How to Plan a Service Day You and Your Nonprofit Partner Will Love

Oct 14, 2016 2:55 PM ET

In honor of VM Summit 16, which is all about corporate/ nonprofit collaboration, this series of volunteerism-related blog posts will take one topic and explain how it’s relevant to both groups. Today’s topic? Planning a Successful Day of Service. Check out our other blog, Engaging Volunteers, for the same topic from the perspective of nonprofit volunteer managers.

Despite new trends in corporate volunteering, the classic “Day of Service” remains popular among companies. This is when large groups of employees get out of the office to work on one or more volunteer projects in their communities.

Why is it popular? Well, it’s great for team-building, exposes employees to new causes, and is usually pretty fun. It’s also GREAT for photo opps.

How do you ensure the planning of your company’s day of service goes smoothly?

To help answer this question, we turned to Jaci Feinstein, Vice President of Right Hand Events—a full-service event planning and meeting management agency. Jaci also serves as Founder and Board Chair for HandsOn San Diego. In short, she knows her stuff when it comes to planning successful days of service.

The following is a combination of what Jaci had to say, along with VolunteerMatch’s own insights, gathered from years of working with companies and nonprofits on their volunteer programs.

Let’s start with something that may not be as obvious as it seems: Not all nonprofits can benefit from a service day. This is important. It’s so important we’ll say it again: Not all nonprofits can benefit from a day of service.

What should you consider when finding the right nonprofit partner? Well, you’ll want to align your service day with your corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. Does your company work in the financial sector? Consider a day of financial literacy training.

That’s a straightforward example, but it doesn’t have to be that cut-and-dried. Is your company proud of its commitment to diversity? Many nonprofits work to combat racism, sexism, and other institutionalized discrimination in their communities; perhaps you could consider partnering with one of them? Here’s a great example of a recent—and creative—partnership between Capital One and Black Girls Code.

“It may take time to find the right partner/ beneficiary,” says Jaci. “Plan ahead and give both yourselves and the organization plenty of time to plan.”

Still having trouble finding the right nonprofit partner? You have a few options. Local volunteer centers can help, and many will assist with the organization and management of your event for a fee. You can also turn to the VolunteerMatch Network, which has over 100,000 vetted volunteer opportunities across the U.S. on any given day, many of which are suitable for groups.

Get started with a simple search on, or learn about VolunteerMatch’s award-winningrange of solutions for employee volunteer programs.

Though you may be eager to get started, an initial time investment will pay off in the long run. Remember: the planning process includes open and deliberate communication between you and your nonprofit partner. Ask a lot of questions to ensure you have the same expectations for the day.

“Don’t commit to more than you can handle,” reminds Jaci.

It’s also important to remember your budget. Even though you’re giving your time for “free”, there are still costs involved. You may need to provide supplies, or even opt for event management support. Talk openly with your nonprofit partner to ensure nothing unexpected pops up last-minute. Remember internal costs, too, such as promotional collateral or t-shirts.

Finally, you can’t do this without your employees. In addition to gathering feedback from your nonprofit partner, you need to be diligent about promoting your service day to your employees. For inspiration, check out how VolunteerMatch’s partner Hagerty spreads the word about their volunteer program.

Our last, and perhaps most important, piece of advice? Jaci sums it up perfectly: “Leave the nonprofit better than when you arrived.”