Volunteerism Knows No Bounds

Every day, all over the world, tens of thousands of corporate employees volunteer their time, talent and energy to make a difference in the world. The practice of offering corporate volunteer programs has grown from a “nice-to- do” community relations effort into a globally recognized strategic asset that benefits society, the employees who volunteer, and the companies that encourage and support their work.

A 2015 study conducted by America’s Charities revealed that volunteerism is the core around which companies are building employee engagement strategies and programs. Volunteerism has become the onramp to full employee engagement and is highly valued by today’s senior corporate leaders.

Companies see the tangible benefits that volunteer programs bring such as increased commitment, stronger teamwork, higher employee morale, and stronger corporate brand and reputation. Recognizing the benefits of corporate volunteer programs, companies are looking for ideas and opportunities to take them to employees at all locations throughout the world.

While there are unique challenges to conducting an international volunteer program, the benefits far exceed the challenges. Many companies are overcoming the challenges and implementing effective global volunteer programs. Today, I want to offer some practical ideas to engage international employees in volunteer efforts.

Think Global, Volunteer Local

There are many opportunities to engage global employees in volunteer activities. The key is to think global but volunteer local. Adapt what you are currently doing within the U.S. to locations around the world. Be aware of cultural differences but keep in mind, most programs will resonate globally.

Here are some examples of what companies are doing to take their programs beyond borders and around the globe.

Establish local committees in key locations

around the world to identify and support volunteer projects. Employees act as ambassadors by encouraging other employees to participate. Use existing employee organizations such as affinity groups to help identify volunteer projects. Many of these groups already engage in volunteerism in their particular area of interest. Use these groups to provide a leadership structure and communications network to assist in promoting volunteerism.

International Volunteerism Good Done Great

Implement Global Days of Service

– these are becoming more common. Companies will designate time where employees unite with their colleagues in a company-wide initiative. These events can be one day or spread out over a week or a month. It is best for global companies to support a longer period of time where employees can engage to allow for flexibility and to accommodate the needs and culture of the local offices. According to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) about 30 percent of companies offer a company-wide Day of Service internationally.

General Mills conducts a global service initiative around Earth Day. The initiative focuses on hunger, nutrition and sustainability, and environmental community projects. In 2015, more than 2,000 General Mills employees from 60 locations around the world volunteered more than 10,000 hours in their communities.

Use volunteer activities to support corporate philanthropic focus areas.

Ashland has a giving pillar around education. In Latin America, Ashland employees partner with a local school to provide mentors, tutors, and other volunteers. In China, a similar program exists where employees are teamed with migrant and other schools to support classrooms and innovation labs. Ashland has found that global employees like having an opportunity to be involved and feel they are making a difference by tying their volunteer service back to the company and its core focus areas.

Do virtual or onsite volunteer projects.

Partner with a local NGO to identify a specific project such as building hygiene or birthing kits that could be done at the workplace.

Utilize technology

as a key component of global volunteer programs. Make sure your platform is robust and supports the identification and promotion of employee volunteer projects. It is also a good idea to create online opportunities for employees to share their personal stories about volunteer opportunities. Technology can also help recognize and reward employees for their team and individual volunteer efforts.

International volunteering is on the rise which means additional opportunities to make an impact beyond just the giving of dollars. Companies need it, employees want it and NGOs welcome it.

Water, Water, Everywhere?

According to the UN, 663 million people are without clean drinking water. Although from 1990 to 2015, the proportion of the global population drinking from an improved water source increased from 76% to 91%, each day, nearly 1000 children die from preventable water and sanitation related diseases. The lack of clean drinking water impacts employment choices, food security, and educational opportunities. Furthermore, in drought-affected areas, individuals may suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Today, Tuesday, March 22, is World Water Day, a day designated by the United Nations in 1993. On this day, we honor water and its life-saving properties. We also advocate for those individuals throughout the world who do not have access to clean, potable water. Today is also a day to ensure that our waterways are protected in the future for generations to come.

Each year the UN declares a theme to address a particular water related issue. Last year’s theme was “Water and Jobs.” This theme focused on the 1.5 billion people that depend upon water for work. This year, the UN’s focus is wastewater.

Over 80% of the wastewater released from companies, homes, and towns enter nature and pollute our environment. We need to treat wastewater prior to its release back into the environment. Furthermore, we must work to reduce the quantity of wastewater.

In order to address the water crisis, it is important to unite as a global community. The United Nations released the Sustainable Development Goals in September of 2015. Goal number six is to “ensure access to water and sanitation for all” with six corresponding targets. Corporations around the world are uniting behind these Sustainable Development Goals through Impact 2030.

Today, we highlight three corporations that are driving sustainable change in protecting water resources and educating consumers on the global water shortage.

Nestle Waters North America

Globally, Nestle created global water goals including: reducing water usage, improving water efficiency, controlling quality of discharged water, advocating for better water practices within Nestle and in their supply chain, and promoting water conservation.

Nestle partners with non-profit organizations to conserve fish, improve wetlands, and educate youth on the importance of conservation.


In 2007, Coca-Cola set a goal to “safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equal to what they use in their finished beverages and their production.”  

Between 2005 and the end of 2014, Coca-Cola replenished 153.6 billion liters of water to communities and nature. They work with the government and other partners to develop community water projects. These projects have at least one of four objectives:

1) “Improve safe access to water and sanitation”

2) “Protect watersheds”

3) “Provide water for productive use”

4) “Educate and raise awareness about water issues”

CocaCola Water Stewardship

Keurig Green Mountain

Keurig Green Mountain focuses on evaluating how water impacts their entire value chain. In 2014, they invested over $11 million in water partnerships with both American and global non-profit organizations to promote water security.

This World Water Day, take a moment to stop and think about your water usage and how you can contribute to SDG #6! Use #WorldWaterDay to join the conversation on Twitter!

From Detroit to Burma: The Story of a Clean Birth Kit

As a tech-enabled CSR company that prioritizes strategy first, many of our clients approach us expressing their desire to go global with their corporate philanthropy programs. And who wouldn’t? With a global CSR program, you can expand your company’s impact beyond your home state or national boundaries to include countries in which you do business and your employees live.

Naturally, expanding your programs internationally unfolds a plethora of challenges including: vetting international NGOs, disbursing funds, and complying with national laws. You aren’t alone if you haven’t determined how to plow through the murky waters of global CSR. According to the 2013 Giving Beyond Borders study, 50% of corporations indicated a need for vetting services. Furthermore, 46% indicated a need for a global employee engagement strategy. In order for your programs to prove successful, you must demonstrate the business value of your philanthropic donations. Furthermore, protecting your brand is crucial when donating to nonprofit organizations in the deepest, darkest corners of the world.

Read the full article. 

Go Global Part Two: International Vetting and Compliance

Last week on our 411 on International Giving post, we covered how one goes about setting a strategy for a global CSR program. Today in part two, we will address the other major concern that the 2013 Giving Beyond Borders study raised as being of significant concern to those embarking on developing an international employee engagement program.


After mastering international employee engagement program design and implementation, the next step is to determine how to perform international vetting and disbursements. The following recommendations are for companies who are disbursing funds from the USA.

According to the study conducted by LBG Associates:

  • 43% of companies surveyed utilize both company resources and vendor resources to perform vetting.
  • 39% of companies utilize the vendor only to perform vetting.
  •  18% of companies rely solely upon themselves to perform vetting.

This statistic is not surprising, as vetting international organizations is expensive and time intensive. Imagine the difficulties in communicating in a foreign language with a small NGO in a remote area of the world. They may not have an Executive Director or contact listed on their website, or even a website for that matter! You can attempt to contact them via postal mail, but your multiple attempts may go unanswered.

International Corporate Giving

Several companies utilize workaround solutions in order to avoid the hassle and expense of international vetting by implementing lower standards for vetting volunteer or matching gift donations. Some companies only allow employees to donate to non-profits supported by the corporate grant program. Lastly, some companies will only work with US 501(c)(3)s that have an international program or affiliates.

Depending upon your corporate structure, you may only need to comply with certain laws. If your CSR department is a corporate foundation, you must complete equivalency determinations for each international non-profit you wish to support. This process determines the non-profit’s equivalent status in the United States and maintains the corporate foundation’s charitable status.            

If your CSR giving is solely corporate contributions, you must concern yourself with FCPA (Foreign Foreign Corrupt Practices ActCorrupt Practices Act). Compliance with FCPA ensures that the recipient organization is a NGO and prevents bribery or other illegal activities. And don’t forget Patriot Act compliance! This ensures that your corporate dollars do not support terrorist organizations.

You may need support in completing these processes, and a variety of partners exist to assist you in ensuring that you are abiding by these laws. TechSoup Global is a non-profit with an international network of NGOs that provides technology and other services to the social sector. TechSoup offers two services for vetting international NGOs including NGOSource and NGOk. NGOSource is a membership service and provides members with a database of Equivalency Determinations. NGOk is global validation service ensuring that an organization is recognized as an NGO in their country of origin.

GlobalGiving is yet another organization which provides vetting services. This non-profit organization has boots on the ground in the most remote areas of the world performing vetting at both the project level and organization level. With this type of service, you can ensure that the non-profit organization is fully compliant with national/international law and corporate goals.

Global Giving International Vetting

No one said going global would be easy, but with the proper support from partner organizations and your international staff, you can ensure that your programs will be a success from design to implementation. Imagine your global philanthropy impact!


Go Global: The 411 on International Corporate Giving

After mastering domestic employee and community engagement programs, the natural next step is to expand abroad. With a global CSR program, you can expand your company’s impact beyond your home state or national boundaries to include your international employees’ communities. Imagine the global philanthropic story you can tell by utilizing the skills of your entire employee population while addressing community challenges around the world!

Expanding internationally does provide a plethora of challenges including vetting of international NGOs, disbursements of funds, and compliance with national laws. Furthermore, managing a global CSR program with tens, or hundreds of thousands of employees is challenging especially if you are unfamiliar with the languages and cultures.

According to the 2013 Giving Beyond Borders study conducted by the Lilly School of Philanthropy,

  • 46% of corporations indicated a need for a global employee engagement strategy
  • 50% of corporations indicated a need for vetting services

In this two part series, Good Done Great will highlight each of these challenges and offer suggestions and insights into how to master them.


Prior to implementing any formal employee or community engagement program, you must evaluate the country’s cultural opinions on volunteering and service. Traditionally, Americans are naturally philanthropic either donating, volunteering, or performing random acts of kindness. However, in other countries, this is not always the common practice or the attitudes about doing these things in the workplace are different.

A study conducted by LBG Associates collected data from 36 multinational companies surrounding their experiences in launching global employee engagement programs. This study indicated that matching gifts, workplace giving, and volunteerism are viewed as benefits similar to vacation time or insurance. This stance indicates that corporate philanthropy is not a priority, or at the core of the business.

Consider these various viewpoints of volunteerism:

  • Employee A: “It’s not the company’s business if I volunteer. Volunteerism is personal and shouldn’t be associated with corporate programs.”
  • Employee B: “Volunteering should only be associated with church-related initiatives.”
  • Employee C: “The government should take care of its citizens.” (Brazilians often view volunteerism as such; however, they are apt to volunteer in instances where the government fails to intercede.)
  • Employee C: “If I volunteer on company time, my manager may look down upon me, and it may hurt job performance.”

Surveying and understanding employee viewpoints on volunteerism will impact program design and even whether a program is viable. Consult with employees, customers, and other stakeholders to determine social values prior to program launch.

Global CSR Solution Good Done Great

In addition to understanding employee opinions on giving back, managing a global program is challenging and will require collaboration. Consider implementing a volunteer council to lessen your workload. Their position in-country will provide invaluable insights into program design, implementation, and success. Host regular online meetings and plan to meet in person at least once a year for a brainstorming session.

Don’t allow differing viewpoints on philanthropy to prevent you from going global! As long as you take into account cultural differences prior to program launch, you will succeed in launching a global CSR program which will provide a holistic view of your company’s philanthropic story.