If your company doesn’t already have an employee volunteer program in place, it should. Creating opportunities for volunteering in the workplace can have a tremendous impact on employee satisfaction. The benefits are not limited only to the workers who participate — everyone benefits from employee volunteer programs. Workers are happier and more engaged, companies improve their reputations and productivity, and communities benefit from the additional activism. By creating opportunities for your employees to give back to the community at work, you can make impactful change and improve company morale.
1. Bring Opportunities to the Office
For many employees, volunteering outside of work is difficult because many workers feel like they do not have enough spare time to devote to these activities. One way to increase engagement and enable volunteerism is to bring opportunities into the office. For example, one easy activity for employees to participate in is packing kits or lunches. Many organizations need volunteers to help put together pre-cooked meals or toiletries and other supplies into easily distributable kits. These may seem like simple tasks, but since many charities operate on tight budgets, they rely on volunteers to remain effective.
Employees can complete such tasks over their lunch hour or in a single, organized group effort. This is a simple way for employees to feel useful and engaged without leaving the office or giving up an entire day. In addition, it encourages employees to work side by side in order to accomplish a goal. This can improve camaraderie and encourage interdepartmental interaction. This also gives employees the opportunity to learn about local volunteer activities through the workplace. Employees may choose to volunteer with those organizations on their time off.
2. Find out What Employees Care About
Some employees already have organizations or causes they volunteer for. In this case, it may be simpler and more effective to prioritize causes that employees are already involved in. You may have less groundwork to do if an employee already has a relationship with a particular volunteer organization. Additionally, other employees may feel more motivated to participate if they feel that they are supporting a cause on behalf of a co-worker. By polling your employees about what causes they care about and impact them, you may discover needs and opportunities among your own staff.
For example, if an employee has a personal relationship or struggle with a disease, the staff at large may benefit from participating in a fundraiser for research funding. This can serve both as an opportunity for volunteerism and one to show support for a co-worker. Similarly, if an employee has an existing volunteer relationship with a local shelter, he or she may have ideas for how the company at large can contribute. By using causes that employees already care about, you raise the chance that they will choose to participate.
3. Make Volunteering a Team-Building Opportunity
You can use volunteering as a method of encouraging cooperation and team-building among your employees. From running a 5k together to rallying behind a company fundraiser, employees often enjoy more camaraderie when they participate in team-based events. Greater bonds lead to higher levels of engagement and company loyalty. Therefore, search for volunteer activities that require the cooperation of everyone involved. For example, your employees can help set up a park for a fundraising event or paint fading walls at a local school. You can also ask people to participate in a 5k walk to raise funds for a particular cause. The shared challenge and victory can foster friendship between coworkers or lead to more day-to-day collaboration.
If arranging a one-day volunteer event is difficult, you can do something less demanding over a longer period of time. For example, ask departments to compete to fundraise or collect goods toward a particular cause. With competition, teams become more motivated to work together toward a common goal while increasing bonds between individuals on the same team.
4. Tap Into Local Community Needs
Oftentimes, although a company may be situated in a particular neighborhood, the employees are scattered throughout the city. One way to connect both the company and the employees to the community at large is to volunteer with nearby organizations. This can help the company’s position in the community and encourage employees to explore the local area.
For example, if a company is situated in a food desert, volunteer to create or sponsor a community garden. The task would give employees the opportunity to perform work they may not typically do. Additionally, it could foster improved company-community relations. Similarly, if there is a local charity, the company can establish a relationship to determine how employees can best volunteer.
Directly addressing local community needs may have more of an immediate impact than simply donating to a national cause. Additionally, donating to a national cause where the benefits are not directly seen may feel underwhelming and have a limited effect on morale. In contrast, employees may be more heartened by being able to see the direct impact of their volunteer work in the community.
5. Offer Paid Volunteer Days
One idea that more companies are increasingly tapping into is paid volunteer days. These are days given in addition to vacation time, sick leave or personal days. Volunteer days are set aside for the employee to participate in approved volunteer activities. Some companies reserve volunteer days for company volunteering events in order to encourage teamwork. For group events, companies can do events like visit local schools and offer introductory tutorials or lessons on different skills. A visit to the beach to perform a clean-up could also encourage team bonding.
Other companies may allow employees to use volunteer days individually for personal causes. These companies report employees doing everything from building homes to reading at the local elementary school. Employees who are offered the opportunity to be paid to volunteer are more likely to boast about their company’s volunteerism than employees in companies that donate corporate checks. This can significantly improve a company’s reputation for being a good place to work. In an era where employees increasingly seek meaning and a sense of purpose from work, making volunteerism accessible is crucial.