How to Launch a Successful Volunteer Program

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Here at Nitro, we have an innate spirit of philanthropy. We encourage—and enable—Nitronauts to give back to their respective communities.  Our Employee Experience team is committed to providing Nitronauts with the time, support, and freedom to work on the projects that are important to them. Nitro Gives, Nitro’s volunteer program, embodies this philanthropic sentiment and much more.

So, how does Nitro commit time and resources to philanthropic causes? We sat down with one of the Nitro Gives masterminds, Katie Horne, Manager of Employee Experience at Nitro, to get the scoop on how she, her team, and the rest of Nitro, make it all happen.

So Katie, how did Nitro Gives come to fruition?

“The idea started with our COO, Gina O’Reilly. She has always been a huge proponent of giving back to our community and was a great driver of our volunteering efforts. Previously, we would donate funds to different causes as an organization, but we felt like we could do more in tandem with those donations.

We found that most people are philanthropic at heart and would truly love to volunteer, but often they are balancing work and other commitments, which makes it hard to actually have the free time to give back. This obstacle actually served as the catalyst behind our program—giving Nitronauts the time and the assistance to give back to the causes we knew they cared about. We started Nitro Gives around the end of 2013 and since then, we have truly cultivated a ‘be good’ culture.”

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San Francisco Nitronauts in the halls of Burton High School.

 Can you tell us a little more about the Nitro Gives program?

“We started with a few important initiatives to launch the program: 5 days Volunteer Time Off (VTO) per year, up to $500 donation matching per employee per year, and up to $500,000/year in software license donations to education and non-profit orgs. Since then, the program has evolved to include education partnerships—we’ve partnered with Burton High School and San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi), and we donate computer equipment to the teachers and technology lab of Galileo High School.”

What can you tell us about the challenges you faced when implementing the program and how you dealt with those obstacles?

The biggest struggle of the program was getting people to actually remember that it’s available. Pretty simple, right? But we realized that it’s just not something people think about on a daily basis while they’re working.

To circumvent that issue, the Employee Experience team organizes large company outings—trips to food banks, beach cleanups, visits to shelters and more. We find that using our internal communication platforms (Chatter, Slack, etc.) to get the word out really helps to remind Nitronauts that they have an opportunity to make a difference.

Also, we recently implemented a global Nitro Gives committee to help organize and run initiatives and establish ambassadors for the program. This helps get people across all departments involved and invested in opportunities they’re passionate about.”

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Helping at Burton High School in SF on moving day.

What advice do you have for other companies that are trying to create a similar program? 

1. Find your company message. At Nitro, a core value of ours is to “be good,” and a large part of that involves helping others.

2. Get support from Executive and Management teams. Our executive team and managers are advocates for the program and take time out of their busy schedules to give back. They lead their teams by a great example.

3. Take Action. Half the battle is making time, and then taking action. It was clear that Nitronauts cared about philanthropy, but balancing work and life can make it difficult to act on the desire to serve. Offering VTO is a great first step in winning that battle, and partnering with local organizations to tap into causes that have a need in the community has helped immensely.

4. Rally Your Forces. Creating a committee gets all departments involved. Also, having monthly or bi-weekly meetings keeps the initiative fresh in your mind so that you don’t forget about the resources available to you.

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Nitronauties ran and raised funds for the VHI Women’s Mini-Marathon in Dublin.

The Nitro Gives program captures a few core values and practices that are essential to Nitro’s culture as an organization: environment (going paperless and improving productivity and efficiencies), education (always evolving), and community (be good/help others). We’ve had some great successes to date (check out our recent event here!), and we’re excited to share more of our ideas and initiatives throughout this year. Stay tuned!