The companies that stand out to customers, employees, and communities alike are those that are committed to bettering the world around them. When companies practice corporate social responsibility (CSR), they use their power and funds to take actions that improve society.
One of the most effective forms of CSR is corporate volunteerism. It presents a way for employees to work together for the greater good and support charitable causes. With about 63 million Americans volunteering each year, corporate volunteerism can inspire more people in the workplace to join their peers in contributing their time to nonprofits.
Before your company sets up its own corporate volunteerism program, there is some information you should know about corporate volunteerism and how it works. We’ll answer your frequently asked questions, such as:
- What Is Corporate Volunteerism?
- What Are the Benefits of Corporate Volunteerism for Businesses?
- How Do Corporate Volunteerism Programs Work?
- How Can Companies Start Corporate Volunteerism Programs?
- What Are Examples of Companies with Corporate Volunteerism Programs?
What Is Corporate Volunteerism?
Corporate volunteerism is a CSR initiative that encourages employees to volunteer and give back to charitable causes. Corporate volunteer programs may include incentives for volunteering, such as volunteer time off and volunteer grants. In fact, the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose, which is a group of CEOs and corporate leaders, reports that 66% of its members offer employees paid volunteer time off.
What Are the Benefits of Corporate Volunteerism for Businesses?
It’s clear that nonprofits benefit from corporate volunteerism by gaining more helping hands. However, you may be wondering why it’s advantageous for companies to get involved. Creating a corporate volunteerism program:
- Creates a better working environment. When people work together outside of the workplace, it improves team cohesion and performance in the workplace. Take it from the 64% of employees who claim that volunteering with coworkers has strengthened their work relationships. Additionally, 70% of employees think corporate volunteerism is a more effective morale booster than other company-sponsored activities like happy hours.
- Improves employee retention. Employees who feel empowered by their employer to contribute to worthy causes are more likely to stick around. The United Way British Columbia Social Purpose Institute reports that employees who work for purpose-driven companies have 20% longer expected tenures and 64% higher levels of job fulfillment.
- Equips employees to perform better in their roles. Volunteering doesn’t just help those in need. It also benefits the volunteers themselves. After returning from a volunteering experience, employees may take a new perspective on their work as a result of the relationships they’ve formed or skills they’ve honed. Studies also show that volunteerism leads to significant mental and physical health benefits, which can improve job performance.
- Enhances public image. These days, people expect more from companies than their product or service offerings. With 77% of customers looking to purchase from companies that contribute to the greater good, businesses need to exemplify their company values with real action. Promoting your corporate volunteerism efforts on social media and your website proves to consumers that your company works to make the world a better place.
- Attracts purpose-driven applicants. Not only do customers want to purchase from purpose-driven companies, but they want to work at them, too! PWC reports that 65% of people want to work for a company with strong CSR initiatives in place. To attract these applicants, your company should form a strong CSR program that puts corporate volunteerism at the forefront.
When companies implement CSR initiatives such as corporate volunteerism, their employees, customers, and community benefit from their generosity and commitment to the greater good.
How Do Corporate Volunteerism Programs Work?
Every corporate volunteerism program works differently depending on the company’s policy. There are many types of volunteerism you can incorporate into your existing CSR initiatives, including:
- Direct service volunteering. When you think of volunteerism, you probably picture direct service volunteering, which is when volunteers work directly with nonprofit beneficiaries in their communities. For example, direct service volunteers may serve meals to the homeless.
- Team volunteering. Nonprofits may be looking for groups to help them expedite large tasks or projects, and your corporate team is perfect for the job. In the process of volunteering together, your employees will bond and forge stronger relationships that can lead to better performance in the workplace.
- Skills-based volunteering. In some cases, your employees’ unique professional expertise can help nonprofits who may not have the budget to pay for certain services. For example, it’s common for accountants to provide pro-bono tax services to nonprofits.
- Mentorship. Companies can partner with nonprofits to have their employees mentor their beneficiaries to teach them life or professional skills. This type of volunteering is common for organizations that serve youth, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which seeks volunteer mentors for children with military families or incarcerated parents.
- Employee internships. Some larger companies host employee internships where they will continue to pay an employee’s salary while the employee donates their time and expertise to a nonprofit. For instance, the Orange County United Way’s Loaned Executive Program encourages businesses in the area to lend their employees to help the organization carry out its mission. In return, United Way publicizes the company’s contributions to social good.
In addition to organizing and promoting these volunteer opportunities, 40% of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grants. When employees volunteer with a nonprofit, they can record the number of volunteer hours they’ve contributed. Then, the company will donate a certain amount of money per volunteer hour to that organization.
How Can Companies Start Corporate Volunteerism Programs?
Creating a corporate volunteerism program that’s right for your company takes time and careful planning. We’ll walk through key steps to ensure you develop a strong, lasting program that benefits everyone involved.
Along the way, gather feedback from your team on what they’d like to see from the program. Since your employees will be the main party carrying out your corporate volunteerism policy, you’ll want to make sure it aligns with their volunteer goals and interests.
1. Determine your goals.
Any new project or initiative starts with goal setting to contextualize your efforts. In this case, companies should create volunteer-related goals that align with the SMART goals framework:
- Specific (S): Your goals should be clearly defined. Instead of a vague goal like “start a company volunteer program,” try a specific goal like “launch a company-wide volunteer program focused on environmental conservation.”
- Measurable (M): Goals should be quantifiable, allowing you to track progress. For example, “recruit 50 employees to participate in volunteer activities during the first quarter” allows you to measure success later on.
- Achievable (A): Goals should be realistic and align with your available resources, time, and capacity. Setting an unrealistic goal can lead to frustration when you fall short.
- Relevant (R): Your goals should reflect your company’s mission, values, and broader objectives. They should align with your company’s general CSR strategy and objectives, too.
- Time-bound (T): Goals should have a specific timeframe for completion. For example, “launch the volunteer program by the end of the third quarter” sets a clear deadline.
Put all these elements together, and you’ve got a clear, measurable goal that your team can likely achieve in the given timeframe. An example of a SMART corporate volunteerism program goal may be to provide 5,000 community service hours to sustainability-oriented organizations in a single calendar year. These types of goals hold companies accountable for their CSR commitments.
2. Develop your policy.
Next, decide which types of volunteering your program will offer and the accompanying program guidelines. For instance, let’s say your program includes volunteer grants. In this case, you’ll need to determine:
- How much your company will donate for every volunteer hour tracked by your employees
- Which types of nonprofits are eligible for volunteer grants
- Employee eligibility requirements (e.g., full-time, part-time, and retired employees)
- Deadlines for submitting a volunteer grant request (e.g., one year after the volunteer activity)
Summarize your entire corporate volunteerism program in a singular document that employees can refer to if they have any questions about participating. Having clear guidelines is much more likely to encourage participation.
3. Reach out to nonprofits.
To secure volunteer opportunities for your employees, reach out to nonprofits that align with your company’s values. It can be especially powerful to form partnerships with local organizations and have your team volunteer with them regularly.
You may even survey employees using your employee engagement platform to see which causes they already volunteer with and guide your outreach. Ask questions about which nonprofits or general causes they’d like you to support, and they’ll be much more likely to participate in your company’s volunteer program once you launch it!
4. Implement CSR software.
- Centralize and promote volunteer opportunities
- Track volunteer hours
- Submit volunteer grant requests
5. Promote your program.
Promote your corporate volunteerism program to employees so they can start participating. Set up a company-wide meeting to go over your program’s policy and answer any questions. You should also provide training for your CSR software so all employees can use it effectively. If your CSR software vendor provides free training, that makes this process much easier! Just make those resources readily available to your employees.
After the initial launch, be sure to remind your employees about your program frequently. You might even regularly line up corporate volunteer days to inspire participation.
6. Measure your impact.
One of the main motivations for launching a corporate volunteer program is to impact the causes your company supports, so you’ll want to be able to measure results. Plus, you’ll want to report on your impact to let stakeholders know how well your efforts are panning out. With the help of your CSR platform, keep track of important metrics such as:
- The number of volunteer hours recorded
- Which organizations your team has helped
- The amount you’ve donated to nonprofits via volunteer grants
What Are Examples of Companies with Corporate Volunteerism Programs?
It can be difficult to imagine what your corporate volunteerism program may look like without a tangible example. Check out these companies that have implemented successful corporate volunteerism programs:
Disney’s “VoluntEARS” contribute to a variety of charitable causes through their volunteer program. Their efforts include:
- Working with food banks to deliver food to those in need
- Filling backpacks with school supplies to donate to children in underserved communities
- Making blankets to donate to children’s hospitals and animal shelters
- Reviewing images for the Great Barrier Reef Project’s conservation efforts
- Recording Disney stories for children in rural areas to enjoy
- Saving Monarch butterflies with butterfly-friendly backyard habitats
Additionally, Disney offers skills-based volunteering and volunteer grant opportunities. Through their corporate volunteerism program, Disney employees have volunteered a total of 13 million hours since the program began in 1983.
CVS Health is committed to giving back through corporate volunteerism. From helping at food pantries to running fundraising events, CVS Health employees volunteered at a rate that CVS estimates to be worth over $2.5 million in 2021. Through CVS Health’s intranet, employees can track their volunteer hours and request volunteer grants.
The CVS Health Foundation even offers volunteer challenge grants ranging from $250 to $5,000 for nonprofits their employees volunteer with or fundraise for.
The star of the Kohl’s Volunteer Program is its volunteer grants. For every volunteer hour an employee tracks, Kohl’s donates $25 to the associated nonprofit. While some companies set a minimum time commitment in order to be eligible for volunteer grants, Kohl’s only requires volunteers to have worked at least one hour.
Kohl’s also uses CSR software to organize volunteer opportunities for their employees. They encourage nonprofits to submit their volunteer opportunities and post them on the platform.
Final Thoughts and Additional Resources
If you’re looking to bolster your company’s CSR efforts, corporate volunteerism is a great place to start. When people come together in support of a common cause, they not only help those in need but also build teamwork and leadership skills they can bring with them to the office.
Companies that don’t have a corporate volunteerism program should begin by looking at the programs of other businesses for inspiration. It can also be helpful to read CSR resources, such as the ones linked below:
- What’s the Impact of CSR? FAQ & Key Benefits for Businesses. Still not sure how corporate volunteerism can benefit your business? Check out this guide about the positive impact of CSR.
- Top 10 Volunteer Grant Companies: Increase Corporate Dollars. These companies represent the top providers of volunteer grants. Read more to shape how your business handles volunteer grants.
- How to Start a Corporate Matching Gift Program: Top Tips. In addition to volunteer grants, another popular CSR initiative is matching gifts. Create your own matching gift program to support the causes your employees care about.