What is Corporate Volunteerism?
Corporate volunteerism is a rewarding way for companies to make a positive impact in their local community. It involves employees volunteering their time and skills to help out in various ways, such as fundraising, collecting donations, providing mentorship or engaging with local charities. Corporate volunteerism offers many benefits to those involved, from enhancing work culture and increasing employee satisfaction to positively affecting the bottom line through increased sales and greater customer loyalty.
The concept of corporate volunteerism has been gaining traction in recent years as more companies recognize the value it can bring both on an individual level and on an organizational scale. For businesses looking for new ways to engage with customers and increase brand awareness, corporate volunteering can be a great option. With its potential for long-term growth and sustainability, it’s no wonder that more businesses are getting onboard with this initiative.
Types of Volunteerism Programs
With the vast array of volunteering programs available, it can be hard to know where to start. Corporate volunteerism offers a unique opportunity for companies and organizations to take part in local community service projects, while also providing employees with an outlet for social engagement and networking.
There are several types of corporate volunteerism programs that fit different business needs; ranging from one-off projects, skill-based volunteering initiatives, or even employee leadership programs. One-off projects are short term activities which may involve physical labor such as picking up trash or clearing overgrown vegetation in a local neighborhood. Skill-based volunteering projects offer employees the chance to use their professional expertise in areas like mentoring, workshops and fundraising initiatives whereas employee leadership programs provide opportunities for team building and allowing employees to serve as ambassadors for the company’s philanthropic efforts.
Challenges in Implementing Programs
In the modern world of corporate responsibility, companies have a unique opportunity to give back to their communities in a meaningful way. However, there are challenges in implementing corporate volunteerism programs.
For starters, many companies lack the resources and funding needed for effective program implementation. Time is a key factor as well—it’s not uncommon for employees to be too busy with their daily tasks to dedicate time and effort towards volunteering initiatives.
Besides availability, some employees may simply not be interested in volunteering if they feel it impedes their other work or if it feels more like a pesky to-do rather than a passion project. In addition, it can be difficult for companies to align the goals of their volunteerism programs with those of their business objectives. Further, corporate volunteerism programs, like any corporate initiative, can lose their shine and momentum if not given regular evaluation.
The Benefits of Corporate Volunteerism
Corporate volunteerism is becoming increasingly popular as businesses are recognizing both the benefits and their responsibility to do the right thing. In fact, 87% of executives know that employees hold them accountable for addressing social and environmental issues.
Actively engaging in the community strengthens community relationships which in turn increases brand awareness and enhances the company image as a trustworthy organization that genuinely cares. This ultimately draws more passionate job applicants and loyal customers, and increases the likelihood of winning bids and important partnerships.
Providing volunteerism opportunities also helps build a thriving work culture in which employees feel fulfilled, invested in their job, and proud to work for their employer.
With active leadership from senior management combined with input from employees, a well implemented corporate volunteerism program brings several business benefits:
- Strengthened community relationships
- Enhanced company image
- Greater brand awareness
- Satisfied employees
- Purpose-driven work culture
- Passionate job applicants seeking meaningful work
- Customer loyalty
- Increased opportunity for winning bids and partnerships
Corporate volunteerism often boosts employee engagement which in turn creates a positive ripple-effect throughout the organization. According to Galaxy Digital, leader in volunteerism management, employees are five times more engaged in companies that offer employer-sponsored volunteer opportunities.
Employees who are given opportunities to play a part in a larger cause and make a difference in their community can feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment and belonging. Volunteerism programs also grant employees the chance to have a much needed recharge from daily work tasks and collaborate with their team members. This can be especially impactful for those who may otherwise feel disconnected from the company’s mission and goals. Organizations can further support employee engagement by inviting employee input in the decision making process and creating employee leadership opportunities.
Corporate volunteerism creates the perfect environment for employees to exercise their talents and skills outside of the workplace, as well as gain new knowledge and insight from connecting with community members.
Currently 1 in 4 U.S. companies and nonprofits offer Volunteer Time Off (VTO), paid time off for employees who participate in volunteering programs. This is not only a powerful incentive to keep employees engaged and willing to volunteer, but it also makes it financially possible for employees to step away from their work and give back to the community.
It’s important to remember that corporate volunteerism is as much an investment in the community as it is an investment in employee satisfaction and growth.
- Personal sense of purpose, fulfillment and belonging
- A chance to recharge from day-to-day work tasks
- Increased team building
- Enhanced team communication
- Employee leadership opportunities
- Skill and knowledge building outside the workplace
- Paid Volunteer Time Off (VTO) opportunities
Corporate volunteerism creates resource pathways and partnerships that communities desperately need, particularly marginalized groups who lack access to basic needs such as health services, quality education, nutritious foods, job training and employment.
In addition to the material, training and monetary resources that organizations can provide, corporate volunteerism also gives communities the chance to have their voices heard and influence the decisions that affect them. Corporate volunteerism activities such as peer support groups and community presentations should grant community members the chance to lead the cause and communicate how best to serve the community.
Additionally, corporate volunteerism has a strong impact on community resilience, the capacity to meet current and future community needs amidst changes brought by climate change, population growth, and an evolving economic and political landscape.
What Makes a Successful Program
While corporate volunteerism programs can take a variety of forms, there are some key elements that every program should include:
- An Outreach Plan – Before you can launch your program, you’ll first need an outreach plan. What are the community’s needs? What will be your target issue? What’s the budget and who will be in charge of what? These are just some of the questions you should consider when planning your corporate volunteerism program. Read our article, “The Importance of Community Education and Outreach for People, the Planet and Business”, to learn more about creating an effective outreach plan.
- Adequate Resources – Often corporate programs fail due to poor budgeting. Before launching your program, ensure you have all the resources you need to keep it running – funding, materials, participants, leadership, etc. Consider partnering with another business or nonprofit to combine forces and pursue the same cause.
- Employee Input – Seek input from your team and figure out what matters to them. You can schedule a group discussion or send out an anonymous poll to collect feedback. Employees who feel they have a say in the decisions that affect them are more likely to participate and put in genuine effort.
- Senior Leadership – It’s important for senior management to get involved with company initiatives because they can positively influence the rest of the team. Employees want to know their employers care and they will likely reciprocate the same effort.
- Active Listening – Give a voice to community members, let them lead and listen to their views, ideas and concerns. Corporate volunteerism is a collaborative effort between company and community and it’s built on respect and trust.
- Regular Evaluations – To keep your team from losing interest and to maintain an outreach program that is always fresh and inviting, it’s critical to schedule monthly or quarterly team meetings to discuss current outreach progress and future plans, designated roles and responsibilities, budget, partnerships and new opportunities, etc. Save time for questions and concerns, and ask your outreach team if they have the adequate resources and support they need.
- Public Announcements – Announce to your stakeholders, online and in the community, about your corporate volunteerism program. Make it easy for stakeholders to learn about your outreach efforts on your website, social media channels, in newsletters and other marketing materials. Invite stakeholder questions and input, and facilitate discussions that make stakeholders feel like they can be a part of the cause too.
Real Life Examples of Corporate Volunteerism Done Right
Here’s a look at just a few organizations making a difference with corporate volunteerism.
- Patagonia – Through their Environmental Internship Program, Patagonia offers VTO for up to two months and allows employees from all parts of the company to personally choose an environmental group to give back to. This year, 34 individuals, 12 stores and one department participated in Patagonia’s Environmental Internship Program, generating about 10,000 volunteer hours for 43 organizations. Patagonia also makes it easy for passionate individuals to connect with environmental action groups in their community via the Patagonia Action Works platform.
- 3M – 3M is actively involved in communities worldwide. 3M employees and alumni are eligible to volunteer in a variety of ways such as promoting STEM via hands-on experiments and classroom presentations, beautification projects, charity marathons, providing healthy meals and school supplies to students, providing worker and patient safety training, among other initiatives.
- Tom’s of Maine – Tom’s of Maine also offers employees VTO (up to 12 full days a year) for a cause they’re passionate about in their Giving for Goodness program. From serving animal shelters and schools, beach cleanups and restoring nature trails, and coaching kids teams, Tom’s of Maine employees can give back in a way that speaks to them. Tom’s of Maine also
- Hasbro – Team Hasbro is Hasbro’s employee volunteer program aimed at enhancing team building and morale throughout the company while making a significant impact on communities globally. Employees can give their time and talents to any of the Team Hasbro signature programs: Service for Schools (beautification projects and supplies/toy donations for schools), Playful Painters (employees exercise their creativity with local beautification and mural projects), Game Day (employees organize a game day to donate toys and games to local youth), and Team Hasbro Skill Share (a pro bono skill sharing platform that matches Hasbro employees to nonprofits seeking experts).