How to Plan and Launch an Epic Corporate Volunteer Program

Apr 11

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“Corporate social responsibility.” Those three words have come to dominate the business world as more and more groups and individuals hold companies to higher standards of accountability and excellence! Many companies understand the importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and work hard to create a positive world impact, however, most usually shell out financial contributions where they can… and stop there.

Listen, donations are the lifeblood of most nonprofit organizations, so keep giving! However, nothing beats rolling up your (corporate) sleeves and putting in hands-on effort to make a difference. In fact, companies are increasingly building corporate volunteering programs into their CSR initiatives to give their employees an opportunity to do this. And as you’ll learn in this post, these companies are reaping tremendous benefits! 

If you want your organization to be part of the movement, today’s article is for you. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to launching a company volunteer program that creates a colossal impact and drives employee engagement!

In this article:

Why should you launch a corporate volunteer program?

Building an impactful employee volunteer program from scratch with no experience is a lot of fun, but the process isn’t easy. It takes time, dedication, and various resources. Obviously, your company is in business to make a profit, so it may be tempting to avoid such effort. But we promise you: if done right, the benefits of beefing up your CSR initiatives can outweigh the costs by far.

Before we get into the step-by-step guide, here are five reasons to consider launching a corporate volunteer program. This type of initiative can:

  • Make Your Employees Happier (Hint: That’s Good News for Your Bottom Line!)

Let’s start with the juiciest benefit. Did you know that it’s quite likely that your employees actually want to volunteer regularly? 

In 2017, Nonprofits Source reported that 82% of employees surveyed want to have an opportunity to volunteer with their peers in corporate-supported events.

These statistics are just small bits of data in the growing mountain of evidence showing that employees value volunteering. A lot!

You might be wondering, why? 

One reason is employees enjoy a greater sense of purpose when they know their work makes a visible difference. But, volunteering also just makes people feel better in general. Mayo Clinic even states that volunteering improves the physical and mental wellness of volunteers. 

So what does this have to do with your bottom line? The secret mainly lies in the productivity spikes generated by higher employee engagement levels.

The Gallup workplace poll of 2021 found that companies with high employee engagement had 18% higher productivity and 23% higher profitability. And according to the Volunteer Canada 2019 report: “For every employee who participates in a volunteer program, more than $2,400 of value is generated by improving employee engagement. This is created by decreasing turnover costs and improving employee performance.” 

The evidence speaks for itself; a well-designed company volunteer program has the potential to spike employee morale and your profits.

  • Promote Team Collaboration and Communication

You’d think that working together for several hours a day would create rock-solid professional relationships, but that’s not always the case. That’s because a formal work environment doesn’t typically provide the kind of setting needed for employees to connect on a personal level. However, volunteering together can deepen employee connections through the shared experience of helping their community. 

Volunteer Canada states that 80% of employer-supported volunteers believe that group volunteering strengthens their relationships with colleagues. 

Volunteering together can provide opportunities to break social barriers among employees, bridge divisions often caused by office politics, and create a better workplace atmosphere overall.

  • Promote Employee Perception and Loyalty

One study in Ireland reported that 87% of employees who volunteered with their companies had an improved perception of their employer, and 82% felt more committed to the organization they worked for. 

Also, the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey shared earlier revealed that 89% of respondents believed that companies that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those that don’t.

Lastly, the Volunteer Canada ESV 2019 report (also mentioned earlier) stated that 83% of Millennials and 70% of other employees would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.

These three independent sources all point to the fact that corporate volunteer programs are not just socially responsible; they hugely impact how current and potential employees view your business as a place to work!

This brings us to our next point.

  • Attract New and Eager Talent 

A company volunteer program could significantly enhance your company’s attractiveness to new talent, especially within the Millennial and Gen Z age demographic. The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey reported that Millennials and Gen Z want to work for companies that prioritize creating positive social impact. 

And it’s not just this age group; another report by PWC published in 2022 shared that 65% of people, in general, want to work for an organization with a powerful social conscience!

  • Promote Company Image

Once again, a growing percentage of people are calling for companies to demonstrate greater authenticity and genuine accountability. Companies that step up to the plate and take social issues seriously naturally enjoy the benefits of greater public respect (not to mention higher consumer spending). For example, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported in 2020 that 78% of 7000 people surveyed worldwide responded favorably to companies with strong corporate social responsibility initiatives.

A team of employees picking up garbage during company volunteering event

Hopefully, by now you’re convinced that a corporate volunteer program is the right move for your organization! If so, let’s review the steps you need to successfully launch one.

11 steps to launch a high impact employee volunteer program 

  1. Establish your company’s core purpose and values 

First, decide what you want to achieve with your employee volunteer program. If you already have your company’s core mission and values clearly outlined in your business plan, this is your starting point. But if you haven’t, this is a great opportunity to craft one because your company’s core purpose, values, and beliefs should be easy to articulate and communicate to your employees and other stakeholders. 

  1. Assess your community’s needs 

Next, conduct research to find the right opportunities for your employee volunteering initiatives. You can start by talking to the heads of nonprofit organizations within your community. You also look at online searchable databases of volunteer opportunities, such as Volunteer Centre Directory (Canada) and AmeriCorps (USA). 

Keep in mind that according to Harvard Business Review, a strong approach to corporate volunteering is one that “involves identifying a non-profit where your employees can lend their skills and expertise over a designated period of time or on a series of connected events”. 

  1. Assess employee volunteering interests 

At this stage, it’s crucial to understand your volunteers’ interests and passions before finalizing any volunteering focus areas. Reconciling your ideas with your employees’ ideas will make sure that everyone is on board, engaged, and feels heard. Try using Thriver’s polling feature to let employees vote for causes they care about.

There’s also nothing wrong with trying to create some employee buzz around some of your own volunteering ideas! The best way to do that is to clearly communicate the community and other benefits involved. According to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey, 75% of working American Millennials and 61% of all those surveyed said that they would volunteer more if they had a better understanding of the impact they were creating!

Lastly, as you reach out to your team and develop your plan, remember to consider opportunities to include your virtual coworkers.

  1. Align your company volunteer program with resources 

Next, take stock of the company resources at your disposal by completing a budget. If your organization isn’t the size of companies like Home Depot, Loblaw’s or Walmart, your company volunteer program won’t be like theirs, and that’s okay! Match your efforts to your resources and aim for quality over quantity. Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  • What are the costs and benefits of implementing this corporate volunteer program?
  • Who might you be able to help with the resources you have? 
  • What are some ways to gain access to the resources you don’t have? 
  • Will your volunteers’ time be paid or unpaid? 
  • How you could incentivize your employees to volunteer?
  • Is your organization aiming to volunteer for one-off, seasonal, year-round, or a combination of events?  

All of these factors will influence your resource requirements. 

One way to manage your employee volunteering program affordably and effectively is to focus your main volunteering activities in an area that relates to your core business activities – that way, your volunteers can serve with their work skills.

Also, consider starting small and trialling different ideas to identify what’s most suitable for your team and impactful for the community. You can always scale from there.

  1. Secure executive support

Now that you have some solid employee volunteering ideas and a budget, you’re ready to pitch to HR, department heads, managers – whoever is your top executive. It’s crucial to get their support from the get-go to help with organizing and encouraging employee participation. Also, your management’s support will make it easier to recognize and reward volunteer participation in the program. 

  1. Partner with a reputable organization

Partnering with reputable nonprofit groups is another vital piece of a strong CSR strategy. For example, if your team wants to address homelessness, find a credible nonprofit organization that’s already focused on that issue and partner with them. This will protect your company’s reputation, give you access to a valuable network and knowledge, and help your corporate volunteer program have a greater impact.

  1. Create a system for documenting progress and measuring success

Remember how we mentioned earlier that your employee volunteer efforts should benefit the community, your employee volunteers, and your company? Well, you’ll need a fool-proof system for collecting data and other information that will help you measure your progress and effectiveness! The information collected will help you celebrate milestones, reward contributions and participation, and identify program strengths and weaknesses.

Depending on your needs, consider keeping a detailed spreadsheet or finding a more sophisticated digital platform to track your program activities.

You should also have a method of gathering feedback. We recommend creating two types of anonymous surveys: a volunteer experience survey (for employee feedback) and a corporate volunteer program survey (for company executive feedback). 

It’s also worth it to assign at least one specific person to coordinate and manage your employee volunteering, communications, activities, and records.  

Here are some examples of corporate volunteer program records you could keep per event:

  • Names of employees who volunteer
  • When volunteers serve 
  • Where volunteers serve 
  • How many hours volunteers serve
  • Type of volunteer activities performed
  • Number of people served by the volunteers 
  • Other volunteer service level indicators (e.g. number of bottles of water or sandwiches handed out)
  • Amount of money raised or spent
  • Number of non-monetary items collected/created/packaged
  • Any post-event feedback received via a survey
  • Any other information relevant information (e.g. any indicators of increased community visibility thanks to the employee volunteering)

All this might seem way too tedious, but you’ll thank yourself later when it’s time to evaluate and report on your employee volunteering initiative. Here are examples of the types of information the above data might reveal:

  • Names and headcount of participating employees 
  • Number of organizations and/or individuals impacted
  • Types of volunteer activities engaged in 
  • Monetary value of donated volunteer hours
  • Types of employee skills engaged through volunteering activities
  • Your employees’ thoughts on their volunteering experience (from surveys)

You can then prepare a summary report highlighting key takeaways, what worked, what needs improvement, etc. and share it with your executives. You can also extract key data to use in marketing and recruiting efforts.

  1. Prepare your program launch action plan

Now that you’ve created your information-gathering system, it’s time to prepare an action plan for launching your corporate volunteer program. 

Clearly outline everything from company goals and the ‘why’, to where your volunteers will serve, to when the program will launch. Your very first volunteering event should be fun and memorable to create a lasting, positive impression. Feel free to invite your team to help plan this!

Another important thing to keep in mind: it may be wise to seek appropriate expert advice for your volunteer program activities (for example legality, security, and liability considerations).

Lastly, don’t forget that your volunteer program needs a name! Choose something that easily identifies it as a volunteer initiative while highlighting your company’s identity.

Once you’ve prepared your plan, it’s time to present it. Gather your team and invite your executives, non-profit partners, and other stakeholders to your pre-launch meeting. Once you’re done sharing, ask attendees for feedback to help you fine-tune the plan. 

If you need creative ideas for your launch event, hop over to Thriver marketplace and check out some group volunteering activities for work teams!

  1. Launch you corporate volunteer program

It’s finally time to launch your program with your first volunteer event! 

Build up momentum and excitement leading up your launch, through clear communication to all stakeholders. Make sure to maintain effective communication throughout the process to establish strong momentum as you go forward with future volunteer events.   

Your launch event is also the perfect time to share a line-up of any volunteering activities for the coming months, with tentative event dates. You’re more likely to maintain consistency with a line-up of activities that everyone can anticipate and plan around!

  1. Recognize and reward participation efforts

It’s hard to overemphasize how important it is to recognize and reward the people who made your volunteering event happen! Doing so will encourage the participants and motivate them to keep up the good work. Here’s an example of how you might show your appreciation:  

  • After the initial volunteer program launch event, send out messages to thank volunteers, company executives, partners, and anyone else who helped to make the event a success. Give a brief positive report of the event and request a short survey about the launch. 
  • After every volunteering event going forward, be sure to keep sending out appreciation notes. Again, always request a short survey from volunteers and other participants of the event. 
  • Once a year, organize a special gathering and invite all stakeholders (including your nonprofit partners) to attend. You can also invite members of the press as well to help publicize your volunteer work in the community. During this event, provide a brief report on how your company’s volunteering program went. Also, consider taking your appreciation to another level with unique and thoughtful gifts and prizes!
  1. Publicize your corporate volunteer program

Lastly, don’t forget to share news about your company’s volunteer work with the world before, during, and after each event! 

Post photos, videos and testimonials all over your online platforms. Secure spots in local magazines or newspapers, if you can. Publicizing your program will get the word out, attract new volunteers and other supporting parties, and inspire your current volunteers to keep up their efforts.

As mentioned several times previously, the general public is hungry for companies to show more attention to social causes. Prospective employees are watching and even consumers are increasingly factoring CSR issues into their decision-making. So after doing all that hard work, don’t miss out on the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the load of good you’ve just done in the community!

Become a part of the volunteer movement today

There’s a new generation of employees who feel driven by something deeper than financial gain. On top of that, consumers are more conscious than ever of the impact of every purchase. To stay competitive in today’s corporate ecosystem, your company must pay attention and adapt to these trends.

Employees taking a lunch break during a corporate volunteering event

A corporate volunteer program has the potential to create significant practical benefits for local communities, cater to the deeper needs of your employees, and encourage collaboration and loyalty within your team. This is a win-win for all involved, so consider stepping out and launching your very own employee volunteer program!

Remember, you can always check out some creative and fun group volunteering activities at Thriver marketplace if you need ideas to get the ball rolling.

So, what are you waiting for? Become a part of the movement today! 

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