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9 steps for starting an employee volunteer program

March 21, 2022
Three women smile and chat while volunteering at a community food drive, representing the importance of starting an employee volunteer program.

According to the CECP’s Giving in Numbers report, 84% of companies offer flexible schedules or paid-release time for employees to volunteer. Furthermore, those participating in skills-based volunteer programs tend to invest much more time and feel more committed to volunteering.

If your corporation is seeking to boost employee engagement, implementing an employee volunteer program can be especially effective, given the proper planning and execution. To help you craft a program that’s productive and long-lasting, we’ll walk through nine steps for starting an employee volunteer program.

1. Define a focus that aligns with employee and company values.

A successful employee volunteer program begins with its purpose. Before you dive in, take a moment to think about your company’s specific motivations. Having relevant and achievable goals for your employee volunteer program will drive its success and future improvements. Some common reasons for starting an employee volunteer program include:

  • Addressing a prominent issue or concern in your local community
  • Increasing current employee engagement
  • Employees requesting to organize around a cause
  • Improving team-building in the organization

At the same time, ensure that your “why” aligns with your company values. For example, if your company champions sustainability, then include volunteer opportunities that advance environmental initiatives.

2. Tailor your employee volunteer program to your company.

Every workplace volunteer program differs according to the company’s resources, culture, and priorities. When deciding what employee volunteer program will suit your company, consider these questions:

  • Would people rather donate money or time?
  • Would your executives be willing to offer incentives for volunteering?
  • Would employees want to be recognized for their community service?
  • What kind of volunteer work are your employees suited toward?

Prioritize finding the most suitable fit for your company and employees in order to design a workplace volunteer program that achieves lasting success.

3. Craft a compelling pitch for your executives.

Convince your company’s executives that an employee volunteer program is a worthy investment by conducting careful research and planning a compelling presentation. During your pitch, explain the benefits of starting an employee volunteer program, which include:

  • Community volunteering and matching gift programs elicit positive responses from new talent and help retain current employees.
  • An established employee volunteer program can be seen as signs of a successful company.
  • A high-visibility volunteer project can create good publicity and increase brand awareness.

Emphasize how your employee volunteer program will benefit your company overall, through improved employee engagement and a boosted public reputation. By mapping your volunteer program goals alongside overall business objectives, you’ll be much more successful swaying executives to support your plan.

4. Acquire support from company leadership.

Aside from securing approval from executives to fund your employee volunteer program, set your program up for success by engaging department leaders within your company. Introduce the new program through a strategic pitch or introductory session. Be sure to mention that:

  • Engaging in volunteerism will improve the company’s image.
  • Volunteering enhances team productivity and interdepartmental cooperation.
  • Volunteering builds important skills, such as leadership and taking initiative.

By demonstrating how each leader’s department will benefit from your employee volunteer program, you’ll be able to encourage deeper investment from them moving forward. Comprehensive volunteering program management software, such as Bonterra Corporate Social Responsibility’s Employee Engagement (formerly CyberGrants) solution, allows program managers to tailor imagery, messaging, and goals to better communicate with their employees.

5. Prepare to address any hesitations.

In case there are hesitations surrounding your company’s employee volunteer program, assemble some statistics and reasoning to assuage their concerns. Today companies that invest in CSR are proven to have 40% higher levels of workforce retention6% higher market value, and generate 20% more revenue than their competitors. These findings demonstrate that investing in volunteerism can be critical for your company's long-term success.

Additionally, gather statements of support from respected stakeholders. Take advantage of this opportunity to gather feedback on any relevant concerns and use it to improve your program.

6. Determine how to engage your employees.

Ahead of launching your employee volunteer program, send out a quick survey to get a pulse on what will drive employees to participate and what they hope to get out of the program. This will allow you to determine whether your plans align with employee expectations, so you can make any adjustments if needed.

Offer a variety of projects, times, and locations to make it easy and convenient for your employees to volunteer. Discover what’s important to your employees, then orient your program around their interests and values.

7. Inform your employees about the program.

When it’s time to get the word out, send out key information across multiple channels. Include these elements in your communications:

  • Digital content: You can publish blog articles, social media posts, and even add information to your website’s employee benefits section.
  • Email campaigns: Set up internal email campaigns to deliver important details to employees, help them get enrolled, and share how your new program will work.
  • Additional resources: Make sure your employees know who to turn to for questions and concerns. You can set up open office hours and invite employees to stop by to learn more about the new program.

Clear and prompt communication is crucial for maximizing your employees’ involvement in your new workplace volunteer program, so provide them with everything they need to get started and succeed.

8. Integrate volunteerism into your culture.

In order for an employee volunteer program to be sustainable, giving must be an integral part of your company culture. To prioritize volunteerism in your company, you can adjust:

  • New hire onboarding processes
  • Company mission and values
  • Recruitment materials
  • Company social media accounts

Make it a habit to communicate outcomes when a volunteer project is complete. Share photos and interview employees on how volunteering has affected them personally and professionally. By showcasing employees who have participated in your program, you’ll be able to attract new participants and further infuse the importance of volunteering in the company culture.

9. Set quarterly milestones to measure impact.

After your employee volunteer program is up and running, you’ll need to report the ROI to higher-ups, especially if employees are volunteering during work hours. Analyze the program’s community impact with these questions:

  • What has your company’s involvement accomplished for the supported nonprofit or cause?
  • Did volunteer opportunities support the company’s mission and business objectives?
  • How were the employees impacted by their time spent volunteering?

Reviewing your program’s goals regularly ensures that you’re making the most of your company’s time and resources to boost employee engagement and leave a positive impact on your community. Compare post-volunteering surveys to those completed at the initiation of your program to discover how well your employees are responding to the program.

Making the most of your employee volunteer program

Starting an employee volunteer program may be intensive, but incredibly rewarding if done properly. To optimize your program, make sure you’re equipped with corporate philanthropy software that can track and measure all of your workplace volunteering data, such as participation numbers, hours contributed, and amount of paid time off given. This will set you on the right track to making your company, and the world, a better place.

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  • Volunteerism
  • Corporations
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Employee volunteering