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How to successfully kick off your employee volunteer program

June 07, 2021
Volunteers bonding after environmental cleanup at a public park as part of an employee volunteer program.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are popular among corporations nationwide. These initiatives help businesses make changes and take part in activities that have a positive impact on the world.

Employee volunteer programs are one of the most popular types of CSR initiatives. In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of these volunteer programs and how your business can start its own. We’ll cover these ideas in the following sections:

  • What are employee volunteer programs?
  • What are the benefits of employee volunteer programs?
  • What are the steps for starting an employee volunteer program?
  • How can businesses encourage engagement in employee volunteer programs?

Before creating an employee volunteer program, you’ll need a clear understanding of what these programs are. Let’s get started.

What are employee volunteer programs?

Employee volunteer programs are a type of corporate philanthropy in which businesses encourage their employees to engage in volunteer work. Typically, businesses organize these volunteer opportunities around their employees’ interests and use incentive programs and volunteer grants to motivate employees to participate. For example, many companies offer volunteer time off, a paid day off of work where the entire company goes to volunteer together.

Employee volunteer programs are also called workplace volunteer programs, corporate volunteer programs, or company volunteer programs. These programs support a company’s larger corporate social responsibility or community engagement program. Businesses may have specific reasons for building employee volunteering programs such as establishing a positive brand reputation or improving employee engagement.

What are the benefits of employee volunteer programs?

As the demand for businesses to give back to their communities grows, employee volunteer programs are becoming more important. Employers often have the resources to make a larger impact than individual volunteers because of the number of employees they can deploy to specific causes. Not only are employee volunteer programs great for your community, but they are also in the company’s best interest.

Employee volunteer programs can benefit your company by:

  • Improving corporate brand image on local, national, and international levels.
  • Strengthening relationships with key stakeholders in your community as well as your employees.
  • Increasing company loyalty and employee morale by providing employees with team-building opportunities.
  • Boosting employee engagement and productivity by giving employees an outlet to get out of the office and break up their work schedules.
  • Making the company more attractive to Millennial and Gen Z job seekers, who highly value employers who give back.

With a robust employee volunteer program, you can make improvements to several different areas of your company at once. When combined with the social benefits you can have on your community, starting a corporate giving program makes a positive impact on your employees, your business, and your customers.

What are the steps for starting an employee volunteer program?

Investing in a new employee volunteer program can feel overwhelming at times. Creating a step-by-step plan that outlines the process succinctly ensures every consideration is taken into account without becoming unwieldy. 

For example, you’ll need to identify the right employees to target, make sure the program fits your organization’s needs, set goals, get executive approval, and more. There’s so much that goes into starting an employee volunteer program, all before the program even kicks off.

Use these ten steps to shape your program planning process:

  1. Define a focus that aligns with employee and company values.
  2. Tailor the program to fit your company’s needs.
  3. Create achievable, measurable goals.
  4. Create a pitch to get leadership buy-in and budget access.
  5. Prepare to convince objectors. 
  6. Get support from company leadership to kick off employee participation.
  7. Survey employees on their expectations and needs to create a meaningful experience.
  8. Communicate with employees via email, meetings, and social media.
  9. Integrate volunteerism into your company culture.
  10. Set quarterly milestones to check engagement measurements and connect with stakeholders.

During the process of launching an employee volunteer program, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. Use these steps to guide the process, and return to them if things start to go off track.

How can businesses encourage engagement in employee volunteer programs?

For employee volunteer programs to be successful, you’ll need to encourage your employees to participate. There are several ways your business can increase employee volunteering, such as:

  • Creating accessible opportunities. Your employees want to contribute their time to a worthy cause, so it’s up to your business to identify those opportunities. These opportunities should be accessible to everyone on your team, no matter their skill level. Be sure to create a wide variety of volunteer activities to appeal to your team’s array of interests.
  • Communicating effectively. Even if you find the perfect volunteer opportunity for your employees, they won’t join in if they aren’t aware of the program. Communicate across a variety of channels with email alerts, text message reminders, internal meetings, and flyers. To take your communication to the next level, try using a corporate philanthropy software solution to coordinate your employees’ philanthropic goals.
  • Setting up a volunteer incentive program. With a volunteer incentive program, you can offer rewards for those who participate in your employee volunteer program. Many companies reward employees with incentives like paid time off, but there are ways to get more creative. For example, you can offer gift cards or free lunch at a local restaurant your employees love if they participate in the program.
  • Asking for feedback from volunteers. As you kick off your employee volunteering program, remember to ask employees to provide feedback about their experience in the program. Create a survey that asks what employees think about how programs are structured, the nonprofit partners your program benefits, and incentive programs for participation. To show your employees that you value their input, work to implement feedback where possible.

Another way to incentivize your employees to volunteer is to provide volunteer grants. With these programs, your company would give monetary grants to organizations where employees regularly volunteer, maximizing their impact and encouraging participation in your employee volunteer program.

The impact of employee volunteerism

From setting up accessible opportunities to offering your employees paid time off to volunteer, there’s so much you can do to encourage employees to participate in your volunteer programs. No matter the size of your organization, you can make a sizable impact on your community by encouraging the employees on your team to contribute their time to worthy causes.

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    Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Volunteerism
  • Corporations
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Employee giving
  • Employee volunteering