Aligning Service with Corporate Values to More Effectively Manage Employee Volunteer Programs

May 18, 2017
Members of the Hands On Manila board of trustees with founder Gianna Montinola (center) at the 2016 Servathon. From left: Pilar Martinez-Miranda, Nicole Olbes-Fandino, Patrice Montemayor-Tan, Gianna Montinola, Lizette Cojuangco, Alice Streegan-Cruz and Gina Africa-Aboitiz.

With the increasing importance of employee volunteer programs comes an increasing demand by companies for external support and infrastructure to help align event programming with company values. While companies see value in providing opportunities for employees to give back, the logistics and resources required to run successful employee volunteer programs can be an obstacle for companies that are just getting started. Volunteer centers are powerful tools in this sphere, and Hands On Manila, a Points of Light global affiliate, has emerged as a leader in helping companies build their employee volunteer programs.

Hands On Manila, established in 2001, was the first international member of the HandsOn Network. Founder Gianna Montinola saw value in the organizational model of HandsOn Network volunteer centers, particularly the ability to engage average citizens with minimal free time in convenient opportunities to serve their communities.

Since its founding, Hands On Manila has connected more than 26,000 groups and individuals with high-impact service projects across 270 NGOs, earning its reputation as a comprehensive central hub of volunteer opportunities in the Philippines.

The organization does this in two ways. Hands On Manila manages volunteer recruitment for programs such as Galing Mo Kid, which pairs mentors with high-achieving 4th-, 5th- and 6th-grade students in Metro Manila public schools. The organization also manages corporate activation events like the annual Servathon, during which companies engage their employees to support and improve communities. In 2016, Hands on Manila partnered with 30 companies for Servathon, engaging 1,170 volunteers who served a combined total of 8,020 hours assembling “eco bags” that contained slippers, mosquito traps, solar light bulbs and citronella candles, to be distributed to disadvantaged citizens in Manila.

A Convergys employee leads a group of students in a project at Kapitan Jose Cardones Memorial Elementary School in Taguig, Philippines.

Convergys, a global leader in customer management, is one of 70 companies that have partnered with Hands On Manila for employee volunteer initiatives. Interested in engaging its Filipino employees in service to support the company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Convergys turned to Hands On Manila – the goal being to develop a program that would improve access to lifelong learning and employment opportunities for Filipino citizens.

To coordinate this, Hands On Manila connected Convergys with opportunities to support the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System by tutoring out-of-school youth and adults. The ALS provides pre-requisite courses and accreditation exams so that students can receive diplomas and get back on-track with their education or seek employment opportunities.

Public school education is a major focus of both Hands On Manila and the general population of the Philippines. 

“I firmly believe that education in whatever form it is, may it be ALS or formal education – it’s really a great equalizer,” Gianna said. She added that in a developing country like the Philippines, there is great value placed on the private sector stepping in to provide support in areas where the government has difficulty keeping up.

Convergys’ employee volunteers visit schools in the Philippines to provide youth and adults with education and training, often geared toward helping them gain employment.

Convergys employees volunteer as tutors and mentors to the students, teaching them English and the basics of Microsoft Office and mentoring them in employment-focused skillsets, like job interviews. Hands On Manila coordinates the tutoring and mentoring sessions, finding spaces for volunteer and student to meet and managing the volunteers’ schedules.

Hands On Manila is an ideal partner for Convergys because its connections to available service opportunities and resources allow the organization to customize the volunteer experience to meet the company’s requirements and manage any logistical challenges that may arise.

“Hands On Manila sort of has developed a niche in the Philippines because we customize the volunteer activities depending on what the corporations want,” said Gianna. In the case of Convergys, the focus was education; Hands On Manila customized the experience by finding students at schools in convenient locations for Convergys’ employees.

The partnership between Hands On Manila and Convergys is featured in a recent Points of Light report, “What’s Working: Effective Employee Volunteering in Asia,” as one example of the ways companies can work with community partners to develop critical measures for success, including finding an appropriate match for employee interests. Success, in this case, can be gleaned from the responses of the employee volunteers who were able to feel the immediate impact of their efforts.

“As both a tutor and mentor, I helped less-privileged students meet their goals,” said volunteer Ruter Agali, a Convergys support associate. “Who knows, I might be mentoring Convergys’ workforce of the future.”

Hands On Manila and Convergys are two of many organizations worldwide that are forming partnerships to help bolster and more effectively leverage employee volunteer programs. Their relationship illuminates the impact that intentional collaborations between private companies and NGOs can have when organizations work toward shared goals.

Robert Montgomery