WePledge has empowered employees at Twilio to radically improve their communities by donating 1% of their time and resources to causes they care about. But being a force for good has looked different this year. 2020 has been challenging for many, making it even harder to fit philanthropy into everyday life.
That challenge was front and center for our Employee Impact team as we planned our Global Week of Service — an annual event for Twilions across the world to come together and volunteer in their communities. We knew we’d be contending not only with a global pandemic, but also election anxiety, the challenges caregivers are facing supporting children or loved ones, video conferencing burnout, and general year-end exhaustion. This meant we needed to reimagine the event and how we promoted it entirely.
And reimagine it, we did. Twilio volunteers, nearly 1,700 strong, showed us that while volunteering in a pandemic might not look like the familiar painting fences at a park or serving lunch at a homeless shelter, there are still incredible opportunities to enact meaningful change.
If you’re planning a similar virtual event, here’s the skinny on what we learned and the five tips we’d recommend for making it a success!
Offer a variety of virtual events
Ensure you have breadth and depth of available engagements by considering the personas of people participating in your week of service and meeting them where they are. We tried to provide a wide variety of opportunities and made them easily searchable by tagging with key words aligned to our employees interests and preferences (team friendly, zoom-free, 30-min or less, family-friendly, pro bono, etc). This allowed us to virtually connect over 1,700 employees with 115 nonprofit organizations during Global Week of Service.
Leverage pro bono volunteerism
If our week of service taught us anything, it's that you can still make a BIG impact virtually. We saw this come to life in our partnerships with Taproot and Fast Forward, supporting 77 nonprofit partners and grantees in pro bono opportunities. Volunteers were much more likely to sign up for pro bono projects once they understood the scale of impact they could have. Focus on sharing nonprofit stories and clearly articulating the challenges they’re facing. The virtual nature of our service week meant more Twilions in any geography could support the nonprofit community using their skills, leading to Twilions contributing over 1,500 hours of high value volunteer time.
Incorporate creative engagement strategies
The accessibility of virtual volunteering is unbeatable — volunteers have the opportunity to transform their global and local communities without leaving the comfort of their own homes! In fact, 26% of our participants joined more than one volunteer event. Differentiating these volunteer opportunities from the daily grind of meetings was key to making that happen. Recruit event hosts to greet volunteers and introduce nonprofits, equip them with icebreaker ideas, create collaborative playlists for events, or take it a step further and hire a live DJ! These tweaks bolstered the energy in our volunteer events, but of course, we also recommend keeping the video portion short and sweet when possible.
Get your leadership on board
Leadership support is even more critical during times like these. Not only people managers, but site leaders, ERG leaders and any other people of influence who can be leveraged to amplify your message. Employees want to be explicitly encouraged to participate, and many also want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. By providing messaging to leaders early on and sharing targeted volunteer opportunities that aligned to skills, interests and geographies of specific groups, we saw bumps in participation rates.
Broaden your definition of volunteerism
Even with the best strategies for engagement in place, some folks won’t be able to participate. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to! If scaling participation is one of your goals, consider expanding the definition of volunteering to include options like making a donation, committing an act of kindness, or encouraging learning opportunities like incorporating a new sustainable habit or enrolling in a nonprofit info session. This small adjustment for the week can mean including a group of people who genuinely want to be involved, and at Twilio it led to an additional $50k in donations going to charity.
While there is still plenty to learn about engagement in a remote work environment, we are so grateful to our nonprofit partners who continue to reimagine the volunteer space every day. Below are just a few of the organizations that helped make our Global Week of Service a success.
If you’re looking for ideas, here’s a list to get you started:
- Be My Eyes. Sighted volunteers connect with blind or low vision individuals via the Be My Eyes app to help folks with everyday tasks and create a more accessible world.
- CareerVillage. Providing career advice to students around the world - as teams, as individuals, gamified or passive.
- Defy Colorado. Providing career guidance and opportunities to incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals through programming and videos.
- Fast Forward. 3 hour pro bono consultations with nonprofits, as well as speed-mentoring sessions, a Twilion favorite.
- HIAS. Resume review and mock interviews supporting immigrants and asylum seekers as they enter the U.S. workforce.
- Ovio. Contributing to open source tech projects across the globe supporting the UN Sustainable Development goals.
- Taproot Foundation. Week long pro bono sprints focused on capacity building projects for nonprofit partners and grantees.
- Tarjimly. Contributing to document translation for nonprofits, and eliminating language barriers for refugees, immigrants, health workers and humanitarians.
- The Trevor Project. Researching the LGBTQ+ programming available at U.S. high schools to support young teens in crisis.
- United Way. United Way chapters operate independently, but our partnerships with Mile High United Way and Fundación United Way España lead to many scalable, meaningful and local opportunities for regional teams.
WePledge is open to everyone. Join the movement for global good! And if you take the pledge before December 31st, you can select an organization to receive a $100 donation from Twilio's donor advised fund.