5 tips to boost your corporate volunteer programme
Congratulations! Your company is thinking about establishing a corporate volunteering programme, with all the bells and whistles. Or maybe you’ve already taken things a step further and appointed a dedicated Corporate Volunteering Manager, forged and reinforced links with a range of local charities and now offer a variety of tasks for your employees to choose from.
And then? Tumbleweed…
“Build it, and they will come”, they said, but many companies are finding out their CV programme is floundering. How so?
It is important to understand what makes your employees decide to volunteer. What makes Jalila and James tick? To kick off this conversation, it’s clear that it is counterproductive to frame volunteering as an obligation or chore. Rather, it should be presented and understood as an activity that can enrich your life and increase satisfaction and purpose.
Do you want to steer your corporate volunteering programme in the right direction? If the answer is yes, you should do more than simply referring employees to an online overview of volunteer activities. The five tips below will help you create the right mindset among your employees and boost your corporate volunteer programme.
1. Make them own it
Let’s start with stating the obvious: companies are brimming with professionally skilled people. Hey, you and your colleagues selected them yourselves, remember?! Each enterprise employs people with years of experience working in various roles, from project managers to software developers.
Many employers know that the sense of ownership of a project or task boosts performance. Numerous employee engagement techniques, such as Google's famous 20% rule – where employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their time on what they think will benefit Google – are based on this exact principle.
In the same vein, it is important for corporate volunteers to experience ownership over their contributions to charity projects. Let them figure out how they can and want to help social organisations. How can they leverage their unique, individual skills for the benefit of their favourite goal, to maximise their impact? Maybe your employees want to contribute by setting up and even running a fundraising workshop, or by developing a social media calendar. Encourage conversations between charities and volunteers to open up a whole new world of volunteer activities.
2. Be the change you want to see
So, how about you? Yes, you, dear reader. You manager, you CEO, you board member, you CSR director – or whatever your position may be, high up on the corporate food chain. What are you going to do to give the right example?
To drive that mindset change in your company culture, it is most effective when leadership shows its commitment. Some top-down corporate volunteerism, if you will.
Your employees are more eager to embrace that necessary volunteer mindset when they see their management’s engagement. In other words: they need to see you volunteer!
Crucial here then, is the role of internal and external communication. Every relevant stakeholder, inside and outside, should hear about the leadership’s engagement and commitment, so that it can snowball throughout the organisation, and maybe even beyond.
Wondering why this works so well? You already know. Every team needs an inspiring leader – and that applies to corporate volunteering as well.
3. Create a culture of social impact
Following on from the last point, you can boost your corporate volunteering by establishing a true culture of social impact. Australian software company Atlassian has been building its own social impact culture for years, culminating in the establishment of the Atlassian Foundation. Partly because of this, Atlassian nabbed Great Place to Work awards several times in recent years.
“What we mean with a social impact culture?", asks Jan Kaan, former Benelux Channel Manager at Atlassian. According to him, corporate volunteering "has everything to do with employee engagement. From an employee's point of view, we know that everyone is looking for purpose – especially millennials. They find it very inspiring when you provide them with a purpose that complements their daily tasks. It helps employees go the extra mile for their work, it's as simple as that.”
The lesson here is, that this sense of purpose should imbue all other business activities. You can work on your social impact culture by putting purpose on the agenda for your team meetings or by setting KPIs for each team around social impact.
4. Get them while they’re fresh
At a basic level, volunteering can be seen as an activity. And regular volunteering can be perceived as a habit. And you know what? New employees are generally open to learning new habits. Just think about your company etiquette, work hours and meeting styles – all those new behaviours a fresh recruit has to internalise while onboarding.
At Atlassian, they "encourage new employees, as part of the onboarding process, to engage in a volunteer activity within 60 days", says Jan Kaan. "When volunteers engage in volunteer activities within the first few days, they are subsequently more likely to continue doing so."
It is important then, that there is a clear signal to adopt a habit. To sustain the habit, however, there must also be a reward. Here, this is the 'do good' feeling that the volunteer experiences as a reward for their behaviour.
5. Be real
What we mean is: be realistic – possibly even humble – about what can be achieved with the corporate volunteering programme. This may sound somewhat counterintuitive. After all, isn't the goal to make the CV programme as successful as possible?
It certainly is! But there are different ways to make this happen. For example, you can increase engagement by regularly sharing success stories, tips or ideas. But there is no point in trying to convince your employees that they are contributing to the most impactful experience of the year.
Instead, you may want to focus on some of the other benefits volunteering has to offer. Employees who volunteered for a day through Deedmob's company volunteering programme, for example, told us that the following things were very much appreciated:
● It is good a way to get to know colleagues better (including those from other departments)
● Doing something different and valuable for a day is relaxing
● There are many shared moments of positivity and laughter
● You get to know people with whom you normally don’t interact
● Using your skills in other do-good environments is inspiring
As you see with most employee engagement strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution: it takes regular experimentation to discover how a CV programme suits your employees. With the above tips, we encourage you to get started or brainstorm on how you can increase the success of your company volunteering programme.