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Employee Volunteer Program 101: Purpose, Benefits & How to Create One

A team of three people wearing shirts with the word “volunteer” on the front pose and smile.

No matter who you are or what you do, it feels good to give back. This philosophy explains why so many workers choose to align with companies that they view as impactful. An employee volunteer program is a powerful tool that your business can use to drive meaningful engagement and satisfaction within the workplace. 

When created with care, an employee volunteer program does far more than give back; it builds a sustainable work culture where everyone feels valued, seen, and heard. Let’s explore what makes employee volunteer programs important and how you can establish one for your business with Groundswell.

Table of Contents:

What is an Employee Volunteer Program (EVP)?

An employee volunteer program is a workplace initiative that allows employees to dedicate time or resources to a charitable cause. Also known as “corporate volunteer programs,” EVPs aim to engage workers at every level in meaningful action that supports those in need.

While employees get a chance to support causes they care about, businesses gain the opportunity to show their commitment to certain values or community efforts. This is valuable for a few reasons. For one thing, it establishes a business’ role in its community. A dedicated effort to make a meaningful social impact is also important to employees, 76% of whom say they want to work for companies that try to have a positive impact on the world.

Despite this, most employees say that the current efforts many businesses make do not go far enough. Employees want to see action, not just language, and they want to see their employer’s values align with their own. 

That’s where a robust employee volunteer program can help. Depending on the organization, its structure, and its goals, EVPs may include one or more of the following volunteer efforts:

  • Volunteer Time-Off: Employees in full-time roles may not have the time to give back on their own schedule. Companies can offer paid time off or flexible scheduling to help employees volunteer during work hours. 
  • Practical Volunteering: Companies may choose to partner with community groups or nonprofit organizations that align with their values.

Skills-Based Volunteering: Corporate volunteer programs can utilize their employees’ professional skills and expertise to give back. For instance, a business may send a team of IT professionals to help a local school set up a new computer lab.

Key Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs

A group of people stand in a circle and place their hands in the middle.

There are plenty of reasons to implement an employee volunteering program in your business or organization. In most cases, everyone stands to benefit from rolling up their sleeves and giving back.

Boosting Employee Engagement & Satisfaction

Allowing employees to do something meaningful and impactful with their time does wonders for engagement and morale. Employees who volunteer are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and want to stick with their company. And, with more engagement and satisfaction comes far more productivity. 

Even if employees can’t participate as much as they’d like, simply knowing they can volunteer may be enough to make an impact, considering some 65% of employees want to work for organizations with a strong social conscience. 

Giving Back to Your Community

It goes without saying that a huge perk of volunteering is the chance to give to the people, places, and programs that help make the world a better place. Corporate volunteer programs also allow companies to strengthen their relationships with their communities, driving real and meaningful change for everyone.

Spreading Brand Awareness

Volunteerism is a positive and simple way to get your brand’s name and values out there. Show what your business is made of by putting it into action; you’ll simultaneously garner new attention and confirm to your community that you’ll return the investments they make in you.

Building an Equitable, Productive Workplace

EVPs foster strong relationships between colleagues and unite teams around shared values. Volunteering can easily become a team-building activity that helps employees feel more confident in and out of the workplace. Plus, a mutual sense of purpose and belonging encourages employees to stay at your company for longer.

5 Examples of Companies With Employee Volunteer Programs

While their impact may be more important now than ever, employee volunteer programs are nothing new. Below are some examples of corporate volunteer programs in action that demonstrate how employees can use their time to build a lasting legacy. 

1. Patagonia

Patagonia is known for its focus on sustainability, and its employee volunteer options follow suit. The brand’s Environmental Internship Program allows employees worldwide to take a break from their regular jobs for up to two months while they work as interns for an environmental nonprofit of their choice. 

2. Adidas

Apparel giant Adidas has many employee volunteer program options, but its “How to Think and Act Sustainably” initiative is a standout. Employees encourage local communities to incorporate sustainability into their routines by offering resources, teaching workshops, and creating engaging projects to support the cause. 

3. Colgate-Palmolive

Colgate has hosted several corporate volunteer programs throughout its history, including Colgate Cares Day, an initiative that encourages employees to make the world healthier by participating in service projects. 

Bright Smiles, Bright Futures is another great example; in this program, dental professionals and volunteers have provided free oral health education and care to over a billion children worldwide. 

4. Best Buy

Best Buy’s well-known “Gift of Time” employee volunteer program is one of the most successful examples in the world. It invites employees to choose a cause, organize their own service projects or donation drives, and use vacation time to volunteer. 

5. IBM

IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) Program is a revolutionary employee volunteer initiative that sends teams of employees to join community leaders working on projects in developing countries. The program focuses on education, health, environmentalism, and economic development.

How to Create an Employee Volunteer Program

A woman leads a meeting and raises her hand along with the rest of her team.

Building an effective corporate volunteerism program from the ground up can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these best practices and the right resources to create an employee volunteer program like none other.

Step 1: Assess & Identify

Before you hit the ground running, take some time to review and identify current needs in your community. Consider which causes align best with your company values. Don’t make the mistake of assuming another company’s strategy is the most beneficial or effective, either. Your program should be unique to your organization, not a copy-paste of another company’s. 

With your target needs established, it’s time to set some goals. Use SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals to create expectations for yourself and your employees:

  • “I want 75% of our employees to take off at least one day to volunteer this year.” 

Step 2: Create a Plan

Map out a game plan that breaks down how you’ll engage your employees and launch your volunteer program. Make sure to tie your CSR strategy to the program’s purpose. Now is also a good time to present what you have so far to senior executives and other leaders within your organization. After all, leading by example is one of the best ways to spur changes in employee behavior. 

As you plan, don’t forget to consider potential roadblocks your employees may face. Anticipate these challenges so you can offer viable solutions. Employees who don’t have a vehicle, for instance, and can’t get to in-person volunteer jobs might benefit from having access to remote volunteer opportunities.

Above all else, communicate openly and regularly about your plan. Ensure that all relevant stakeholders have a say in how your program shapes into something that you can enforce. 

Step 3: Choose the Right Digital Platform

Bring everything together with a comprehensive software solution that allows you to manage the program, communicate, and keep everyone up to date on what’s happening. 

You’ll want to choose a digital tool that lets employees browse volunteer options, track time, and engage with others. Groundswell empowers businesses to tick each of these boxes and more. 

Groundswell Powers the Best Employee Volunteer Programs

Whether you’re creating a new employee volunteer program or revamping an existing plan, Groundswell is the tool you need to get the job done. Our employee volunteering platform helps you plan, manage, and reward employee volunteerism using accessible tech solutions.

With the help of Groundswell, you can:

  • Create and oversee volunteer events that employees can register for directly in their mobile app.
  • Ensure all employee volunteer hours are tracked with the help of our user-friendly app and automated reminders.
  • Reward employees who volunteer by launching your own volunteer match program that gives charitable dollars for each hour of service.
  • Integrate our optional VolunteerMatch module to allow employees to choose from tens of thousands of volunteer opportunities.
  • Share updates, track initiative growth, and measure the real impact of your employee volunteer program.

Groundswell is built to help your employee volunteer program thrive so that you can focus on creating even more opportunities for growth. See our platform and how it works today by requesting a demo with our team.

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