Ask a CSR Friend: Distributing Employee Volunteer T-shirts

Jan 2, 2024

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Dear CSR Friend,

I have managed my company’s employee volunteer program for years and, at the beginning of each year, we struggle to figure out the best method for distributing volunteer t-shirts before projects take place. Now that many of my colleagues are working remotely a few days a week, it’s posing an even more difficult logistical challenge. What are our best options?


T-shirt Turmoil in Tupelo

Dear T-shirt Turmoil,

Having been nicknamed “T-Shirt Lady” in my previous social impact role, I feel your question and your quest deeply! For many companies, volunteer t-shirts serve as more than just promotional apparel; they embody a culture of community engagement and an outward display of employee pride. They also foster a sense of belonging and purpose among employees. But how and when do you get them into your eager employee volunteers’ hands?

Here’s a quick rundown of options you might try this year:

  • Distribute During Onboarding for All New Hires: One of the best times to introduce employees to your company’s social impact initiatives is during their onboarding process. Providing them with a volunteer t-shirt from day one sets the tone for their journey within the company and demonstrates the company’s commitment to making a positive difference where they operate.
  • Use an Annual Milestone to Send to All Employees: To keep the spirit of social impact alive, consider making it a tradition to send a volunteer t-shirt to all employees once a year, perhaps on the anniversary of the company’s founding or the month in which the employee volunteer program launched.
  • Add to the Company’s Branded Merch Website: Make it easy for employees to get their hands on volunteer t-shirts 24/7 by adding them to the company’s branded merchandise website. Maybe they’ll even buy one to wear to the gym!
  • Encourage Volunteers to Wear Vintage T-Shirts: Instead of creating new designs each year, invite employees to wear a branded company shirt or past volunteer t-shirt. This not only reduces waste but also creates a sense of nostalgia and pride. Those paint stains and rips will now be seen as badges of honor!
  • Pick a Convenient Distribution Day: When distributing t-shirts, choose a day when most employees will be in the office, especially in a hybrid work environment. Distributing them in common areas like the lobby or cafeteria can be a great way to build excitement for your upcoming projects. Collaborate with your HR team in case there are other building-wide activities happening (or that COULD happen) on that day. Make sure distribution happens several days in advance of a volunteer project and bring a handful in different sizes to the project just in case a few employees forget or don’t have a chance to claim while in the office.

Three Extra Tips on T-Shirts:

  • Fostering a sense of belonging with volunteer t-shirts includes ensuring there is a range of sizes available for all employees. If they can’t obtain a shirt in a size they feel comfortable in, an employee is sure to feel excluded, which might dissuade them from participating and certainly diminishes the company pride and community vibes branded t-shirts can establish.
  • When selecting a vendor to work with for design, production and shipping of your volunteer t-shirts no matter when you distribute, consider collaborating with organizations that align with your company’s values. Look for partners that serve a greater purpose, such as veteran-owned, female-owned, or minority-owned businesses like Social Imprints. Some even offer options to offset shipping and production emissions.
  • The production and shipping of t-shirts each year can seem wasteful not just to you but also to eco-smart employees. Choose materials that are not only comfortable to wear but also environmentally responsible. Provide instructions for employees on how to repurpose their shirts when they’re no longer wearable, such as donating them to a local charity or turning them into reusable bags or dog toys.

Incorporating volunteer t-shirts into your employer’s social impact strategy (and budget) can be a powerful way to promote a sense of unity and purpose among your employees. These shirts become more than just clothing; they become symbols of your company’s commitment to the community. And they serve as the perfect attire for capturing photos that can be used for internal and external communications, showcasing the positive impact employees are making, both offline and online.

Until Next Month,

Your CSR Friend

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