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Congratulations! Now that you’ve taken the first step to starting a corporate volunteering program. Corporate volunteering (or employee volunteering) is an impactful way to engage your employees while contributing to the community.
We’re sure you have plenty of wonderful ideas you’re chuffed to start putting them into action. It requires buy-in from several stakeholders and a solid plan (with goals!) broken down into smaller, actionable steps.
Corporate volunteering isn’t like it used to be. Today, it should have a mix of physical and virtual opportunities. That will make it scalable and sustainable in the long-term, and so you can maximise the benefits of corporate volunteering for your employees and your business:
- Improve employee’s health and wellbeing
- Attract and retain top talent
- Engage employees and boost morale
- Build a strong employer brand
- Contribute to employee development
So how can you create a best-in-class corporate volunteering program in today’s world? To maximise impact AND engagement of your employees? And make it an authentic pillar of your company culture? How can you make the most of your program launch to drive participation? That’s what this guide is for.
Why you need to create an action plan for your corporate volunteering program
An effective program starts with structuring it so it’s adapted for your organisation. A successful corporate volunteering and giving program not only needs a strategy and goals, you’ll need data analysis, partners, and cross-departmental buy-in.
It’s a lot to consider, but it’s totally doable when you take things step-by-step. We have a dedicated team of experts who support our clients in building corporate volunteering strategies daily. In this guide, we’ll share 8 best practices to help you prepare for an impactful program launch.
Let’s dive in!
1. Start with your core purpose and values
You probably already have these documented in your mission or purpose statement. But, if you don’t, now is the time to do it. The purpose of corporate volunteering and giving programs is to contribute to profit, people, and the planet (the so-called “triple bottom line”), and is often linked to both your CSR and HR strategies.
It’s an effective, authentic way to show your shareholders, customers and employees that you share values and that you take action on those values. Corporate volunteer programs are when companies take a structured approach to implementing a framework or even policies for their employees to volunteer, often with paid time off for volunteering.
When you set your core program principles, be as open and transparent as possible with your organisation about your why. This will help eliminate any scepticism. Show your employees that they can count on your support in leading purpose-driven lives.
There are a few ways to select what cause to support. This can be top-down, where you and upper level management can choose the causes. Alternatively, you can survey or talk to your employees to see which causes they want to support or are already supporting. Either way, make sure you share the why behind the causes you want to support.
The best way to go is usually a combination of both: you can have some central campaigns focused on “top-down” causes, while also empowering your employees to choose what causes to support at a local level as well.
Questions to ask at this stage:
- Are your core values clearly expressed in your mission statement?
- Are your employees aware of your values, and do they share them?
- Who are your stakeholders, and do they share your purpose and vision?
- Where does your company actively volunteer already?
- Toward what causes do your employees already actively volunteer?
- Are there any themes / patterns in the ways your company and stakeholders are already giving?
2. Set your goals
Clear and measurable goals are key to launching a successful corporate volunteering program. Consider how your program goals can contribute to your company’s overall strategy and identify metrics to translate these objectives into measurable outcomes.
Here are some examples for inspiration:
- Reducing turnover
- Improving your employer brand/gaining recognition as a great place to work or a responsible company
- Increasing positive impact in the community
- Increasing participation in your existing giving and volunteering program.
Millennials value social responsibility by default and prefer to work in a purpose-driven workplace than one that pays more. Your workplace volunteering and giving program can become a key factor in recruiting and retaining the best talents in your industry.
Remember – When you set your goals, bear in mind your resources. How much time will you be able to put into this? What’s your budget? Implementing a best-in-class corporate volunteering and giving program is a journey, you can start with specific projects and then grow it over time to introduce more opportunities for your employees to get involved and maximise your impact.
Questions to ask at this stage:
- What are your company’s short- and long-term goals for a workplace volunteering program?
- Who are your stakeholders, and what are their goals?
- How are you collecting the data / information on stakeholder goals?
- How will you inform and involve employees in these goals?
3. Setting up the framework and action plan
Now that your purpose and goals are clear, the next steps are to map out your action plan. That’s what we’re doing now! How are you going to get employees to engage with your program?
Will you launch an annual volunteering day on a specific (or flexible) date per office? Or will it be an ongoing program? Or ideally, a combination of both?
If your CSR strategy is tied to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for instance, you can tie these into your volunteering and giving program. As inspiration: you could launch themed campaigns linked to different SDGs.
That way, your employee giving program will be clearly tied to your purpose or CSR strategy.
Questions to ask at this stage:
- How can you tie your employee volunteering program to your CSR goals?
- Is it important that you tie your CSR goals into your purpose program?
- How will employees participate in the program?
- Will employees be able to participate year-round? Or will it be specific campaigns? Or a mix of both?
4. Engage the right teams
Setting up a corporate volunteering program is a common effort, and it’s important to involve the right teams from the get-go. We’ve found that buy-in from the following teams is particularly important:
Executives need to set the tone and lead by example. They should act as role models by contributing and engaging their teams in the program. When the executive team shows they’re purpose-driven, employees will believe in the program more.
Remember – Leadership will usually push for a plan that best meets business objectives. It’s important to address them, but also to balance them with the needs of the community and nonprofit partners.
This team will help create a framework for your company’s corporate giving and volunteering program. This might be your team, in which case, consider what policy you will put in place to support your employees, and at which moments during the employee experience you’ll embed this program (such as during onboarding of new hires, donation matching, Dollars for Doers, rewards/incentives, or offering paid time off to volunteer).
This is vital to ensure clear and aligned communications with employees. With teams spread out across a lot more locations, it’s all the more important to communicate through the right channels to reach them.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) / Sustainability Team or Company foundation
This might be your team! This team will ensure the program fits in with your overall CSR strategy. Do you have existing non-profit partners? Are there particular causes to champion? What other CSR initiatives do you have in place?
It’s the era of remote and virtual programs. IT will be important for a smooth launch from a technical standpoint, such as compatibility and whitelisting.
Involve them to review data security and privacy requirements, or other legal concerns.
Tip – Present your volunteering program during your onboarding process to new team members. You can even include a ½ day of volunteer work into their first work week, which can show newcomers the importance of helping the community in your organisation.
Questions to ask at this stage:
- Who are the key stakeholders involved?
- Who can be responsible or the representative from each department?
- What are the goals of each department?
5. Engage key internal champions
In addition to engaging leadership, communications and HR teams with the program, start looking for key champions at all levels of your organisation. This is particularly important for global programs, so you can best adapt the initiatives to each culture. Their role is to support and advocate for the program internally, to help you to put the program into practice and to adapt it to the local culture.
They may even be able to help you understand the team: would some healthy competition help motivate them? Or might this particular team prefer to collaborate toward a shared purpose? Let them help you understand your employees’ culture at a local level.
This will also save you time, as ambassadors can help you educate and answer any questions from employees. Be sure to train them before the launch, so they are equipped to support your program in the best way. This can be through workshops, webinars, and training videos made available on-demand. If you’re working with a technology partner, this training can sometimes be provided to help you kick-off your program.
How can you find the key champions?
Look out for colleagues who are committed, passionate about the program,
willing to promote it among other employees, and ready to collect feedback and ideas to improve the program. Let them know that this is a valuable growth opportunity to develop their leadership skills in a fun, meaningful way.
This can be your first communication about the program.
Reach out to teams: ask people managers to nominate people on their teams, send out a survey for volunteers in the company, or to start making their teams aware that you’ll need their support.
Tip – Spread out across multiple locations? As a rule of thumb, having at least one champion per office is a good rule of thumb when developing your program.
In the era of remote working, online volunteering opportunities are even more important than before. So make sure your ambassadors are familiar with online opportunities and knowledgeable enough to be able to help and inspire others to use online tools as well.
Tip – A well-organised and engaged network of champions to support the program before and during the launch can increase participation in the first 3 months by up to 77%.
6. Find a digital tool or platform to use
In pre-2020 volunteering and giving programs, having a virtual option was a nice-to-have. But today, it’s not as simple as “going volunteering” anymore. It’s important to offer an online option.
Finding a way to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of where they are, is a good way to show your dedication to the cause. There are strong digital platforms to help host and manage your employee giving program, and even more volunteering opportunities online.
A partner can help you find the right causes that are aligned with your company values.
A digital platform lets you reach both desk and non-desk workers. Plus, online solutions let everyone involved see everything that’s happening in real time.
An online solution has numerous benefits: your employees can easily access and browse through projects, you can centralise and manage the whole program in one place, and you can track the impact of your program and share the results with your organisation.
An online platform also boosts employee engagement, because it makes it easy to log in from anywhere and follow projects in real time even when your teams work remotely. It brings the volunteering options to your employees and makes participation easy.
Further benefits of online platforms
- Easy way to track employee volunteer hours
- Keeps donation counts and hours volunteered up to date
- Track how many people participated
- No need to manually work through spreadsheets
- Manage events (physical and virtual) online
7. Expand your volunteering options
There are plenty of volunteering opportunities available for your work corporate volunteering program. Below, find both online and field volunteering ideas you can implement.
Online, skills-based volunteering is a flexible and impactful way for your employees to help non-profits, regardless of where they’re located. Purpose-driven activities that encourage positive actions and learning also work well here, like involving the team in a sustainability challenge, such as going meatless for a week.
Here are a few examples of projects that can be managed 100% online and that are in high demand from nonprofits. Some of these are also possible as team activities in the form of an online brainstorming session or even over longer term group work:
- Preparing communications like external newsletters or designing a brochure
- Virtual coaching or mentoring
- Translating documents or a website
- Creating a financial plan
- Finding new fundraising sources or preparing grant proposals
- Conducting an IT audit of technology used
Field volunteering involves going out to physically help a nonprofit organisation and is also a great way to combine team building with community impact. For example:
- 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!
- Helping local farmers to maintain their pastures, or cleaning a riverbed to support the ecosystem.
- Hosting a workshop to coach people with a migrant background find a job
Consider broadening your definition of volunteering to include actions to help colleagues and teammates within your organisation:
- Weekly online meditation class to your colleagues to relieve stress and improve focus
- 15-minute workout break for the whole office in the afternoon
- Online cooking class or book reading for employees’ kids to entertain the whole team’s kids, so they can focus on work
- Fun, everyday Challenges that teams can do together virtually, like planking every day for a week, or going meatless.
And lastly, you can organise initiatives to help the community as a whole:
- Giving blood
- Collecting food donations or delivering them
- Helping elderly and risk populations with their pharmacy runs and grocery shopping
See what inspires you most, and then set out a plan following the best practices in this article.
8. Prepare to launch your event
A well-planned communication strategy is key to engaging your employees from day one. And it can all be done online. We’ve found that the most impactful launches are ones where companies have a specific campaign to show their support and is well worth the investment to launch your program on the right foot.
Here are some ideas for launch activities:
Get testimonials from champions or the management team (or both!) and share them through your social media and internal communications channels. Nothing will convince your employees to participate better than a positive comment from a colleague or leader.
Introduce the program via online workshops
Share the objectives of the program. Why would employees want to participate? Include fun activities to get your employees motivated to start contributing to your program.
Some examples of fun activities could be:
- An interactive online presentation from a nonprofit
- A “pub quiz” about some of today’s environmental issues
Create a video
Get together with the leadership team and champions and create a teaser video to get your employees excited about the launch.
Empower everyone to pick a cause with a voting campaign
Give your employees a voice in your program to truly engage them from Day 1, by letting them vote for a cause, for example, from a selection of projects related to your corporate purpose. This works particularly well for donations, which you can also tie in with a donation matching campaign. If you have a grant budget, it’s well worth it!
Match donations over your launch period
You can also combine your voting campaign with donation matching, by offer to match donations made during your launch to show your support. As an example, if an employee decides to donate $20 to a Nonprofit close to their heart, the company commits to donate $20 as well, to the same Nonprofit. There are lots of variations with a similar objective, to boost awareness and participation by offering meaningful rewards and incentives to your employees.
- Offer a randomly-assigned donation credit: Employees are randomly assigned a donation credit and find out upon creating their account.
- Offer donations for platform signups
- Plant a tree for good actions taken: Some platforms have built-in gamification elements like a virtual points system that accumulates as your teams take action. You can associate a certain number of points with a tree planted to encourage action!
- Step count challenge: Combine wellbeing and positive impact by matching every step taken by your employees with a donation.
Match volunteering hours with donations (aka Dollars for doers)
Support employee volunteering with a Dollars for Doers initiative (this can also be a year-long policy), where each hour of volunteering made by an employee is matched with a set donation from your company. For example, for every 1 hour of volunteering, your company can offer $10 the same nonprofit. If you’d like to encourage volunteering, this is a meaningful way to show employees you care about what they care about.
Reward your early volunteers with meaningful goodies
Many nonprofits produce goods like ethically-sourced tea, sustainable notebooks, reusable water bottles, and even upcycled bags! Champion sustainable consumption and offer your first X volunteers these rewards. Not only are you supporting a good cause, and boosting participation, you’re also raising awareness about the causes through their products!
Wondering when the best time is to launch your program? More tips here.
A corporate volunteering and giving program is a powerful way to engage employees while making an impact. The launch phase is a key moment for you to set the stage in your organisation. Remember to plan carefully, think about how it links to your business, and structure your program launch so you can make the most of it from Day 1.
Build up to it, and eventually you’ll have a robust corporate volunteering program. With the right technology, you can build a robust, impactful and engaging program that can be a real differentiator for your brand and business.
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