When is the best time to launch your employee volunteering & giving program?

Stéphanie Grawehr August 12, 2020

In today’s environment, retaining top performers and boosting morale are essential. Facing uncertainty, purpose-driven, forward-thinking employers are putting employee needs at the center of their strategy alongside customers.

At the same time, some nonprofit organisations are fighting for survival and need help to keep providing the important services for the benefit of society. While priorities are changing quickly, there is consensus that supporting employees and communities is key in the short and long term.

When launching a new company-wide program for employees, the question of timing often comes up among Human Resources (HR) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) professionals. Especially when things change so quickly.

  • How can we make the most of the launch to kick off an impactful program and maximise participation?
  • How can we make this relevant to what is happening in the world?
  • What other internal programs are being launched and how can we ensure alignment?

Like for most questions, it depends.

That being said, we’ve found that there are best practices that work particularly well to help guide your decision.

In this post, we’re unpacking the question of timing to help you make the most of your program launch to maximise participation and ultimately, impact.

1. January to March: Kicking off the new year

employee volunteering launch

There is a special energy in the new year – where people are excited about a new beginning and to adopt new habits. Make the most of this buzz to kick off the year with a new initiative that brings teams together and sets the stage for the year.

Top activity ideas:

  • Tie your launch with your annual kick-off event or employee-wide meetings to get everyone on board and make it a part of your business.
  • Combine wellbeing with a good cause with a Step Count Challenge! Employees track their steps over a fixed time period, and each step corresponds to a donation made by their employer! This has worked particularly well to boost participation from the get-go.


2. May to June: Mid-year with outdoor activities 

As the weather starts to get warmer in the Northern hemisphere, this is typically a sought-after time for launches with outdoor field volunteering. While this year was particular, this did not deter companies from launching their programs or re-invigorating their programs with company-wide campaigns like donation matching, or Hackathon-like group  online volunteering. In fact, among our clients, we saw an increase in employee participation of 250%!

Top activity ideas:

  • A Trash Challenge, where employees go to a local park, beach side, or another community area and pick up trash, and leave it better than they found it!
  • Generally, outdoor field volunteering works best during this time period. Some other possibilities include helping local farmers to maintain their pastures, or cleaning a riverbed to support the ecosystem.

3. September to October: Back-to-work solidarity boost

employee volunteering launch

In many countries, July and August are relatively quiet due to summer vacation which is why September is a popular month to launch programs as employees are back from vacation and also have the possibility of outdoor activities. There are a wider variety of activities that you can organise for your employees for the launch. We see another peak in outdoor field volunteering during this period, which is an impactful way to boost participation, through initiatives like a Trash Challenge. It’s also safer for employees to participate in the current context as they can better ensure to respect social distances outdoors.

As many companies shared their commitment to doing good for their employees and their communities amid the crisis and its effects earlier this year, we’re seeing a surge in solidarity activity. Employees are keen to participate and help others in the current crisis. It also allows you to prepare the program well for the giving season of the year: December!

Top activity ideas:

  • Trash Challenge, where employees go to a local park, beach side, or another community area and pick up trash, and leave it better than they found it!
  • Generally, outdoor field volunteering works best during this time period. Some other possibilities include helping local farmers to maintain their pastures, or cleaning a riverbed to support the ecosystem.
  • Expand your employee volunteering options for an increasingly hybrid workforce with virtual volunteering events like virtual brainstorming sessions to help nonprofits with a specific project, like their social media strategy, or a virtual workshop with career advice.

4. November to December: Make Giving Season meaningful

employee volunteering launch

The end of the year is full of giving: Holidays, feasts, presents and with that, plenty of gratitude. As consumption climbs, people also want to give back and so the spirit of giving is a perfect moment to launch a company-wide program to increase impact. It’s also a great way for companies to celebrate the end of the year of the year of hard work, by giving back to communities.

Top activity ideas:

  • Many companies launch donation matching campaigns or offer their employees gifts to donate to support a cause of their choice during this period which can multiply the impact.

5. Year-round: International days and external events

A fantastic way to boost momentum is to make it relevant. Choose a day that is relevant for your company or a worldwide day that you can rally teams across the world. For example, World Water Day (22 March), World Blood Donor Day (14 June), World Environment Day (5 June), or International Volunteer Day (5 December).

The “right” time

Timing is everything, but that being said, it’s about execution too. Kicking off the program right, with efficient processes and the right partner for support can ensure your program is a success.

If you’re thinking about launching a program this year, remember, is there a bad time to do good?

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