact came in. Common Impact is a non-profit organization that partners with corporations such as Fidelity to create opportunities for skilled professionals to leverage their most valuable asset – their expertise – in service to the community.
Common Impact makes it easy for Fidelity and for its employee volunteers. Common Impact staff screen non-profits to ensure that Fidelity employees are matched with high-potential organizations with strong management. They plan and scope the projects, allowing Fidelity employee volunteers to get right to work and create demonstrable impact. They also manage the engagement, coordinating logistics, answering questions, and keeping the engagement moving. Duquette appreciates that, "it allows our people to have a very efficient, but very deep and meaningful volunteer experience."
The partnership with Common Impact has brought a new dimension to Fidelity's already strong volunteer program. Since the formalization of their partnership in 2004, dozens of Fidelity employees have worked on several projects through Common Impact, logging more than 1,000 volunteer hours.
Projects have ranged from creating fundraising, case management, and contact-management databases to website design and re-design. These projects have given Fidelity employee volunteers the opportunity to be involved with organizations working on a wide range of issues – homelessness, the environment, women's issues, elder care, and education.
It also allows Fidelity employees to volunteer without ever leaving work. Duquette explains, "Because of the nature of the types of projects that people do here through Common Impact, the lion's share of the volunteer work is done on Fidelity property, in a conference room where the team gets together and works on what they need to do."
A win-win-win situation
The Center for Corporate Citizenship defines a successful corporate employee volunteer program as one in which all three parties benefit – the non-profit, the employee, and the company. By that definition, Fidelity's partnership with Common Impact has certainly been a success.
Through Fidelity's partnership with Common Impact, non-profits are able to access skilled volunteers to help build effective programs, and are able to better pursue their missions.
Fidelity employee volunteers are able to give back by doing what they do well. They are given the opportunity to do work that they find personally rewarding, while developing new skills and refreshing old ones. A Fidelity volunteer explained, "I learned a lot from (other team members), from the backend to the programming and building of the (user interface). That is a reason I wanted to participate in the first place – I had done management, but the technical piece was great to get more expertise."
Employees also have the opportunity to meet new colleagues, learn from them, and engage with them in a different context. Fidelity employees regularly report that the Common Impact projects were good for team-building – allowing people who don't normally work together to come together in a different type of atmosphere. One Fidelity volunteer reported, "The project was good for internal team building. People worked together that don't normally, and did so in a different atmosphere. The roles we played on this project aren't necessarily the ones we do day to day."
Increased team-building, new employee skills, and increased employee morale are certainly a benefit to Fidelity. According to Duquette, "It's really a great development tool. For example, maybe somebody who doesn't typically manage becomes a project manager. It allows the employees to stretch their knowledge and their ability and perhaps help boost them professionally in the end because they get directly relevant experience they may not have gotten as quickly in the workplace."
» Learn more about Fidelity's volunteer programs.
» Learn more about Common Impact
» Learn more about volunteerism in our course, Enhancing and Improving Your Employee Volunteer Program