Why Should I start an Employee Volunteering Program?

A corporate-run employee volunteer program can improve on a number of issues your organization may be encountering:

  • Issues with employee retention
  • Trouble with attracting/retaining qualified staff
  • Employee engagement/team building
  • Finding ways to encourage bonding between millennials and other workers

There’s an avalanche of supporting studies from Deloitte, Gartner, Forrester, and others on the benefits of a Corporate Volunteering Program. The outcomes consistently prove a return-on-investment and happier employees.

It is useful to have a point of reference on the business savings that can result when establishing a Corporate Volunteer Program. We have included an ROI Calculator to help with that task.

What are the benefits of a Corporate Volunteering Program?

Let’s look closer into how engagement through volunteerism can be an exceptional tool for your company.

Employee Turnover

Data from PWC and Harvard Business Review shows that engagement leads to a significant reduction in turnover. HBR studies show “firms with greater corporate responsibility reduce average turnover by 25-50%. It can reduce annual quit rates by 3-3.5%, saving 90%-200% of an employee’s annual salary for each retained position.”


Employee Attraction and Recruiting 

According to Corporate Learning, “The average cost to fill a position is $4,000.” HR managers can remind upper management of this point when they are seeking approval to run a corporate volunteer program.

Corporate Learning also cites that “77% of respondents indicate a company’s commitment to social issues is important when they decide where to work.” Your corporation’s brand and “story” is not just important to your customers-but to your current and future employees.

Skills Development

Deloitte University Press conducted research showing “97% of employees considered volunteering programs an important professional development opportunity for skills development, including leadership, leading a team, meeting a business partner’s needs, negotiating scope, and resolving issues.”


Not only are these skills vital in a successful business, employees are also eager to grow in them. Volunteering programs are perfect for channeling the energy of employees towards developing these skills.

Leadership Development

Volunteering creates more compassionate leaders, a necessity for managers looking to retain good workers. Managers with good relationship skills are more likely to influence their team, and Gallup reveals “75+% of voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers”.  The Gallup Q12 study considers “satisfaction with management” as an engagement standard.

Employee Absenteeism

A global study by Gallup shows a 41% improvement in absenteeism rates where employee engagement was a strategic priority.

Employee Engagement and Volunteerism  

Giving back to our communities requires no justification. Yet as we integrate  volunteering into our human capital process, we achieve increased employee satisfaction, community improvement, staff development growth and more tangible benefits. The sourcing of tools to manage and develop the volunteer function is a key part of that drive towards excellence. 

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What sort of companies have a Corporate Volunteering Program?

Large corporations take advantage of Corporate Volunteer Programs for reasons ranging from addressing employee engagement and developing their employees’ skills, to practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and bettering their overall brand.

Let’s take a look at how some large corporations have been practicing their volunteering programs:

  • Morgan Stanley has been running their Global Volunteer Month program for 13 years, with more than 48,000 colleagues participating in a variety of charity events across 36 countries.

  • Estée Lauder pays annual tribute to their top volunteers with their Leonard A. Lauder Volunteer of the Year Awards. Their volunteers contribute to Estée’s Breast Cancer Campaign, M·A·C AIDS Fund, Aveda Earth Month and to a number of local volunteering programs.

  • Southwest Airlines’ Adopt-A-Pilot program has been running since 1997 with more than 1,500 classrooms across the country seeing their pilots mentor children.

  • Disney VoluntEARS is Walt Disney’s corporate volunteer program. The program was established in 1983 and has seen employees give more than 7.5 million volunteer hours.

  • Oracle USA focuses their Corporate Volunteering Program on advancing education, protecting the environment, and giving back to local communities. Their 2016-2017 report of volunteering efforts shows that 53,134 employees volunteered across 2,386 projects.

  • Time Warner recognizes their exceptional volunteers every year with their Andrew Heiskell Community Service Awards. Warner’s Corporate Volunteering Programs focus on broadening access and diversity to the arts, primarily in New York.

  • General Mills reports that 83% of their employees participated in volunteering in 2017 through their Good Works and Tata Trusts programs and via their partnership with Partners in Food Solutions in Africa.

  • The Home Depot’s Team Depot has 400,000 volunteers that work to improve homes for veterans, train tradespeople, and assist communities affected by natural disasters.

  • Companies leading the way in running international corporate skills-based volunteering programs include: Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows, Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika and IBM’s Corporate Service Corps.



    Whatever volunteering strategy your corporation decides to embark on, you should ensure it aligns best with your company’s culture and values. Seeking feedback from your employees, the ones who will be volunteering, will help you to develop a best fit program.

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    What are the types of Corporate Volunteering Programs?

    Corporate Volunteering Programs can take many forms, from small individual efforts to long-term group events, and everything in between. Think about which type of programs would be best for your company and what your employees would find the most engaging. Don’t limit yourself to just one!

  • Skills-based volunteering
    Skill sharing or skill-based volunteering is about using the professional know-how, skills, and talents of the employees to help nonprofit organizations.

  • Dedicated annual event
    Annual events see the company creating, or partnering with a designated charity, in a day, week-long, or month long annual volunteering event. 

  • Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
    Volunteer Time Off sees the company allotting paid volunteering hours to the employee over a given month or year. This type of program is very personal and flexible to the employee. This program can be individual or group based.   

  • Donation Camps
    Donation Camps are company-run donation drives where the company partners with or nominates a particular charity to raise money for that charity.

  • Online volunteering
    Selecting a local or national charity may resonate best with employees, however it is also possible to find charities from all parts of the world via the Internet.

    What makes an effective Corporate Volunteering Program?

    Volunteerism boosts morale, strengthens team spirit and spreads out the love and positive energy of volunteering. So, let’s find out what the necessary steps are to your first employee volunteer program.

    Define the Needs of Your Company

    Every effort your company makes regarding its future needs to be a step in a sensible direction. Therefore, in order to build a quality program you can benefit from, you need to sort out your objectives first. Whether you are seeking to improve employee engagement or you are simply encouraging your team to make new contacts, volunteering is a great option.

    Naturally, you will have to include the needs of your community as well.Once you assess the needs of your community and coordinate them with the objectives of your business, you will be able to give purpose to your program, which is the first way towards defining it throughout.

    The Role of CEOs and Management

    For your program to be successful, it has to be backed up properly. So, make sure that the head of your company and the whole management team will be there to support it all the way through. Without this support, chances are your program won’t be taken seriously, and its value will be questioned. Besides, all business leaders need to
    take social responsibility seriously if they want to build a powerful brand.

    Make your Employee Volunteer Program Simple

    The simpler, the better – this should be your guiding point throughout the process of program-building. The more options you insert, the more extensive your volunteer program will be. This means that you will have to count in more factors when building it, and it will be time-consuming.

    Apart from this, we all know what happens when you give people too many options to choose from - it makes it difficult for them to select anything. Therefore, keep it simple, so that you’re able to complete it faster, and so that your employees can choose between clear options.

    Reward Your Hard Workers

    We’ve already mentioned some of the great benefits that come with volunteering in the beginning, but you should keep in mind that
    you need to give awards where they are needed. Although volunteering is an award in itself, the fact that an employee is putting an extra effort into helping those who need it the most shouldn’t go without a proper prize.

    So, when you’re trying to decide which expansion method you should go with, you should try to answer the following question – do you want to be a business that steps on the smaller ones on its way to success, or do you want to be a company that grows because they help and lift others up?
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How do I select the right charity partner/cause?

The charity or cause you choose should align with your company’s values. In the age of “conscious capitalism”, every successful business has a set of core values that drive its corporate culture. Whether these values are collaboration or environmental consciousness, you want to make sure your company’s values are clearly articulated and at the centerpiece of your choice of charity.

Don’t just rely on yourself and management though, open up input to your employees! In fact, employees are five times more likely to volunteer when they are given control over their choice of giving. Think about holding a brainstorming session with employees to see where their charitable passions lay. Even a quick online company-wide survey can give you an idea of what charitable causes would be best for your business.

Once you have an idea of what kind of charities or causes you want your company to get behind, do some research. Be sure to only choose groups that are transparent with clearly-defined missions and metrics. They shouldn’t be shy about how their money is spent, especially their administrative costs. Utilize Charity Watch for information on charities you’re not sure about.

Setting goals for the program

man_happy_goalsSetting solid goals for your Corporate Volunteering Program will help planning happen at more than just a superficial level. Develop a strategy with clearly defined objectives.

Assign Roles for Setting Volunteer Participation Goals

Every volunteer at your disposal needs to be familiar with the big picture, as well as their individual purposes within the larger scheme. Trying to direct a large team with the same instructions will complicate things.

You need to do some work on your infrastructure and split your teams into groups that will work to accomplish certain goals. Each group needs to have a leader so that each team member can access any type of information or instructions in a short time period.

Who should lead the program?

Before you choose leaders, make sure everyone is on board with your initiative. Everyone doesn’t have to have an active role in it, but ensure that you have support from all levels of the company: executives, middle managers, and entry-level.

When it comes time to implement your program, consider utilizing individuals in your company who have already demonstrated their leadership, like competent managers with solid communication skills. These leaders should have a great relationship with their staff and a passion for the volunteering program.

From there, don’t be afraid to delegate some responsibilities to lower-level employees, perhaps as small-group leaders or ambassadors.leaders_quote That way, all employees can feel actively involved in the program, and their participation will influence
their peers to be engaged as well. A study from the Case Foundation reveals that peer influence is a very powerful force for joining work-related causes, especially among millennials. So having a supportive corporate body and involved staff can make or break their participation.

Blog Article: 5 Things to Look for in a Volunteering Leader


How do I get employees to participate?

The plans are in place - now how can you best encourage participation?

Use a Point System for All Corporate Volunteer Programs

Competition is always a strong motivator, so using a point system that is based on something measurable can be very effective. For example, basing points on hours that your employees have spent volunteering pushes your employees and can increase employee volunteer participation.

The key is to enable them to turn the points that they gain into actual rewards, which could be anything from gift certificates to financial rewards for the high-performing employees, or even free samples of some of your products.

Follow the lead of such companies as McDonald's, Adobe, NBC, Ford, and Nike and use gamification as a way to motivate.

Organize Volunteer Contests for Corporate Volunteer Programs

You can organize volunteer contests after a particular period, where you will take into account all of the volunteer hours employees have done. To make the contests more fun, you can have different departments compete and provide the winning team with a prize, a perfect recognition for all of their efforts. Again, it can be financial, or it can be something creative and fun that everyone will love.

Host a Special Event after Successful Corporate Volunteer Programs

Communicate successes - Another great way to reward employee volunteering is to host a special event where you will share your staff’s achievements with the entire company. There’s nothing more rewarding than praising someone publicly and openly for their efforts and letting them know that you recognize and appreciate their good work.

There are plenty of benefits of volunteering as a company, but rewarding your employees for their participation in corporate volunteer programs will empower them even more and significantly increase their satisfaction and enjoyment at work, so get your creative juices flowing and inspire them to increase their engagement.

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How do I manage & measure the ROI?

For your program to work and for it to open new doors for your company, it is necessary that you pay attention to employee volunteer management. In the end, everything falls to this department and they will be either responsible for failure or rewarded for success.

Organization Is Key

Coordinating a group of people, no matter its size, is a very difficult task if you don’t have a detailed strategy already developed in front of you. Your employee volunteers require strong leadership, and if they sense that you're not sure what you’re doing (even for a second), they will start to lose interest. Therefore, you need to lead your program with a firm hand in order to help your cause.

Volunteers Want to Make a Significant Change

Interestingly enough, employee volunteer management is not as motivated as volunteers are. We live in the age of millennials, a generation full of bright and inspired people determined to leave their mark. As it so happens, volunteer programs active today are not able to organize them so that they can
actually make a difference.

Most of the programs, although helpful to their communities, consist of superficial activities which act only on the local scale. A piece of information like this is useful to have in mind if you plan on starting something bigger and more engaging.

Assigning Volunteer Roles is Crucial for a Successful Program

Your management department in charge of employee volunteers needs to bring their organization to a new level and go past casual. For your program to make actual progress on a daily basis, it is imperative that every volunteer has a set of tasks before them each time when they sign in.

Other than that, and as the program develops, roles should be assigned to employees due to their engagement and accomplishments. By doing this, you’ll be able to unload some responsibilities from your management team.

Implementing Technology to Volunteer Work

Volunteer work does not need to be done the old school way! Another way to make your employee volunteer programs more efficient is to add technology to them.

metrics_picThere are programs that will give you time saving automation tools and a central hub to organize all of your volunteers.

Generating metrics to show Return on Investment will also be top of mind for those running volunteering programs. Selecting a program that can give you a snapshot of the results of your efforts at the click of a button will be invaluable.