Designing an International Employee Volunteer Program: 8 Essential Tips for CSR Leaders

Jul 25, 2023

Establishing an effective international employee volunteer program (EVP) is a valuable endeavor for corporate social impact leaders. With three decades of insights from working with diverse businesses, we’ve gathered several essential tips to help you navigate the complexities of building a global program. Let’s explore these recommendations, which will enable your company to engage employees around the world in making a positive impact.

  1. Alignment and Adaptability: Decide whether to fully align your program globally under one strategy, focus area or goals or allow for total customization, considering the unique needs and cultural nuances of each country. Either way, strive for a balance between a unified mission and local adaptations. Avoid imposing American values and recognize that what works in one country may not be effective in another.
  2. Budgets and Resources: Think through how you might implement budgets, tracking systems, and reporting tools to empower local teams but also stay knowledgeable about what’s happening should you be leading this work from the U.S. This approach enables efficient program management and encourages ownership at the grassroots level. Provide comprehensive information and training on volunteer recruitment and retention along with project management basics. Stay connected and involved by equipping them with the necessary knowledge, skills and tools.
  3. Cultural Sensitivity and Legal Knowledge: Be sensitive to individual cultures and familiarize yourself with the laws governing volunteering in each country. Respect and understand cultural differences to ensure the program’s success and compliance with local regulations. You’ll find that employees in some countries are reticent to share information about their volunteer work or prefer to volunteer independent of their employer. Check out our blog that describes some of those cultural nuances.
  4. Executive Buy-In: Secure executive leadership buy-in and visible endorsement of the global program. When leaders demonstrate their support, employees are more likely to participate and understand that community engagement aligns with company values and is a top priority – for the business, for employees and for the communities where your company operates.
  5. Start Small for Big Wins: Consider starting off with a pilot program in a country that shows strong potential for success. Consider factors such as language similarities, existing business relations and partnerships, organizational structures, and a history of employee volunteerism. Set realistic goals to build momentum.
  6. Leadership and Communication: Rely on local knowledge and leadership to foster a sense of ownership and engagement. Establish a global communication structure to ensure consistent messaging and facilitate knowledge sharing among participants worldwide.
  7. Motivation and Empowerment: Structure the EVP to motivate and empower local employees to take charge of their programs and partnerships. Implement multi-faceted recognition strategies, including awards and matching programs that can help your company tell its story of global social impact.
  8. External Resources and Partnerships: Seek assistance from knowledgeable resources, organizations, and individuals who understand local cultures and laws. Collaborate with community leaders and select NGOs compatible with your company’s values, social impact mission, and strategic goals.

By following these essential tips, CSR leaders can create a successful international employee volunteer program that respects cultural differences, fosters local ownership, and empowers employees worldwide. Balancing global alignment with flexibility, cultural sensitivity, and effective leadership will help your organization make a meaningful difference in communities around the globe.

Start your company’s journey toward a global movement of positive change today by reaching out to our corporate solutions team.

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.