Starting an Employee Volunteer Program (EVP) is an exciting way to help your organization make a positive impact in the community and the world. It’s a great way to make work more meaningful and strengthen connections among employees. Also, it can attract fresh talent that has a heart for giving. Even more exciting, this increased engagement doesn’t cost much. Plus, it can deliver savings by increasing employee engagement and reducing turnover. So, read on to learn how to get more employees involved in your volunteer program.
According to research from America’s Charities, the most successful EVPs involve an average investment of less than $200 per employee per year (ranging from $18 to $800 per worker). “This means, for the company with 50 employees, it would cost a total of $900 to $8,950 a year to implement an employee volunteer program for all employees combined. That’s a pretty low cost to absorb when you consider that it would cost the company roughly $15,000 to replace just one of those employees ($75,000 to replace five).” That’s an eye-opening realization that provides an even greater motivation to start an EVP. But there’s a catch. If your employees aren’t as invested in the program as your organization is, results will be lackluster.
How to Get More Employee Involvement in Your Volunteer Program: Choose a Charity with Care
If the CEO has interest in a particular cause, that’s where to invest time and resources. But don’t force that charity on the rest of the workforce. Your employees may have very different causes they hold close to their hearts. Let’s say an executive traveled to a far off land and volunteered for a week building a school. Even though that’s a great cause, employees aren’t necessarily going to love the idea of supporting that cause. This is especially true if they have never been able to afford to travel internationally for their own vacations.
Employees may receive the idea of a local charity that puts them in contact with people in need in their own neighborhood better. The best way to figure out what causes will resonate is to start a conversation. Many employees list charitable and volunteer involvement on their resumes and social media profiles, so you can identify values, trends, and popular organizations.
The charity chosen should make sense for your business brand as well. So look for that intersection between what employees care about and what your mission is as a company. The recipient organization should be one that can truly benefit from your company’s involvement. They should have a well-designed, organized volunteer program. That way, your employees feel that their work is making a difference. If you have never run an EVP before, choosing an established charity may be smart. Once you have achieved success in this area, helping a smaller startup charity where your company can have a more notable impact may be a more attractive option.
Cultivate Support Within
The secret to success in any workplace volunteer program is cultivating internal champions. These are the enthusiasts who will be your greatest asset in inspiring involvement. People who already volunteer actively on their own time are your best bet for support in creating a successful EVP. It really doesn’t matter if these individuals are in leadership roles within your organization already. It’s more important that they have high energy, persistence (without being pushy), and a contagious passion for helping others. You might find these people in roles like sales or customer service.
But don’t discount the skills and contributions of the quieter employees. In fact, more introverted professionals often have insights and abilities that can make your program much more effective. Ensure that there are multiple ways to volunteer within your EVP. This will help in making the volunteer base appropriate for different personalities and work styles. For example, some employees might enjoy a high interaction activity like working in a soup kitchen or helping build a house. Still, others might thrive on one-to-one skills-based volunteering such as coaching or mentoring young professionals or at-risk youth. Learning how to get more employees involved in your volunteer program means learning the skills and interests of all employees.
Leverage Social Media
Engaged employees are reading their employer’s content on social media. According to a LinkedIn report, 40% of workers say they rely on their company’s social media stream to stay up to date with important news. This is an excellent reason to maintain LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook feeds that consistently provide information about volunteer opportunities. When information stays sequestered on the company’s own intranet, a lot of workers will miss it or ignore it. Keeping communication about volunteer programs strictly in-house also looks far more corporate-driven. But social media makes communication less hierarchical and helps employees feel that their charitable activities are part of their social life.
You know you have full engagement when employees are posting photos of EVP activities in their own social media feeds. Encourage employees to use hashtags that help their coworkers keep track of this content and that enable your company to highlight and encourage positive postings. You can also use social media to run polls and surveys to gauge interest and get feedback to improve the employee volunteer program.
Stay Accountable to Your Employees
It’s not just your board of directors that want to know how many labor hours (and the dollar value of those hours) went to serving a charity per quarter. The employees who are investing their time want to stay up to date with the results. Keep interests high by circulating stories that celebrate individual and group involvement, facts or figures about the impact of their activities, and responses and testimonials from those who were in need. Follow up with the target charity for a report on positive impact, and be sure to share this information with your workforce.
Take time to offer recognition to volunteers. A Volunteer Appreciation Day with a catered lunch or a special outing is a nice way to celebrate after your organization achieves its volunteering goals for the quarter. Sending personal thank you notes to volunteers and designating a “Volunteer of the Month” are also nice touches. Recognize all volunteers in your company’s internal and external communications including newsletters. Local media may also show interest in running a story on a particularly impactful program. Be sure to put the focus on the participants and the charity as much as on the company. After all, it’s about doing good and not just looking good!