Is your corporate citizenship department looking to kick-start your employee volunteer program? Start with, “What’s in it for me?” Ask yourself: What’s in it for your employees and your business?
Save the planet. Help the homeless. Teach a child to read. We have a tendency to appeal to the “do good” nature of our colleagues to promote our employee volunteer programs. Consider the ages and stages of those whom you hope to recruit. For younger employees, it may be personal and professional opportunities, not altruism, that are the main factors that motivate them to participate in employee volunteer programs. These employees especially value corporate volunteer programs that provide skill development, networking opportunities, and social interaction. More mature and highly tenured employees may be more motivated by the opportunity to live their values at work and gain supervisor support and recognition.
Many Center for Corporate Citizenship member companies take this approach to achieve maximum engagement. For example, Nationwide Insurance encourages associates to participate and develop leadership skills while serving on non-profit boards. They encourage participation with $500 grants to the organization their employee is serving.
AstraZeneca Canada partnered with the Endeavor Project, to create a successful skills-based volunteering program. Similarly, community investment and volunteer managers, working with U.S. organizations such as A BILLION + Change and the Taproot Foundation, are seeing the value of skills-based volunteering initiatives in identifying new and fulfilling volunteer opportunities and attracting more employees to volunteering.
There is a business imperative for volunteer programs too. Employees who value a volunteer program take greater pride in belonging to their company, and are more likely to actively defend and promote the organization externally. That’s good for a company’s reputation because, as we see in Edelman’s Trust Barometer, the public often trusts regular employees more than senior leadership.
Research also suggests that volunteering encourages an emotional attachment to the corporate identity and buy-in to corporate culture. Some employees (39 percent) feel that involvement in their volunteer program helped them gain a better understanding of the company’s values and mission. That resonates with what a former boss said to me about culture: “Show me, don’t tell me.”
So tell me about your employee volunteer program. Or better yet, show me.
Ready to dive deeper into this topic? Join us for our upcoming course.
 Peloza, J, & Hassay, D. (2008).The Marketing of Employee Volunteerism. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(2), 371-386.
 James, J.B., McKenchnie, S, & Swanberg, J. (2011). Predicting employee engagement in an age-diverse retail workforce. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 173-196.
 Rodell, J.B. (2013). Finding meaning through volunteering: Why do employees volunteer and what does it mean for their jobs? Academy of Management Journal, 56 (5), 1274-1294.
 Turn, A. (March 2010). The Buy-in to Corporate Culture: Creating Internal Emotional Capital Through Work-based Volunteering Schemes. Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on Intellectual Capital, ISCTE Lisbon University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal and Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal.