Your corporate volunteer program engages employees and provides a meaningful and valuable experience that gives back to the community. It is a unique form of corporate philanthropy and citizenship, providing an external outlet for your employees to share their passion and showcase the company’s values and commitment. To ensure your program is successful, it must become part of the corporate culture. That is, companies must put the resources behind the volunteer program and create a collaborative and positive environment that gets their workforce to participate. So how can companies encourage employees to participate and how can they increase volunteer participation rates?
1. Get the word out.
Your employees need to be aware of the volunteer opportunity if you want them to participate. Understand how your employees get their information. Is it in team meetings, employee newsletters or via some other internal outlet? If you have a list of employees that previously volunteered, send them a targeted blast to “keep an eye out for this upcoming opportunity”. Once an employee volunteers, they have a tendency to do it again.
2. Use word of mouth to recruit volunteers. Ask several influential key employees to serve as co-chairs of the event. These are your cheerleaders and they can use positive peer pressure to get more folks to participate. Look for employees that are energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about the cause to lead. People respond more positively to people instead of an email blast. It is also hard for them to not show up at the volunteer site once they signed up as they have to see their colleague at work the next day. Have your co-chairs give out “I am volunteering” stickers or badges for their desk.
3. Tell them what it is. Make it easy for people to decide if they want to participate by describing the activity, purpose and expectations. Volunteers want to know when to show up, when they can leave, how they should get there, what they need to wear or bring, what they will be doing, and who else will be there (or at least, how many other volunteers will be there). Give a contact name and how this person can be reached on the day of the event.
4. Make it easy to sign up. If your corporate volunteer program is relatively new, make the initial steps of getting involved as easy and inviting as possible. Use technology platforms as much as you can to make it easier for you and your volunteers to keep track of activities. Send a reminder several days before the event and include basic information such as time, address, and contact details.
5. Make it fun and get them excited. Whether you decide to pick a week for a volunteer project or have on-going opportunities, it is important to get the employees excited about the program. Start by communicating your company’s commitment to giving back and how the volunteer program furthers those goals. After the event, recognize the volunteers publicly and consider giving out volunteer of the year awards to reinforce your company’s commitment.
Make the volunteer event fun by giving out shirts to wear. Take photos of your volunteers working at the site and share it with them afterward. It’s also a great opportunity to show pictures of your employees volunteering on your company’s social media sites.
You can also offer opportunities for employees to volunteer as teams, organize competitions, or maybe even allowing families and friends to take part in the event. For example, it is difficult for parents to spend a weekend working a volunteer event. However, if they can also bring their children to help and make it a family tradition, you will get a more positive response.
6. Company-wide day of service.
According to the 2015 Giving in Numbers study, company-wide day of service is the most successful volunteer program. Aside from doing the volunteer activity and doing good, the social aspect of working with colleagues in a non-work setting appeals to many folks, including millennials. In fact, 77% of millennials
would prefer to volunteer with groups of fellow employees.
7. Brief and debrief. On the volunteer day, it is important to explain why the company is participating in this event and why it matters. If possible, have a representative from the nonprofit partner talk about the program. Spend time debrief after the event. Ask participants about their experience and what they got out of it. Intentional reflection helps the company plan for future events and the collected data informs the impact of the program.
How did you increase your employee volunteer participation rates? Please share with us! #passitforward #employeeengagement