Volunteering has been the “next big thing” in employee benefits for years now. 26% of companies offered volunteer time off (VTO) in 2019, up from 16% five years before that. Since then, rapidly changing workplace environments have put even more of a focus on the employee experience – and how community engagement fits into that.
Many companies offer VTO today, but don’t stop there. Empower employees to volunteer by giving them the resources they need.
Structured employee volunteer programs remove barriers to using VTO and make it more likely for everyone to take part. Volunteer programs strengthen company culture and lead to other major benefits for your company as a whole.
In this piece, we share:
- Barriers that keep employees from using VTO
- Components of effective volunteer programs that remove those barriers
- Larger, company-wide benefits of volunteer programs
Barriers to using VTO
Say your company already offers VTO. If total VTO hours are largely unused, does that mean employees don’t want to volunteer?
Not at all. Even if employees are allowed to volunteer, it doesn’t mean they have the tools or are empowered to volunteer. There are several barriers that may stand in the way of employees and using their VTO:
Employees may not know what’s available to get involved with in their community, or have only been exposed to opportunities that require more of a time commitment than they’re able to dedicate. It’s harder to get people to take the first step when there’s a high barrier to entry.
From finding an activity, reaching out to the nonprofit for more details, and coordinating between the nonprofit and team on a date and time – putting together a group volunteer opportunity takes a lot of work.
If taking time to volunteer isn’t encouraged within the culture of your company, employees may not feel comfortable taking the time off. Talk of VTO needs to be backed up with action – leadership needs to lead by example.
Volunteer programs make it easy to participate
Volunteer programs are planned, managed efforts to motivate and enable employees to volunteer in their community. They provide structure that intentionally removes the discovery, time, and culture barriers to using VTO.
Having frequent events and diverse activities, with investment communicated and demonstrated by leadership, make it easy for all employees to participate. At Field Day, we see firsthand how these components build a great volunteer program.
Up the frequency
Volunteer programs offer many opportunities to volunteer by organizing smaller and more frequent events. In contrast to a single day-of-service, if an employee can’t make an event, they can just as easily sign up for another one.
Offer diverse activities
Planning smaller events with more flexible date ranges allows you to choose from many more activities with many more nonprofits. Some people will prefer an indoor activity over an outdoor activity, or a sorting activity to a cooking activity. Having a variety is more inclusive of interests and comfort levels, increasing the likelihood of engagement.
Lead by example
Volunteer programs set goals around manager participation and volunteer hours. Managers who demonstrate support for the program by leading by example have a huge impact on employee participation.
Volunteer programs bring company-wide benefits
Not only do structured programs help to get more employee participation, but they also add other major benefits that ultimately help your company’s bottom line.
Strengthen company culture
Volunteer programs empower employees to volunteer easily, together, and often. Doing so weaves community engagement into company culture and touches each employee’s experience. With transparency around social impact goals and progress, employees are able to reflect on their own contribution, deepening their sense of belonging.
Ultimately, volunteer programs positively impact your bottom line. Not only do volunteer programs strengthen culture and improve retention and recruiting efforts, but companies that integrate social impact into their business also see turnover cut by 50%.
Instead of a happy hour or escape room, volunteering can be a more inclusive and meaningful teambuilding activity. And teambuilding improves collaboration, productivity, and morale – which all helps to address turnover.
Volunteering brings a new perspective that inspires creativity in problem solving and working with others. It provides a relaxed environment to develop authentic connections with teammates, new hires, people across departments, or leadership. Then, interpersonal relationships are built around shared, meaningful experiences.
Gain a more complete picture of the data
Many companies rely on employees to find their own volunteer opportunities and self-report the nonprofit, cause, and hours. By organizing events within a volunteer program, your company can directly collect the data. This leads to a more accurate view of your company’s collective social impact.
Tell a story about your brand
A volunteer program creates a central point for social impact data, photos, and nonprofit partnerships. By unifying volunteer efforts, a legitimate story takes shape around the ways your company supports their local community.
Internally, leadership can use these resources to recognize teams and employees in company-wide communication or at all-hands meetings. The recognition of employees and the volunteer program itself reinforces your company’s investment in community as a part of its culture.
Externally, companies can share data, photos, quotes, and nonprofit testimonials on their social media, blog, or careers page to show how they practice their values. Doing so, in a way that is authentic to their voice, strengthens their employer brand and recruiting.
Companies use Field Day to organize events and track data around hours, participation, cause areas, and nonprofits. Field Day collects photos, quotes, and nonprofit impact statements that help companies show how they are engaged in their local community.
Get started with Field Day
Ready to build your employee volunteer program? Field Day can help your company or team discover activities, connect with local nonprofits, coordinate events, and track volunteering data.
Right now, we’re helping companies with a people presence in Portland build up their volunteer programs. Learn more about Field Day for companies.