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By Jaidyn Crookston | January 11, 2022 | 14 Minute Read

How Isabella Bank Gets All Employees to Volunteer with its Compassion Into Action Event

How Isabella Bank Gets All Employees to Volunteer with its Compassion Into Action Event
As a bank or credit union employee, you may be required to volunteer in your community each year. You love your community and want to volunteer, but there are just so many things on your plate right now. You’re busy helping customers/members, you have to go through another boring online training, and to top it all off, you have to pick your kids up from school and make peanut butter sandwiches with the crusts cut off. 
So when are you supposed to find time to volunteer? And where are you even supposed to volunteer in the first place? It’s not like anyone gave you a map or anything. 
This is how most of your bank or credit union employees feel. Your institution takes community involvement seriously, but employees struggle to find time to volunteer, and they often don’t know how to get involved
Isabella Bank has overcome this challenge by holding a company-wide volunteer day, called Compassion Into Action, where everyone has the opportunity to serve. Instead of wondering how they can make a difference, Isabella Bank employees know exactly how and when they can serve. 

Why Isabella Bank started Compassion Into Action

Like many other financial institutions, Isabella Bank struggled to get employees to volunteer. While the bank encouraged volunteerism and community engagement, there wasn’t a formal volunteer policy. The bank held various events throughout the year and posted about community volunteer opportunities on an intranet page, but there was no expectation around employee volunteerism. 
In 2017, Isabella Bank’s VP of Marketing, Jenn Brick, decided this should change. She knew Isabella Bank was using Kadince to track their community involvement loans, services, and investments, and she wanted to see more volunteer hours from bank employees. 
But encouraging employees to volunteer wasn’t easy. Isabella Bank has around 370 employees at any given time. These employees have multiple skill levels and preferences, and finding opportunities for everyone to volunteer throughout the year was challenging.  
That’s when Jenn thought of holding a company-wide volunteer day. They could cater to various employee abilities and preferences by having several volunteer options, they could help several different community organizations all at once, and best of all, this day of volunteering would allow every bank employee to make an impact. Jenn’s management team loved the idea, but the question was, when could they do it? 
For Isabella Bank, this answer wasn’t hard. The bank has always required employees to work on Columbus Day for mandatory training. Now, they decided to use this time for something different, a company-wide volunteer day that became known as Compassion Into Action
Employee response was immediately positive. Nobody loved this training day, but most of them were excited to spend this time volunteering in their communities. 
Jenn said the bank’s goal for this day of volunteering was to provide an opportunity for employees to give back to their communities and generate a large impact. And that’s exactly what happened. 
Like any new initiative, Compassion Into Action has evolved over the years. Jenn and her team have tried different approaches each year and narrowed it down to what works well and what doesn’t. 
Jenn said that one of their most recent successes is that only 2% of bank employees took a PTO day during Compassion Into Action this year so they wouldn’t have to participate. During the first event, 5% of employees took PTO. They didn’t know what to expect or were wary of their physical limitations. Almost all bank employees choose to participate, and this has become a highly anticipated event. 

How to hold your own successful volunteer day


How to prepare for the event

Jenn’s marketing team of four plans most of the event. They find community partners, organize volunteers into teams, order shirts and any necessary supplies, and cater lunch to all employees. 
One of the most challenging parts of planning this event is finding community partners. While there are dozens of potential partners in Isabella Bank’s community, many of them can’t accommodate so many volunteers or don’t have the correct availability. Jenn’s team makes sure to coordinate indoor and outdoor options so employees can choose events based on personal preference and physical capabilities. They also make sure to have backup plans in case any volunteer opportunities fall through.
Jenn knows how important it is for people to see Isabella Bank serving the community, so she orders shirts for each employee every year. Now everyone looks the same, and with Isabella Bank’s logo displayed on the shirt, it’s easy to see who is volunteering and making this impact. 
Once community partners have been chosen and service events planned, bank employees can sign up for the project they’d like. Jenn’s team aims to plan an event in each of the seven counties the bank serves so employees don’t have to drive far from home unless they want to. She said one downside to this whole event is that her team has to coordinate with seven different community partners and plan seven different events, which can be quite tricky. But in the end, Jenn said, it’s definitely worth it.  
There are a limited number of spots available for each volunteer event, so occasionally, the marketing team has to coordinate with employees to make sure people who need to attend a specific event for various physical reasons are able to. Jenn said they haven’t had many problems with this, and employees have been willing to switch to another project when necessary. 
Jenn has found that most community partners have the funds and supplies they need for a particular project and are just missing the bodies to complete that project. This is where Isabella Bank employees come in. In the past, the bank has purchased gloves, paintbrushes, and a chain saw for employees to use. Isabella Bank employees don’t typically need many supplies for this volunteer day, but Jenn sets some money aside just in case. 

What to do during the event

Each year, this Compassion Into Action day has gotten bigger, and more service projects have been organized. In 2017, Isabella Bank started with two community partners. They found there were too many people in one place trying to work together, so more partners have been added each following year. During this last event, the bank worked with seven different community partners. 
Here are some of the projects Isabella Bank has done over the years:

  • Laid mulch in a playground area
  • Decorated paper lunch bags for schools and filled them with food
  • Folded laundry for an organization that provides clothes to people during job interviews
  • Painted tiles for Habitat for Humanity, put them together, and packaged them up
  • Worked with a food pantry to put bags together 
When the day arrives, each employee meets at their respective project site at 9:00 in the morning. Everyone comes in their gear, and the sea of t-shirts is a sight to behold. There’s a brief safety meeting before the project begins, and then everyone gets to work. 
Each team has until 4:00 pm to complete their project, but they just work until it’s done. Most teams finish up around 3:00 or even a little earlier, and no team has ever taken until 4:00 to finish. Food is catered to each group for lunch, and water is provided throughout the day. One of Jenn’s goals is to make sure each team has fun. This may be a day for manual labor and volunteerism, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. 
The bank’s management team also participates in the service projects, with at least one team member helping out at each service area. The bank hires a videographer to document each group’s progress. This videographer travels between locations to take pictures and shoot videos. 
Jenn said that several of the community partners have expressed surprise at how much the team was able to accomplish. These community organizations don’t always expect bankers to be good at manual labor, but these bankers sure prove them wrong year after year. 
At the end of the project, everyone goes home and enjoys the rest of their day! 

What to do after the event

Share your story
Remember that videographer running around from group to group? Now it’s time to share the final product with your customers/members, employees, and social media followers. Isabella Bank shares the final video within a week of the Compassion Into Action event, because Jenn knows community interest will fade if they wait too long. They send the video to their customers through email, post it on social media, and share it internally. This is how they share their story and generate interest in the Compassion Into Action program. 
Get feedback
After the event, Jenn asks for feedback from employees and their community partners. She wants to know what employees did and didn’t like about each event, what they would change, any future requests, etc. And she wants to know whether Isabella Bank has met each community partner’s expectations and if there’s anything they could have done better. Each year, Jenn has received almost entirely positive feedback. 
Log volunteer hours
It’s also very important to log all employee volunteer hours. These volunteer hours are for your bank’s records and for any potential CRA credit you might receive. Isabella Bank uses Kadince to log hours.
With over 370 employees, you’d think it would be difficult to log all these hours. But for Isabella Bank, it’s easy. Jenn just creates a separate form for Compassion Into Action and prefills several fields. Because she already knows who was there, she’s able to quickly and easily load these volunteer hours into the Kadince system. 
Tracking volunteer hours this way allows Jenn to keep all these hours separate from their normal volunteer hours. She can share these hours with CRA examiners or executive board members. 
While Isabella Bank tries to get some CRA credit during this event, most hours don’t end up counting. It’s hard to match a banker’s job to putting benches together and building playgrounds. That doesn’t stop Isabella Bank from doing everything it can to impact the community and make a difference, CRA credit or not. 

Tips for running your own event

Here are some of Jenn’s tips for running your own event:

1. Figure out what your goals are

If you’re going to start an event similar to Compassion Into Action, it’s important to be very clear about what you want to accomplish and who it will affect. Jenn suggests talking with your management team and asking what their goals are. Make sure everyone is on the same page before moving any further. 

2. Prepare for all types of weather

This is a big one. One of the first Compassion Into Action projects was disrupted because of severe flooding. And for the entire week leading up to the latest event, it rained heavily. This might have been cause for concern, but Jenn wasn’t worried because they had planned backup indoor projects. Luckily for them, the day of the event was sunny, and those backup plans weren’t needed. But Jenn is very glad she had them. 

3. Always have a backup plan

Weather isn’t the only thing that may disrupt a service project. Indoor projects can also be ruined for various reasons. This is why every event should have a backup plan ready. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but you sure will be glad to have it if you do.  

4. Use Kadince to track all employee volunteer hours

According to Jenn, “Kadince is key” when logging volunteer hours. Instead of your employees having to manually fill out and submit a form (and more than likely forgetting to do so), you can do it for them quickly and easily. These volunteer hours are automatically logged in Kadince, so you can see exactly how many hours your institution has at any given time. Plus, you can see who volunteered, where they volunteered, and for how long, all at a glance. 
To learn more about Kadince, schedule a personalized demo. And to learn more about Isabella Bank’s Compassion Into Action event, watch our recorded webinar. If your bank or credit union struggles to get employees to volunteer, a company-wide volunteer day may be just what you need!  
The ideas in this article came from our webinar with Jenn Brick, VP of Marketing at Isabella Bank. You can view the webinar recording here.

None of Kadince, Inc., its affiliates, or its respective employees, directors, officers, and agents (collectively, “Kadince”) are responsible or liable for any content or information incorporated herein. Read full disclosure.

Jaidyn Crookston | Content Manager, Kadince

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