How Employee Volunteer Councils Can Foster Volunteer Program Success

May 30, 2023

A formal leadership or governance structure for your employee volunteer program can extend the reach of your staff, provide development opportunities for employees and sustain the momentum of continually increasing community impact. Most effective employee volunteer programs use some type of leadership structure – either committees or individual champions – to support the management and operations of the program at a regional or local level and to scale their program’s initiatives throughout their company’s footprint.

No matter which structure is right for your program and corporate culture, successful implementation is critical to generating enthusiasm and buy-in from your employees, connecting with senior leadership and serving as a foundation to drive the long-term success of your evolving volunteer program.

We’ve compiled many reasons why developing and implementing a champion or council structure is beneficial, which you’ll find in our learning brief on employee volunteer champions and councils. But what does a council structure look like in composition and responsibilities? Read on for those details!

Employee Volunteer Council Composition

Typically, employee volunteer councils vary in size based on the employee count in a particular location or market and vary on their style or organizational makeup based on what fits within the operations and culture of the company. Volunteer committees can represent specific teams, departments, physical locations, Employee Resource Groups, orientation waves and alumni/retirees. They can even be composed of spouses of executives.

Each employee volunteer council typically includes:

  • A cross-section of employees with different functions, management levels and tenure.
  • Volunteer event organizers, senior managers and/or representatives from key departments.

Large employee volunteer councils may have an executive board or steering committee that helps to decide on details for meeting agendas and events for the year, and also communicates with senior leadership. These boards are usually made up of committee co-chairs, secretaries, treasurers and communications leads. Larger councils may have an executive advisor or sponsor that sits on the executive board and helps in the decision-making process. These senior leaders are a great resource to promote activities and to advocate for additional resources.

Someone has to lead the charge to get it organized, though—whether that is through self-assembly, a call to action or the identification and selection of committee members by HR or senior leaders. The company’s social impact team typically provides the training, resources, templates and forms, and overall support. Each committee should have a charter that explains how to get the committee started, its connection to the national or global social impact team and strategy, and its responsibilities.

Volunteer Committee’s Responsibilities

Let’s take a look at what might be included in a committee’s charter by outlining the potential responsibilities of a volunteer committee and its members. Again, these will vary by company size and culture along with the goals that the social impact strategy hopes to achieve each year.

A volunteer committee may:

  • Champion corporate citizenship as core to the company’s mission, values and business – infusing citizenship into the DNA of the business at all levels and across the company’s employee network.
  • Serve as a conduit for employee feedback on the direction of the company’s CSR strategy and employee volunteer program. Represent employee voice by surveying employees to determine their interests in volunteering and other community engagement activities.
  • Set goals each year, which reflect employees’ interests and support business objectives.
  • Recommend and acquire resources for the volunteer program.
  • Support the development and implementation of policies, procedures and the evolution of the employee volunteer program.
  • Identify opportunities and challenges that may affect implementation or support of the program as it relates to their respective division/business unit and employees and make appropriate decisions to keep goals on track.
  • Support employee volunteer leaders or committees in other offices.
  • Recruit others to help lead and manage activities throughout the year.
  • Communicate with employees regularly to share successes, recognize achievements and motivate them to get involved.
  • Identify nonprofit organizations for potential collaborations.
  • Provide input and recommendations to the social impact team.

An employee serving on the committee may be asked to:

  • Serve a time-limited term.
  • Attend planning meetings.
  • Participate in managing activities throughout their term.
  • Celebrate the success of volunteer projects with employees and the community.
  • Share with others their enthusiasm for and satisfaction from volunteering.

Establishing a formal leadership or governance structure for an employee engagement program is crucial for volunteer program success and long-term impact. Whether through committees or individual champions, this structure extends the program’s reach, fosters employee development and sustains momentum in community engagement. By developing and implementing a champion or council structure, companies can maximize the impact of their social impact work and create a culture of social responsibility.

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.