However your company decides to measure success, it certainly starts with employee involvement. This ideal applies both in your corporate structure and day-to-day business, as well as in your employee volunteer program. After all, an important part of success is not just your profitability, but how you use your power as a corporation to contribute to the communities in which you do business. One of the tried-and-true questions that Points of Light’s Corporate Services Solutions team often gets is how to encourage employees to volunteer. Average participation rates have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CECP’s annual Giving in Numbers report. The report, which covers 2021 data, tells us that the current participation rate is 17%, which is far lower than it was in 2019, at 29%. Pre-pandemic, some companies were even hitting 40% and above.
Here’s a few tips for how to encourage employees to volunteer.
1. Set and Communicate Goals
There’s no need to keep your employee volunteer program’s goals vague or hidden. In fact, internal communication about the goals you hope your program will reach is vital to employee participation. Even better, include your employees in setting goals – they’ll be more likely to hold themselves and their teammates accountable and push toward achieving those benchmarks.
2. Balance Company Priorities and Employee Passions
Your company’s strategic priorities don’t have to be at odds with your employees’ personal passions. Find how you can merge the two. Maybe this happens in the goal-setting or planning stages, when employees can speak up about causes that are important to them. Or, in the additional outlets you provide to employees like Volunteer Time Off (VTO), Matching Gifts and Dollars for Doers.
Share which causes are also important to the business and find common ground.
3. Make Participation Easier
One of the reasons employees often don’t participate in their employee volunteer program is that it’s not convenient for them to do so. If employees have to put in too much effort outside of their regular work, or they miss out on pay, participation will be harder to maintain and grow.
So, make opportunities easy for employees to participate in. Bring projects to the office or plant, allowing employees to participate during breaks. Send materials home to employees (if your budget allows). Keep in mind that some hourly employees may need flexible opportunities like those that occur onsite, or even on-the-clock if you don’t offer VTO.
4. Create Leadership Opportunities
Some of your employees might be looking to get even more engaged but feel a lack of upward mobility within your employee volunteer program. Carve out leadership roles for those who want “stretch” assignments or are very passionate about the cause or community partner. Let these employees amplify your message. The easiest invite is a personal ask. Engaged employees often feel honored to be selected for such roles and responsibilities.
5. Ensure Leadership Understands Benefits
Your employee volunteer program’s leadership team should have comprehensive knowledge of your entire CSR program’s benefits. This is especially important for middle managers, who are often the ones driving employees’ schedules and participation. Communicate frequently about the benefits (the “What’s in it for Me” or WIFM) to the company, the employees and your managers. Provide them with the tools they might need to encourage participation, like policies, speaking points, answers to frequently asked questions, etc.
6. Give Space for Feedback
Finally, and most importantly, talk to employees! Ask for feedback on your employee volunteer program by hosting focus groups, putting out a survey and doing sample interviews. Find out what your teams are interested in, what their obstacles are and what motivates them to participate.
Then report out on these findings and act on them. Make the necessary changes to your program to encourage more participation.