Increasing Employee Engagement Through Volunteering

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Execution of Successful Employee Engagement Programs

Earlier this month we participated in a Webinar with BlackBaud, Strategies for Increasing Employee Engagement with Volunteering, where we addressed several pressing questions. Are you struggling with employee participation and engagement with your volunteer events? Are you unsure what the future of volunteering can look like for your company? Read below our recap from this webinar and how companies are leveraging the new age of Virtual Volunteering to drive employee engagement through a better employee experience to increase impact where needed in local communities and beyond.

1. Understand the Benefits of Virtual Volunteering

  • Location is not an obstacle. Employees can take action in their local communities and beyond regardless of where they work.
  • Space constraints are not an issue. Groups of all sizes can be accommodated online.
  • Having access to a recorded live event gives employees the option to participate on their time.
  • For companies who have some, but not all, of their employees back in the office, a hybrid approach that includes in-person and virtual participation works great.

2. Incorporate Empathy to Enhance Employee Engagement

If you’re sensing your volunteers aren’t connecting with the cause and aren’t feeling passionate about volunteering as they used to, fear not – there is a way to re-engage volunteers! Incorporate empathy.When volunteers begin to understand the challenges of those they are helping, it gives their volunteer experience a whole new meaning. There are several ways to bring more “understanding or empathy” into a volunteer event.

  • Make your volunteers aware of the 5 Ws. Besides telling them WHAT they will be doing, WHERE they’ll be doing it, and WHEN the volunteer event is happening, let them know WHO they’ll be helping and WHY their volunteer efforts are needed.
  • Before the volunteer activity begins, have someone from the nonprofit provide an overview of the organization and include a live or virtual tour, if feasible. This allows the volunteers to feel a connection with the nonprofit and adds value to the volunteer activity they’re about to do.
  • Have a client served by the nonprofit share their story. It’s powerful to hear directly from someone whose life has been changed because of volunteers.
  • Include a simulation in the volunteer experience. It’s very eye-opening for volunteers when they role-play real-life examples of someone who is living in poverty, homeless, or a refugee. Even a brief experience in someone else’s shoes can change perceptions, bring clarity to why people in those situations make the decisions they do and provide a new level of understanding about the complexity of the challenges.

3. Consider Skills-Based Volunteering

Skills-based volunteering is when volunteers use their job skills or even skills acquired through hobbies and personal interests -- to help nonprofits in need of those skills.Companies of all sizes have experts in a number of areas. Sharing those skills can have a phenomenal impact for a nonprofit, such as improved efficiency, cost savings, increased revenue, a more user-friendly website, etc.More companies are including skills-based volunteering in their CSR strategy because research and studies show that:

  • Employees want their work to be meaningful. Skills based volunteering not only adds meaning to their work, it also makes them feel more engaged and valued.
  • Companies see higher productivity and profitability when employees feel engaged.
  • Turnover is reduced by 57% for employees actively engaged in their company’s giving and volunteer efforts.
  • In the process of sharing their skills with nonprofits, employees develop their leadership skills, broaden their professional skill sets, and increase their network.
  • Skills-based volunteering enables companies to build depth vs breadth in their community outreach. This moves nonprofits and businesses from ‘relationship’ to ‘partnership’ and leads to more significant impact and longer lasting results.

4. Align with Your Business Purpose and Incorporate Employee Feedback

If you want to launch a volunteer program or reinvigorate your current program, the task can seem overwhelming. A great place to start is thinking about the purpose of your business and how you can align your volunteer program with that mission. With a defined focus and alignment, the entire company can rally around a common goal and create greater impact. You can touch more lives more significantly when your employees understand the how and why of your CSR program and everyone is rowing in the same direction. Besides aligning your CSR strategy with your business purpose, include your employees in the process. Find out what they are passionate about, what motivates them, what their skills and interests are, and how they may want to use them to better their community. Include your Employee Resource Groups, Leaders, and other stakeholders in the conversation as well. Even though not all ideas can be incorporated, by including your employees, they’ll know their opinions are valued; they’ll likely be more supportive of the program and take more of an ownership role.Be thoughtful about how you want to start, what you want to focus on, your goals, and the type of impact you want to make. It will take a little time, but it will be worth it!Consider including a recognition program. Track the results and report them to your employees on a regular basis. Highlight stories. Most importantly, ensure senior leadership is onboard and committed to making corporate social responsibility a priority. And while you’re at it, ask for a budget so you can support the efforts and ensure significant impact.  

The Writers

Andy VandenBerg
Andy VandenBerg is the co-founder and COO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Andy speaks actively about the importance of aligning strategy with social responsibility and how companies can pursue both purpose and profit. Andy’s past experience includes private equity and family office investing. If he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him in the Pacific Ocean or Lake Michigan.
Ben Sampson
Ben Sampson is the co-founder and CEO of WeHero where he works closely with hundreds of companies to help them reach their social impact goals. Ben speaks actively about corporate social responsibility, volunteerism, sustainability, and how companies united with activism drive powerful change. Ben’s past experience includes leading product teams, building startups, and studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard. In his free time, he’s an avid outdoor enthusiast focused on skiing, surfing, and mountain biking.

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