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How and Why to Encourage Employee Volunteerism

Employee volunteerism refers to the employees of an organization volunteering their time and talents to help their communities. Encouraging it can benefit your company and your team, and you can do so by launching an employee volunteer program.

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What are the benefits of employee volunteerism?

The following are some key benefits of employee volunteerism.

Opportunities for skill development

Volunteering can help your team strengthen existing skills, such as communication skills, and acquire new ones. Volunteerism-related skill development may lead to gains in productivity and efficiency and contribute to your employees’ professional development, preparing them to take on new roles within your organization in the future.

Better morale

Helping others feels good may help reduce stress. The emotional and mental benefits of volunteering may lead to improvements in workplace morale.

Improved recruitment and retention

Employees often want to be a part of an organization they can feel good about working for. An employee volunteer program shows that you’re committed to helping your community and can help your team feel like they’re making a difference in the world. As a result, your program may help set you apart from competitors to improve recruitment efforts and make your existing employees more likely to remain with your organization.

Positive brand image

Getting involved in your community will reflect positively on your company. When you highlight your volunteer efforts through social media and the press, community members may come to see your organization more favorably.

Stronger teams

Volunteering together allows coworkers to interact in new ways and can strengthen bonds between them. The shared experience can lead to stronger teams and foster better relationships between departments in your organization.

What is an employee volunteer program?

An employee volunteer program is a company initiative that provides employees with opportunities to do volunteer work and encourages their participation. Once a program is in place, a business can partner with community groups and nonprofit organizations to hold volunteer events. These events can take place during working hours, during the evening or on weekends.

In some cases, companies offer a special type of PTO called volunteer time to employees who participate in volunteer events that take place during business hours. Volunteer time may also be paid for evening and weekend events at an employer’s discretion.

When volunteering is unpaid, employers may recognize employees who participate in other ways, such as by writing them an appreciation letter, acknowledging them on social media or presenting them with an award.

Steps to creating an employee volunteer program

To establish an employee volunteer program at your organization, follow these steps.

1. Set goals

Establish what you hope to accomplish with your program at the outset by establishing goals. Use the SMART rule, setting goals that are:

  • Specific: Your goal should clearly state what you hope to achieve.
  • Measurable: Your goal includes a metric that you can measure for.
  • Attainable: Your goal is challenging but achievable.
  • Realistic: You set your goal with challenges and limitations in mind.
  • Time-bound: You have a deadline for achieving your goal.

An example of a SMART goal for an employee volunteerism initiative is “50% of employees will participate in at least one volunteer event by the end of the year.”

2. Choose a structure

Employee volunteer programs can be structured in different ways, such as:

  • Direct service: Employees work side by side with the organizations. Tasks like building a house for the homeless or cleaning up litter are examples of direct service.
  • Indirect service: Employees aid an organization without working directly with it. For example, they might hold a food drive or make care packages for the victims of a disaster.
  • Skills-based service: Employees use their job skills as a part of volunteering. For example, an accountant might provide free tax preparation services for low-income individuals, or a web designer might create new websites for nonprofits at no charge.

Your program can focus on just one type of service or mix and match. Consider your program goals as you weigh the options.

3. Establish the framework

Once you have chosen a structure, make decisions about:

  • When volunteering will take place
  • Whether employees will receive compensation for volunteering
  • How you’ll recognize employees for participating
  • How you’ll announce and promote the program

At this stage, get input from your management team. You may also wish to conduct an employee survey to find out when employees would be most willing to volunteer and what incentives would encourage their participation.

4. Form partnerships

With the framework for your program in place, you’re ready to begin contacting organizations to discuss volunteer opportunities. Based on those conversations, you can set the date for your first volunteer event and be ready to promote it when you announce the program.

Related: Giving Back to the Community: Ways Your Business Can Help

5. Announce the program

The final step is to let your employees know about your new initiative. Try communicating in multiple ways. You can have supervisors discuss the program with their teams, send email blasts, post signs in break rooms and post announcements on your employee website.

Tips for launching a successful employee volunteerism program

To set your employee volunteerism program up for success, follow these tips.

1. Keep participation voluntary

By definition, volunteerism is a choice to put your time and skills to use helping others. Making participation mandatory may limit the pride and satisfaction your team receives from volunteering and turn what should be a positive experience into a source of stress.

2. Get buy-in from the top down

When management fully supports and participates in employee volunteerism, team members may feel more eager to join in. Set an example by attending volunteer events yourself and encourage upper management to do so as well.

3. Forge your own way

Avoid copying the initiatives of other companies in your organization. Look for fresh opportunities to contribute based on the goals you establish for your program.

4. Think like an employee

When creating volunteer events, put yourself in an employee’s position, asking yourself:

  • Is the timing convenient?
  • Is the location easy to access?
  • Could supporting this organization be controversial or conflict with someone’s beliefs?
  • Will volunteering cost anything in terms of parking, meals, etc.?

Thinking critically about volunteer opportunities will help you design events that your team will get excited about.

5. Consider your other stakeholders

Involving your customers and the general public can bring more meaning to events and contribute to the overall success of the program. For example, you might ask people to drop off supplies for care packages or volunteer their time to help serve meals at a homeless shelter.

Employee volunteerism FAQs

How do you assess the success of an employee volunteer program?

Assessing the success of an employee volunteer program can help pinpoint areas of improvement, so you can strengthen your efforts. One way to do so is to conduct an employee pulse survey that asks the following questions: Would you recommend this program to your coworkers? Did participating help you develop your workplace skills? Will you participate in volunteer events in the future? You can also track your employee retention and sales revenue to identify any positive impacts of the program over time.

Who should be in charge of an employee volunteerism program?

Who should head up your program depends on the size of your company. At large organizations, you may wish to hire a Volunteer Coordinator to oversee the program. Another option is to give responsibility for your program to an HR representative or a member of your management team.

Are there any drawbacks to employee volunteerism?

There are some potential drawbacks to an employee volunteer program. If you pay your employees volunteer time, your company may incur additional payroll costs. Volunteering during work hours could leave your business short-staffed, and holding volunteer events on the weekend may make it more difficult for your employees to maintain a work-life balance. Also, employees may feel pressure to volunteer and experience workplace stress as a result. Fortunately, you can mitigate some of these risks by getting input from employees when creating your program and planning and communicating about volunteerism events carefully.

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