How Smart Companies Encourage Employees to Volunteer Their Time

Published March 1, 2022
company employees volunteer serve food

Having employees who actively engage in volunteer work can benefit a company in many ways. From raising the company's profile in the community or industry to increasing employee engagement and boosting team cohesiveness, employee volunteering can lead to many positive outcomes. That's why so many smart business owners and managers look for ways to encourage their employees to get involved with charitable organizations. There are many strategies to consider.

Provide Paid Volunteer Time Off

Paid volunteer time off (VTO) is a great employee benefit that encourages, even incentivizes, employees to volunteer. When a company is so committed to the importance of volunteerism that management is willing to provide employees with paid time off (beyond vacation time or personal days) specifically for that purpose, its employees are highly likely to be inspired to share their talents and time by volunteering with a nonprofit organization.

Demonstrate Management Commitment

Paying for VTO is a great way to show that volunteering matters to the company; but the company's leaders should also model the behaviors they want employees to exhibit. That's why it's important for members at all levels of the management team to actively engage in volunteer activities as representatives of the organization. From serving on boards to providing services to raising money, the more involved management is, the greater the chances that employees will see value in volunteering.

Track and Report Employee Volunteerism

If volunteerism is important to your company, track and report it just like you do with other key business metrics. Ask employees to report their volunteer hours, including paid VTO time and what they do on their own time. Keep a running total for all to see, such as by posting a fundraising thermometer (with hours instead of money) on the intranet or in the break room. Provide quarterly reports that show how much value, in terms of donated time, employees are providing to the community.

Set Volunteerism Goals

If your company emphasizes goal-setting as part of its performance management process, expand your approach to encompass volunteerism. To do this, you'll need to encourage managers to set volunteerism goals for their teams, and to work with employees to set their own goals for volunteerism. Utilize them as part of the performance evaluation process, just as you would for goals focused on employee development, productivity, or performance improvement.

Recruit Co-workers for Volunteer Projects

Encourage employees who volunteer with local charitable organizations to recruit their co-workers to join in the fun, especially when an organization has a special event fundraiser coming up that will require a lot of volunteers. This can be as simple as allowing employees to post volunteer sign-up sheets for their pet causes in the break room or on the company intranet. It may also be helpful to let them visit various company meetings to pitch participation.

Recruiting volunteers

Sponsor Company Cook-Off Teams

Nonprofit organizations often raise money via cookoff fundraisers, which involve groups of co-workers or friends registering to compete for bragging rights about who makes the best barbecue, chili, gumbo, etc. If your company will sponsor an employee team by paying the entry fee and buying the ingredients, chances are that a lot of employees will volunteer to participate. Your company will be seen in a high-visibility community event that helps a local charity raise a lot of money.

Recognize Employees Who Volunteer

Make sure that employees who volunteer with charitable organizations are recognized for their generosity. There are many ways to do this, such as profiling employees who do volunteer work in the company newsletter or on social media pages. You could also provide a place on the company intranet where employees can blog about or post photos from volunteer activities, or start a volunteerism wall of fame display in the office, with pictures of team members engaged in volunteer activities.

Start a Volunteer Service Hours Challenge

Host a volunteer service hours challenge to inspire friendly competition between teams or departments to inspire them to achieve volunteerism milestones within a certain timeframe. Consider choosing a charitable organization to focus on for a quarter (or another timeframe). Challenge employee teams to see who can put in the most time with that group during the timeframe. Provide a prize to the winning team and give them the privilege of choosing an organization for the next challenge.

Encourage Volunteerism Field Trips

In order for employees to become a cohesive team, it's important for team members to have an opportunity to participate in shared experiences. With that in mind, encourage managers to periodically schedule volunteerism field trips for their employees. Treat it like a team-building off-site event, but rather than going to a workshop the group can pack boxes at a food bank, read to at-risk youth, teach computer skills to senior citizens, or engage in other meaningful volunteer activities.

company volunteer group field trip

Partner With Local Nonprofits

Select a few local charitable organizations whose services or causes closely align with the organization's values to champion publicly. Consider sponsoring a major project with one or more of these organizations and encouraging employees to get involved beyond whatever financial contribution the company has pledged. To encourage a high level of engagement with the chosen projects, consider doubling paid VTO hours for employees who give time to the selected organization(s).

Encourage Employees to Nominate Causes

Rather than having the executive team decide which organizations the company will partner with, give employees an opportunity to nominate causes that are important to them for consideration. Consider having a "call for proposals" period during which employees can submit their nominations of charities to champion. Provide a forum for them to pitch their chosen cause to their co-workers. Let the employees all vote to select which cause(s) will be selected.

Inspire Your Employees to Make a Difference

Implementing programs and ideas like the ones above can inspire your employees to become active volunteers and make a difference by volunteering with worthwhile causes. As a result, they'll help raise your company's profile in the community while boosting their own skills and bonding with their co-workers. Additionally, they'll be really proud to work for a company that has such a strong commitment to giving back to the community.

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How Smart Companies Encourage Employees to Volunteer Their Time