5 Questions to Jumpstart Your Employee Volunteer Strategy and Program Design

Jul 13, 2023

Big corporations as well as small and midsized businesses all want to know whether there’s a perfect time to start providing employees with opportunities to create social impact. Thankfully, when it comes to employee volunteer strategy and program design, there is only one answer: Now.

While there’s a lot more planning that needs to go on before launching a corporate social responsibility strategy, many those who ask this question have a ‘perfect’ timeline in mind, such as business age or development stage, when it fits the budget or leadership interests, or conversely, they have no idea when or how to engage the right nonprofit partner. In truth, if you’re asking this question, there’s likely no reason to wait.

Corporate community engagement can take many forms, from workplace giving programs to providing volunteer time off (VTO), which allows employees to volunteer during regular work hours, to organizing group service experiences for your employees. Even giving employees time off to vote is community engagement.

It’s important to know that no matter what kinds of community engagement your business decides to undertake, they all provide myriad benefits, so the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to capture the value for your company, your employees and the communities where they live and work.

Corporate social responsibility programs that engage employees provide benefits far beyond a healthy return on investment. We’ve made a list below of who gains significant value and how, regardless of the program type.

For companies:

  • Makes the company more attractive to job seekers
  • Builds authentic brand value and values locally, regionally, and globally
  • Provides financial returns
  • Strengthens workforce skill sets
  • Increases employee engagement, productivity, and retention
  • Helps identify emerging leaders

For employees:

  • Allows employees to feel more fulfilled personally and professionally
  • Helps employees listen and learn about community challenges and opportunities
  • Provides team-building opportunities
  • Provides resume builders and new skill development
  • Allows employees to feel more connected to their employer while living out organizational values

Forming partnerships with nonprofits also benefits the organization itself by providing much needed human capital resources from hands-on volunteers to board members, as well as advocates for the community issues they’re working to solve. When companies engage employees in creating positive change, all stakeholders reap rewards.

While you should certainly start as soon as possible, there are some important questions to answer before you develop your community engagement strategy and launch initiatives.

What type of programs work for your company?

As we mentioned before, this can take many forms, from a company-wide donation campaign to hands-on, off-site work. Make sure you design programs that meet community needs first and appeal to most employees. However, you’ll want to create them with enough flexibility to include anyone with potential limitations.

Why are you doing it?

While we’ve provided numerous benefits the company and employees can enjoy above, it’s important to identify why your company wants to undertake engaging employees in community—and that ‘why’ should ideally align with business objectives, culture and values. This clarity will ensure that your company maximizes its most powerful resource, your people, and achieves meaningful impact for all.

How will you measure success?

To properly assess the progress and success of your strategy, you’ll need to know what KPIs to track so efforts and achievements can be communicated to partners, stakeholders, leaders, and employees alike. Listening to and partnering with communities and the NGOs your corporate social responsibility programs support can help you to truly understand the positive impact you are creating. For an excellent primer on inputs, outputs and outcomes—the data you’ll want to collect and share—read through this blog by True Impact, a leader in social impact measurement.

How will you convince senior leaders?

While community engagement programs are highly beneficial, you also need to be able to communicate the ‘why’ as well as the ‘who, what, when, where, and how’ to executives and stakeholders, or it may never come to fruition. Think of this as another incredibly important business strategy with objectives, tactics, metrics and an annual timeline to back it up. They might also be interested in data from third-party sources that proves the return on investment and, if so, check out ACCP’s Making the Case toolkit for 2023.

Is it meaningful?

Whether you offer ways for employees to make individual or group contributions, ensure you understand what actions and issues are meaningful to them. An employee survey can help you uncover themes and ideas. Context can also create meaning. So, offer opportunities to learn about community issues before volunteer projects and time to reflect and resources to stay engaged afterward. Most importantly, ensure the work is meaningful to the community or your nonprofit partner.

Now that you’ve got the basics of what you need to consider, it’s time to get started. If you need more information, we’ve got plenty of valuable resources right here on our website. In fact, we’ve outlined a full list of considerations to get your company started in our Social Impact Playbook. Or, for more direct guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly.

Katy Elder
Vice President of Corporate Insights, Points of Light

Spending 20 years in the corporate social responsibility sector, Katy mixes creativity and strategy with expertise in employee engagement and corporate citizenship to develop resources and learning opportunities that advance corporate social impact.