What is Employee Volunteering?
Before discussing why your company should have an employee volunteering program, let’s first define what employee volunteering is.
It can go by a number of names such as “employee volunteering”, “corporate volunteering”, “corporate giving”, etc. but the idea is the same: employees donate their time to a worthwhile cause, usually working and coordinating with a nonprofit organization or charity.
Employee volunteering can take various forms; from single-day initiatives like litter clean-up, or a helping at a soup kitchen, to short-term or long-term commitments to nonprofits or charities, such as a consultant, providing skilled help, or becoming a Member of their Board.
What is an Employee Volunteer Program?
An employee volunteer program (EVP) is a workplace initiative where employees are empowered, encouraged, and supported by their workplace to volunteer in the community.
Simply put, employee volunteering is when employees volunteer their time and skills in the community, and an employee volunteer program is an initiative set in place by the employer so that employees can do the volunteering.
Why Does Employee Volunteering Matter?
Employee volunteering matters in different ways to different stakeholders, but one thing is certain:
It has never mattered more.
Today’s employees want it.
Millennials and Gen Zs will soon become the most prominent generations in the workforce, and they’re looking for more than just a paycheck; they’re looking to do something meaningful and worthwhile.
Employees don’t just want a job anymore, they want to know that what they do is benefitting society and the public. And they’re holding their employers to those same ideals.
EVPs not only help nonprofits and benefit the communities they service, but they also wildly benefit the company itself. From the very top C-level executives, to the interns, and company culture as a whole, EVPs affect everything they touch.
This is because employees that volunteer become beacons and champions within their company. Everyone they interact with, how they hold themselves, how they conduct their work, and how they add to the culture of the workplace, EVPs affect all of it
Employee volunteer programs benefit the company because employees are real people, and a workplace is merely a symphony of people working in unison for a common goal. What impacts one impacts another. Elevating one elevates everyone.
Benefits of Employee Volunteering
The benefits of employee volunteering include but are not limited to:
Today’s workforce wants more than just a job, they want to know that what they do has a meaningful impact on society. EVPs signal to the employee that their workplace supports and is invested not only in their staff, but also their community.
The competition for skilled technical staff is ever-growing. Evidence that a company is invested in their staff and society through an EVP may be a deciding factor when it comes to accepting a job.
Skill development, interpersonal communication, job fulfillment, increased autonomy and pride in one’s work, EVPs engage employees on every level. Employees that volunteer are more engaged with the work they do in their day-to-day, as well as more engaged with their colleagues, and more loyal to their workplace.
EVPs bring employees in the door, engage them, and give them a reason to stay. When they’re engaged, they’re fulfilled, and when they’re fulfilled, they stay. This not only improves the bottom line and turnover costs, it improves the dynamic and culture of the company since time allows more opportunities at better communication and collaboration between peers.
Increased Fulfillment, Satisfaction, and Purpose
Employees that volunteer show more fulfillment and satisfaction in their job, and a greater sense of purpose in what they do.
Improved Mood & Mental Health
94% of people who volunteer say that volunteering improves their mood and mental health; that’s why they call the rewarding feeling after volunteering a ‘helper’s high.’
Improved moods and mental health caused by volunteering is only further supported by their greater sense of purpose in what they do.
Good mental health also spills over to everything that employee does, and everyone they interact with daily, stakeholders and colleagues, included.
It should be no surprise that employees that are engaged, fulfilled, have a sense of purpose, and are happier are also the most productive ones. When you feel good, you produce better work, you’re more enjoyable to be around, collaborate better, and are more productive.
Volunteering allows greater autonomy which leads to employees holding themselves (and their work) to a higher standard.
Volunteering allows employees more opportunities to develop their skill sets, to refine what they’re best at and improve some of their weaknesses. This includes both hard and soft skills.
Soft skills such as interpersonal communication, collaboration, and active listening are all examples of skills that are required to volunteer effectively.
For development of hard (read: technical) skills, skill-based volunteering is perfect for employees. It allows your employee to help nonprofits with projects by using their professional skills in a new way and new setting. By applying their current skills to new situations and challenges, it only makes them more well rounded employees.
Types of Employee Volunteering
Not all volunteering is the same. It can differ based on the skills needed, areas of impact, commitment, and even the dynamic of how a volunteer interacts with other volunteers and staff.
The beauty of it is that there’s something for everyone. When it comes to donating time and skills, enjoying the work and impact that one does is also vital for long-term engagement in the activity of volunteering. Volunteering, like with work, is more productive when it’s both enjoyable and fulfilling.
Here’s a quick look at the types of volunteering opportunities that an employee can donate their time (adapted from our guide to volunteering):
Structured and supervised volunteer opportunities such as helping at a soup kitchen, garden, or picking up litter.
Unstructured and unfunded volunteering, typically taking place directly in the community such as neighborhood watch.
3. Governance or leadership
Leadership roles within nonprofits or charities, such as being a Board or Committee Member.
4. Skill-based projects
Volunteer opportunities where employees use their skills, professional experience and expertise to help a nonprofit, such as a marketer helping with social media, or a developer helping a nonprofit with their website.
Employees provide advice and guidance to nonprofits, acting as a consultant in their area of expertise. Nonprofits need consultants in a range of skills and disciplines such as marketing strategy, diversity and inclusion, HR, legal, and financial.
How to Start an Employee Volunteer Program
This is a quick tutorial on how to go ahead a starting a volunteer program, but expect a full guide from us soon!
Before starting an EVP, keep in mind that it’s okay to start small, but just start!
In order to have a successful employee volunteer program you’ll need 3 things:
- Get buy-in from corporate executives and higher-ups
- Get-buy in from employees
- Have the proper tools and infrastructure in place
Using the following steps is a good way to ensure that the EVP is set up for success:
Step 1: Assessment
Take a step back and look objectively at your company's level of employee engagement, current workplace volunteering/giving initiatives, success or progress of current initiatives, and those who are in charge of running or approving future initiatives, and other stakeholders that care about employee engagement..
Step 2: Coordinate Business and EVP Objectives
Use what you've learned in Step 1 to set goals for your employee volunteer program that align with other business goals and objectives. For example, employee engagement affects retention and turnover so perhaps setting KPIs that measure levels of engagement and looking at turnover rate may make sense for you.
Step 3: Secure Support from Top Executives
Getting buy-in is key, and different stakeholders may care about different things. Steps 1 and 2 will help communicate with economic buyers, decision makers, and future volunteers at all levels of the company.
Step 4: Seek Out Partnership Opportunities
Once the ball is rolling on your EVP, it's time to begin sourcing nonprofit and volunteering opportunities. There are various ways to do this, from cold calling and direct out reach, to using online platforms that source nonprofits and opportunities for you.
Step 5: Quantify and Evaluate
Once your EVP has begun, use the KPIs your set to assess and evaluate the success of all the great work your employees have done, and improvements in engagement within the company.
An employee volunteer program (EVP) empowers employees to volunteer in their community, but the impact is they make is felt within your company just as much as it's felt by the community.
Volunteering improves employee engagement, mood, mental health, job satisfaction, productivity, retention, and more. And these effects are felt at every level of the company, becoming weaved in the fabric of your company culture.
Setting up an EVP doesn't have to be difficult, and is well worth the effort. And remember: it's okay to start small, just start.
There's never been a greater need, or time, for engaging your employees. Especially in this world of work-from-home, Zoom meetings, and the blurring of work/life balance. Ready to start engaging your employees with skill-based volunteering made simple? We're happy to help!
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