Mechanics Banks launches online volunteering 'match-up' programme

Source: Mechanics Bank

Just in time for National Volunteer Week, Mechanics Bank has enhanced its Community Partners Program with a new, specially designed online platform to help employees find more and better opportunities to volunteer with local nonprofit organizations.

The 106-year-old community bank worked with a popular online service that is used as a volunteer recruiting tool by more than 81,000 nonprofit organizations nationwide to design the customized platform.

"Even though we had already developed our own online system to allow nonprofits to request bank volunteers, our new platform gives us much more functionality," said Jean Yee, the Mechanics Bank Senior Vice President who led the project. "It also gives employees access to a wider range of opportunities to volunteer in the community. Connecting with our communities through volunteerism is a core part of the Bank's mission, and it was worth it to us to develop an optimal system."

The platform allows nonprofits to enter a request for both one-time and ongoing volunteer assistance. For example, they can request help staffing their special event, or detail the need for a skilled carpenter who can help repair or rehabilitate affordable housing. They can ask for volunteers to serve on their boards or in their gift shops. The volunteer recruitment system is open to any nonprofit, Mechanics Bank client or not.

When Mechanics Bank employees use the system to search for volunteer opportunities, they can look for requests that match their unique talents and interests in any geographic location, as well as respond to requests from Bank colleagues looking for help for a particular organization. "Highlighted" opportunities with Mechanics Bank clients and partner organizations will also be featured.

"We're excited that volunteers will have such a wide variety of opportunities from which to choose," said Yee. "And, both the Bank and employees will be able to track the hours employees spend on volunteering."

The new platform has been integrated into the Mechanics Bank Community Partners program, which offers local nonprofits a one-stop shop for requesting donations and sponsorships, learning about financial products specially designed to meet their needs, and a variety of other resources.

"This will enhance our ability to create more awareness of volunteer needs in general, and to specifically highlight the needs of our nonprofit clients," said Fernanda Rodrigues,

Mechanics Bank Vice President and Community Affairs Officer. "The ultimate goal is to introduce Bank employees to more organizations throughout the region."

A 2011 study by Independent Sector put the value of a volunteer's time in California at $25-$28.50 per hour, underlining the value they bring to nonprofits. "We are often told that, while big corporations may be able to give more money, the time that our employees donate is more important. Whether it's helping to organize their annual fundraising golf tournament or providing hands-on help with classroom and after-school activities, their generous donation of time multiplies the impact of nonprofits in our communities," Rodrigues said.

Kellie Hayes, Director of Development at Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA, agreed. According to Hayes, without the more than 500 volunteers who annually lend a hand there, the beloved East Bay institution wouldn't be able to function. "Volunteers are our backbone," she said. "The work they do ranges from taking care of orphaned and injured wildlife to providing environmental education for close to 25,000 school children per year. They serve as floor interpreters answering questions and providing information about our animal ambassadors, they participate in annual clean-up projects, and, critically, they help us raise the funds we need to operate."

Keaton Raphael Memorial, a nonprofit in the Sacramento area that supports children with cancer and their families, is another organization that illustrates how critical volunteers are to fulfilling a 'high touch' mission. "Because we don't have a 'brick and mortar' presence, our organization was built on volunteers from the inception—people that rallied around our vision of providing relief to families caught up in the stress of a child with cancer," said Robyn Raphael, executive director. "One of our biggest initiatives is a holiday adopt-a-family program. Great community partners such as Mechanics Bank provide an entire Christmas for one of 25 families in the holiday program each year, so parents don't have to spend their resources. Volunteers bake, decorate and provide a tree—it's a real, tangible way to get involved that money can't buy. What would we do without volunteers willing to do these things? We're incredibly grateful for the support of local businesses and individuals to make this happen."

Encouraging employee volunteerism is one of several ways Mechanics Bank supports local nonprofits. The Bank annually ranks among the region's top corporate philanthropists and last year donated 8.74% of its pretax income—more than any other organization among the top 25 on the San Francisco Business Times' list of the Top Corporate Philanthropists. But their greatest pride comes from the volunteerism of employees who work with more than one thousand of the estimated 10,000-12,000 nonprofits in its service area. To encourage this generous donation of time, the Bank provides each employee with a day-and-a-half of paid time off for volunteer activities. Bank-wide, that's the equivalent of more than two years of volunteer time.

Mechanics Bank CEO Steve Buster is quick to acknowledge that supporting local nonprofits is mutually beneficial. "A vibrant nonprofit sector supports the overall health and prosperity of the places where we do business," he said. "It also opens the door to new banking relationships, both with the nonprofits and their board members and volunteers." As evidence, he points to the over 800 nonprofits who have a business relationship with Mechanics Bank.

"However, that's not our primary reason for doing this," Buster said. "As a community partner we have an obligation to do more than just provide banking services. We provide added value by leveraging the good works of nonprofit organizations. In today's economic environment, that's more important than ever."

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