How We Ran a Transformative Volunteer Event with Give to Get

One volunteer event transformed how we organize our biggest get-together of the year. And we weren’t sure we would be able to pull it off.

With the help of our friends at Give To Get, which organizes CSR events for companies, we not only pulled it off, but we learned quite a few tips and tricks along the way. 

So, in the same way we’ve reflected on lessons we learned about running corporate giving programs, enacting trust-based practices, and launching ERGs, we thought we’d take some time to reflect and share advice you can use today to run transformative volunteer programs.

An overview of a transformational volunteer event

Sales Kickoff (SKO) is a Submittable tradition where we bring people from across the company together to set the tone for the year. In 2024, we held SKO in our office at Bellevue. And, in addition to the presentations, reports, and seminars, we added a volunteer event. With the help of Give To Get, this volunteer event became the centerpiece of SKO 2024 and may just become a new tradition for us.

Katie Fisher, an executive assistant at Submittable, worked with Give To Get’s Linnea Malmstrom to organize the volunteer event. At the event, volunteers created child comfort kits for Wellspring Family Services which included volunteer-made teddy bears and hand-written notes from volunteers.

The volunteer event was a hit with employees and leadership alike. It was a huge mood boost for the participants and, anecdotally, there has been increased interest in volunteer events at Submittable. In other words, the experience stuck with employees in a way that our SKO keynote speaker Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth might describe as “transformational.”

When asked, Fisher says that we, “TOTALLY will do this again. I anticipate it being an element of all SKOs going forward.” We’re also exploring an ongoing relationship with Wellspring Family Services to see how Submittable employees can continue to help with their cause. 

One great volunteer experience changed how we plan our company’s most important event of the year. But there was a hitch: the logistics.

Event overview

  • When: January 10, 2024
  • What: Create child comfort kits for Wellspring Family Services, which helps homeless families get back on their feet. 
  • How: An “assembly line” for volunteers to stuff teddy bears, write notes, and put together child comfort kits.
  • Result: 85 volunteers created 150 child comfort kits including cards of support and teddy bears volunteers stuffed themselves.
  • Impact: A potential ongoing relationship between Submittable and Wellspring Family Services.

It almost didn’t happen (this year)

SKO is a ton of work to put together. The idea for a volunteer event arose from one employee late in the planning process, when many of the details for SKO were set in stone. If Give To Get hadn’t made it so easy for Fisher to organize, there’s a chance we might’ve waited until 2025 to start adding a volunteer event to SKO. 

“We weren’t immediately on board due to the administrative burden,” says Fisher. She says a bunch of questions arose that the SKO planning team had to answer very quickly:

  • Which nonprofit?
  • Where is the nonprofit located in the Seattle area?
  • How will we get people there?
  • Does the nonprofit have the facilities for all our employees?
  • Will employees even show up? 

Fisher summarizes these questions succinctly: “It wouldn’t have happened if we had to go to a nonprofit.” The logistics were too difficult to figure out in such a short amount of time.

Enter Linnea Malmstrom’s team from Give To Get. They took a “We’ll come to you” approach, sidestepping many of the concerns Fisher and her team had. With Give To Get’s help, Fisher got approval and slotted the volunteer event into the agenda. 

What we learned about running a transformative volunteering event

In the process of managing this volunteer event, Fisher learned a lot about what most CSR practitioners go through—everything from anxiety about whether people will actually show up to securing executive buy-in. Here are a few lessons she learned.

A little help helps everyone

Malmstrom’s team took on the bulk of the logistical work on behalf of both Submittable and Wellspring Family Services, serving as a much-needed bridge between two busy teams.

This bandwidth allowed Fisher to focus on communication strategy and driving up participation. Wellspring Family Services, meanwhile, didn’t have to do much at all. They received a shipment of child comfort kits the next day, with no effort on their part. 

This simplicity created a good foundation for an ongoing nonprofit-corporate partnership. Fisher says it’s potentially the start of an ongoing relationship between Submittable and Wellspring Family Services.

Takeaway: If you’re busy, it’s OK to turn to a volunteer event planning service for help (we recommend Give To Get after our seamless experience). In fact, this assistance may be key to creating a successful event for everyone involved.

Make it a true event

Fisher worked with Give To Get to schedule the volunteer event on Wednesday, smack-dab in the middle of SKO, to serve as the centerpiece for the week. She also folded it into the team happy hour and dinner that was already planned for that night. Scheduling the event so that it’s unavoidably the event of the week helped the event stick in peoples’ minds. 

The central timing made the volunteer event the anchor for the whole SKO week. There was a pre-volunteer event phase where everyone was arriving, and a post-volunteer event phase where everyone was settled into SKO and bonded over a shared experience.

Combining the volunteer event with an event people were already expecting and looking forward to—team happy hour and dinner—allowed Fisher to set a positive tone for her communications about the event. She describes it as, a “Check out this awesome thing we’re doing!” kind of message, versus “Can you please participate?”

Also, by making the volunteer event the event of the week, communications could also include some reassurance and light FOMO (fear of missing out). Brady Meltzer, chief revenue officer at Submittable, hosts SKO week. In his presentations leading up to the volunteer event, he was able to say variations of both “You won’t be alone, we’re all going,” and “You’ll be really missing out if you don’t go! It’ll be fun!”

Takeaway: To make the event stick in peoples’ minds, turn it into a true event–something to really look forward to.

Make it easy for executives to say yes

Executive buy-in for volunteer events (and, really, anything you need their say-so for) hinges on your ability to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. In the case of this volunteer event, Fisher worked with Give To Get to make it easy for Meltzer and other executives to say yes.  

Create budget buckets

Bake the cost of the event into existing initiatives if you can. This side steps budget concerns, which is important if you’re short on time and don’t want to wait for the finance team to crunch the numbers. 

Fisher says, “I covered administrative costs with my existing SKO budget,” and that “we covered the cost of the actual donated materials with Submittable’s annual giving budget.” The annual giving budget is pre-allocated through our Submittable Gives program.

Pre-empt logistics concerns

As we covered above, Give To Get had all the answers to FIsher’s tough logistical questions. Meltzer had the same questions as Fisher, and having a partner to help provide a clear plan helped assuage any concerns Meltzer had.

Give them something positive to own

Meltzer eventually became the prime promoter of the volunteer event, doing everything from daily reminders to standing on a chair at the event to kick it off. This arose, in part, out of the alignment between the volunteer event and his theme for SKO 2024: “Be the Difference.” It was clear to him that volunteering is an obvious way to help his overall message for SKO week to sink in.

This alignment helped create a sense of ownership over a truly positive event volunteers were excited about. And this sense of ownership can be infectious to other executives. The first group through the assembly line was the executive staff, setting the tone for the night.

Takeaway: The fewer details executives have to stress about, the more likely they are to buy into the idea and ultimately help make the event a success.

Make it super simple to participate

Participants shouldn’t be sweating the details for corporate volunteering events. Here’s how the Give To Get team, led by Malmstrom, worked with us to reduce participant burden and help volunteers focus on stuffing teddies and writing notes.


The volunteer event was hosted in a restaurant a few blocks away shortly after the day’s talks concluded. It was a quick walk from the office and the hotels, in contrast to a potential bus ride or an event people had to drive to on their own at a later point. Give To Get coordinated with the venue to set everything up inside the restaurant. All volunteers had to do was walk on over.

Clear steps

Give To Get created an assembly line with clear stages for people to follow. Everyone knew what was expected of them ahead of time just by looking at how the event was set up. This made the act of volunteering quick and easy. At no point was there a question of what to do next, where to go, or why.


A part of the child comfort kits were handwritten notes from the volunteers. If a volunteer was stuck on what to put in their notes, Give To Get provided prompts and suggestions to help them along. Malmstrom’s team was also on hand to help brainstorm ideas as well.


Give To Get organized a next-day delivery for the child comfort kits. This quick turnaround helped volunteers connect with the impact of their work. The teddy bears they stuffed weren’t going to sit on a shelf for a while, they were going into the arms of children the next morning. 

In addition, Give To Get provided an impact report two days after the event, further proving the actions of volunteers had a true impact.

Central digital home for the details

We used our own platform, Volunteer from Submittable, to house the signup process and all the details of the event. Volunteer provides a central location for volunteers to find events, find details about those events, and some employees, like those in an employee resource group (ERG), can even create their own.

You can learn more about Volunteer here. You may also be interested in our monthly live demo series, where we take you through a tour of the product and give you a chance to ask questions.

Takeaway: Making it easy on volunteers requires great partners, like Give To Get, and great technology, like Volunteer from Submittable.

A great feeling from beginning to end

What could’ve been a stressful addition to a high-profile event turned into a new tradition that gave everyone involved a warm, fuzzy feeling. Thanks to our friends at Give To Get, an initial feeling of “How are we doing to pull this off?” quickly turned into anticipation. And, the post-event glow was real. We’re still feeling it today.

You can learn more about Give To Get here. They were instrumental in helping us pull this event together on such short notice. 
We write and think a lot about transformative volunteering events and we aim to help you create one of your own. We make CSR tools designed to help you eliminate participant burden, so you can focus on making a truly memorable experience. Schedule a demo today to learn more.

Eric Thompson

Eric is a content marketing manager at Submittable with an interest in the future of technology, philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility. When not at work, you can find him running the trails around Missoula.