We know volunteering is the right thing to do from a moral perspective. As it turns out, volunteerism can also help companies thrive. Community service confers a host of benefits — not just to the recipients of volunteer efforts, but also to the teams and organizations that engage in them.
It’s important for team managers and leaders to understand the benefits of community service. And it’s equally critical to know that those benefits can only be realized when team members are inspired to give back. Here’s how to incorporate volunteerism into your company’s culture, and why it’s worthwhile in the first place.
Before we dive into how to motivate volunteer work, it's necessary to understand why community service is so valuable for teams. Here are just six of the many reasons why volunteerism deserves a place in any company culture.
When team members volunteer together, they enjoy an opportunity to chat, connect, and get to know each other beyond the confines of an office. Work hierarchies are less relevant, and employees from different teams and departments have the chance to connect with each other outside of the usual workplace silos.
All of this helps explain why research from UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch shows that 85 per cent of volunteers develop friendships while volunteering. This can translate to greater collaboration and morale back in the workplace.
Many employees expect more than just a paycheck from the organization or company where they work. They're looking to feel engaged and enjoy a sense of meaning and purpose that’s supported by their workplace. What's more, many people seek out workplaces that demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility.
In fact, survey data from Deloitte found that 89 per cent of respondents believe company-sponsored volunteer activities foster a better workplace environment. When your company prioritizes volunteerism, it could attract new talent to the team.
Corporate wellness programs can benefit employee health, wellbeing, and morale, and research suggests that corporate philanthropy falls under the umbrella of corporate wellness. Approximately 76 per cent of people who engage in volunteerism report feeling healthier, while 94 per cent experience better moods after volunteering.
Volunteerism has been shown to help diminish depression, reduce stress, and enhance self-esteem. When people feel healthier, happier, and more confident in themselves, they're more likely to bring their best selves to the table. Healthier employees tend to create healthier workplaces that are marked by higher attendance rates, better customer service ratings, and greater productivity.
As the (paraphrased) saying goes, people who give back often receive a lot in return. That holds true for team members who choose to volunteer. In many cases, volunteering provides an opportunity to develop and strengthen professional skillsets, from leadership to communication, presenting, networking, and more. Giving back while gaining skills? That's a win-win.
Replacing employees who leave a company is an expensive and time-consuming process. In fact, data from Employee Benefit News suggests that employers spend 33 per cent of a worker's annual salary (for example, $15,000 for an employee who makes $45,000 annually) to replace that team member if they leave. That's not to mention the many ways in which losing key team members can disrupt company culture and morale. Meanwhile, additional research from PwC suggests that engaged employees are 87 per cent less likely to resign than team members who feel disengaged at their organization.
What does all this have to do with volunteerism? It just so happens that team members who are encouraged to volunteer by or through their company tend to feel more engaged at their workplace. That’s because they're more likely to forge meaningful relationships at work, develop new skills, face less boredom, and experience a greater sense of meaning. By empowering team members to volunteer, you could enhance employee engagement and reduce the costs of employee turnover.
Volunteerism can directly improve the company's bottom line by reducing the costs associated with employee turnover, but the financial benefits don't stop there. Gallup research suggests organizations that successfully engage their team members demonstrate earnings-per-share growth at rates four times higher than their competitors. Companies that reach the top quartile of engagement also enjoy a number of benefits over companies that don’t engage their team members:
Better customer engagement and loyalty
Higher employee retention rates
Better health outcomes
One way to motivate more charitable actions from your team is to educate them about the many benefits of volunteerism, but education on its own may not be enough to create a robust volunteer program. Here are six other strategies to inspire your employees to give back to their communities.
It's not reasonable to ask team members to use their personal time for company-related activities, including company-inspired volunteering. Rather than ask employees to choose between personal time and volunteering, make it easier for them to get involved in their communities by offering paid time off for volunteer activities. Using volunteer time off (VTO), team members can incorporate charitable acts into their regular working hours. Make sure team members are informed about this option and understand the process for using VTO.
What could this look like in action? At Salesforce, the Employee Engagement Program provides team members with seven days of paid time off for volunteerism each year. After team members have taken seven days VTO, they access a $1,000 grant that can be donated to the nonprofit of their choice. Some teams also choose to create company-wide volunteer days when the whole team volunteers together at the same place and time.
Instead of asking team members to find time to research volunteer opportunities, do the work for them and supply the team with a variety of options for giving back. You might send out a weekly email digest, post a list of volunteer opportunities in the team break room or intranet, or utilize a digital tool for corporate responsibility.
When advertising volunteer options, include suggestions that emphasize different skill sets, such as physical labor (e.g., painting or house building), mentoring, or teaching (e.g., serving as a literacy tutor or teaching others to code). You may also choose to establish formal partnerships with some nonprofits and then create processes for team members to get involved. Note the time commitment, location, and contact information for the organization(s) in question so your employees can determine which options would be the best fit for their lifestyle.
If team members see leaders devote time to volunteering, they may feel more certain that taking VTO will be seen in a positive light. To ensure that team members feel comfortable, encourage team leaders, including those at the C-suite level, to demonstrate consistent engagement in community service. It's also helpful for team leaders to make a habit of talking about corporate social responsibility, also referred to as CSR, and encouraging the team to fold CSR into the company culture.
You can eliminate even more friction between team members and volunteer work by offering financial support for volunteer activities. This could look like reimbursing team members for the gas money required to travel to and from volunteer sites, covering the costs of purchases related to volunteering, providing team members with seed money for donations, and so on. When the company puts its money where its mouth is, team members are even more likely to trust that their volunteer engagement is encouraged.
As you develop volunteer programs and policies — and as these programs and policies evolve — make sure to solicit employee feedback. Ask team members to weigh in on everything from how programs are structured to nonprofit partners, reward programs, and more. Then take action on that feedback so team members see that their input is valued.
On a related note, it's a good idea to collect testimonials from team members who have found rewarding volunteer work. Distribute these testimonials internally to inspire other team members to volunteer, too.
When team members engage in community service, be sure to recognize and celebrate their efforts or the successes of the organizations they support. This helps boost morale and can sustain team members' motivation to volunteer. Private thanks, public recognition (for example, during team meetings or on social media), and rewards in the form of gift cards, bonus pay, special meals, annual award banquets, or volunteer appreciation days are all sound options for affirming the teams' volunteer efforts.
If volunteerism isn't already a key component of your company's culture, it's time to make that change. Benefits of cultivating volunteer programs at your workplace include a stronger sense of camaraderie within the team, improvements in employee retention and attendance, greater morale, opportunities for professional development, and increased productivity and earnings.
To inspire volunteerism within your team, be sure to offer paid time off for volunteering, provide team members with community service opportunities, encourage team leaders to model volunteerism, solicit feedback from within the team, and provide financial support for volunteering. When team members are inspired to give back and feel supported in their efforts, everybody, from individual employees to local nonprofits and the company itself, wins.