How to develop a volunteer program for employees

Best practices for motivating volunteers and creating social impact through service

Corporate volunteering programs enable employees to make a difference by providing them with opportunities to donate their time to meaningful causes. They can unlock substantial value for companies by positively impacting employees and deepening their connections to the communities they serve. Research shows that volunteering benefits people’s well-being, sense of purpose and overall health, plus makes them better citizens at work.

Is your company’s volunteer program meaningful enough to increase employee engagement, connection, motivation, and overall productivity? Organizations with increased employee engagement grow 3.9 times faster than those with low employee engagement. Clearly, disengagement is costly. According to Gallup, workers' disengagement is one issue contributing to “the great resignation”.

A successful volunteer program requires the right tools and thoughtful coordination. Here are a few best practices for developing one that increases employee engagement and demonstrates your commitment to corporate citizenship:

Create an outline

Brainstorm the main purpose of your program and share it with your leadership team. Include your employees in the discussion to motivate them to participate in social impact activities at work. Discuss the amount of impact you hope your program will achieve, who it will serve, and how it aligns with the values of your company, employees, and stakeholders.

Select a type

Next, determine which type of employee volunteer program is best for your company. For example, if most of your staff works from home, consider virtual volunteering experiences that bring everyone together in an effort to make a difference for those in need. No matter which solution you offer, company promoted volunteer programs are a great way to build your brand — your reputation is a vital part of your company’s success, as it affects 95% of job seekers' decisions.

  • In-person volunteering: In-person volunteering, also known as field volunteering, is completed on-site. In-person volunteering opportunities engage employees by getting them out of the office or their daily routines in order to serve local nonprofit causes. Staff members can participate in this type of volunteerism individually or as part of a team.
  • Virtual volunteering: Virtual volunteering opportunities entail volunteer activities partially or wholly completed online. Virtual volunteering services are time efficient as they require no traveling, and are more inclusive as employees can participate from anywhere. Since the pandemic in 2019, corporations have adopted virtual volunteering as the new norm. Forbes predicts that virtual volunteering is a trend that is here to stay.
  • Skills-based volunteering: Skills-based volunteering entails employees using their expertise and professional experience to serve community needs effectively. Through skills-based volunteerism, employees share and practice their unique talents with a nonprofit organization that requires that particular skill set to achieve their mission.

Set goals

Set specific and achievable objectives for your volunteers so that you can celebrate their successes and show them that you value their service. It’s important that your goals are measurable and attainable. Ensure you can quantify program outcomes, and that your goals are practical considering the resources available to you. Make sure you account for impact measurement and how you will track hours for your impact report. Also, set a time frame for achieving certain goals. Deadlines can help motivate participating staff members, as they will likely strive to meet them.

Inspire & motivate

The difference between inspiration and motivation is that inspiration makes volunteers want to perform, while motivation gives volunteers a reason to perform. Positivity and enthusiasm can help inspire team members to participate in your volunteer program. Enthusiasm is infectious — show it in planning meetings or email invitations to influence potential volunteers. When employees are enthusiastic about what they're doing, they’re more likely to go the extra mile to help achieve company goals. Inspired and motivated volunteers will equate to an increase in engagement and social impact.

Try motivating employees to participate in your volunteer program through recognition and rewards. Announce the volunteer of the month, or mention volunteer accomplishments in newsletters. Reward volunteers with prizes, like a t-shirt or charitable eCard, to show appreciation for their service. Post about past volunteer events on social media to show followers how committed your employees are to making a difference.

Track & manage

Managing your volunteer program and participants should be a simple process. Instead of tracking data in a spreadsheet, consider using a volunteer management software that saves you time. The software you adopt should be an end-to-end solution for finding and promoting opportunities, registering participants, and generating impact measurement reports.

Follow up

Once your volunteer event is over, be sure to follow up with participants. Collect feedback by sending them a survey that asks questions like, “how satisfying was your experience”, “do you feel like you made a difference”, and “would you like to volunteer again”. Take time to review participants’ responses, then implement appropriate changes before announcing another volunteer opportunity to your team. Incorporating the opinions of participants will build a more engaging and impactful program, while deepening employees’ connection to your company and the causes they care about.

Now that you understand how to create an engaging volunteer program, it’s time to implement the above best practices. If you’re looking for more authentic ways to generate corporate social responsibility (CSR), be sure to check out our solutions for companies. We help thousands of organizations with social impact, employee engagement ideas, corporate philanthropy and impact measurement.