Do employees care about your company’s philanthropic priorities? My guess is some do, but if you exclusively build your volunteer programs around your company’s social impact goals, you’re missing out on a huge engagement opportunity.
I see tech companies focusing on STEM, banks working on financial literacy, manufacturers and retailers supporting sustainability through their supply chains. All these make sense when the company is mobilizing its philanthropic and brand resources to achieve social impact goals, but too often companies treat their employees as just another corporate resource to be mobilized.
You may have noticed that not all people are exactly the same. Our upbringing, our life experiences, our cultural influences, our talents, and how we identify ourselves make every person unique. Working for a bank does not mean you are naturally excited about teaching budgeting for small businesses. Being a chip designer does not mean you are naturally excited about helping high school students build robots.
Yet that’s how many volunteer programs are designed—to mobilize employees in support of the impact goal. It’s an easy sell to the C Suite, and it’s also how many nonprofit partners want the programs designed.
Certainly, there’s room for that kind of programming, but you also need to empower your employees to find and support the causes that are important to them. Here are three easy ways to do that:
1) Offer time off for volunteering: Companies that don’t offer paid community service hours are missing a huge recognition opportunity. Community service time is different from PTO because it can only be used for time spent working with a nonprofit. A typical program offers 16 hours a year or more.
2) Create volunteer councils, run by and for employees: Encouraging employees to work together in designing and running local team volunteer events results in higher engagement. It can also build leadership skills and create a great networking opportunity for employees.
3) Recognize independent volunteering: An employee’s hours volunteering as a school crossing guard may not be relevant to your company’s social impact goals, but employees feel great when you recognize them for the volunteer community work they do. And, rather than a typical dollars-for-doers program which is little more than a transaction, recognize volunteerism with e-cards, internal social media mentions, or flexible company grant dollars the employee can direct to a nonprofit they choose.
What other ways do you engage employees that allow them to find and follow their passions in their own volunteering? You can tell me, and pick up tips from leading practitioners, at the 17th Annual Charities@Work Employee Engagement Summit in New York, June 28-29.
About Peter Dudley
Peter Dudley is an author and nationally recognized expert in corporate social responsibility, marketing, and employee engagement. He’s worked the last 17 years in CSR running employee giving and volunteerism for Wells Fargo, where his workplace campaign was ranked #1 nine years in a row by United Way Worldwide. Before joining Wells Fargo, Peter held various roles in high tech startups, from Marketing Director to software development to community management.
Peter is honored to serve on the Community Health Charities national board of directors as well as the Charities@Work Corporate Advisory Council, which he chaired in 2015 and 2016. He has also served on and chaired United Way Worldwide’s Global Corporate Leadership Council.
Peter lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is the proud father of both an Eagle Scout and a transgender daughter.