As our society grows increasingly socially conscious, many companies are realizing the benefits of offering workplace volunteering programs. These programs allow employees to use their skills and time to help out nonprofit organizations while still getting paid by their employers.
In this blog post, we'll dive into the history of workplace volunteering programs, the benefits they bring to both employees and employers, and the different ways companies can set up their volunteering programs. We’ll also provide ideas for group volunteering events and nonprofit organizations to work with.
The History of Workplace Volunteering Programs
The idea of providing paid time off for employees to volunteer can be traced back to the 1970s when Ben & Jerry's, the Vermont-based ice cream company, began offering employees up to 5 days of paid time off to volunteer in their communities. This concept of “volunteer time off,” or VTO, has since spread to other companies in various industries. Today, it's estimated that over 40% of companies in the United States offer some form of a VTO program.
Workplace Volunteering Programs: Benefits to Employees & Employers
Workplace volunteering programs offer numerous benefits to employees, employers, and their communities at large. For employees, volunteering provides a sense of purpose, increased job satisfaction, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Volunteering can also provide opportunities to learn new skills that can be applied in the workplace. According to a survey by Deloitte, 89% of respondents said that volunteering helped them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
For employers, workplace volunteering programs can improve employee retention, recruitment, and overall job satisfaction. In addition, volunteering programs can improve a company's reputation and brand image, increase employee engagement, and build stronger relationships between the company and the community.
Different Ways Companies Set up a VTO Program
Many companies now offer VTO programs as part of their employee benefits package and are incorporated into their CSR initiatives. Companies can set up their VTO program in various ways, depending on their size and resources.
Some companies organize volunteer days or events, where groups of employees volunteer together for a specific cause. This is a great way to build camaraderie among employees while also giving back to the community.
Others offer dedicated days off to volunteer for any charity of the employee's choice. This gives employees more flexibility in choosing the nonprofit organizations they want to support. According to CECP’s 2022 Giving in Numbers report, the median number of VTO hours offered by companies is 16 hours per year. Some companies offer more, and some offer less.
Steps to Plan a Volunteer Day for Your Company
Once you've identified a nonprofit organization or program that you'd like to work with, here are some steps to help you plan a successful volunteer day for your company:
Set goals: Determine what you hope to achieve through your volunteer day. Are you looking to build team morale, make a positive impact on the community, or develop new skills?
Choose an activity: Based on your goals and the opportunities available, choose a volunteer activity that everyone can participate in. If possible, give employees a choice of activities to ensure that everyone feels engaged and motivated.
Make a plan: Determine the logistics of your volunteer day, including how many people will participate, when and where the activity will take place, and what materials or equipment will be needed. Communicate this information clearly to all employees.
Provide training: If necessary, provide training or orientation for the volunteer activity to ensure that everyone feels prepared and confident.
Follow up: After the volunteer day, follow up with employees to gather feedback and assess the impact of the activity. Use this information to inform future volunteering efforts.
10 Questions to Consider When Organizing an Internal Volunteer Day for Your Company
- What is the purpose of the volunteer day?
- Who will be participating in the volunteer day?
- What kind of volunteer work will you do?
- How will the volunteer work benefit the community or cause?
- Where will the volunteer work take place?
- What supplies or resources do you need for the volunteer work?
- What is the expected timeframe for the volunteer day?
- How will transportation to and from the volunteer site be arranged?
- What kind of training or orientation is needed for the volunteer work?
- How will you measure the impact of the volunteer day and communicate it to stakeholders?
Asking these questions can help you plan a great internal volunteer day that benefits both your employees and the community. It's a great way to make a positive impact and bring your team together for a good cause.
Ideas for Workplace Volunteering Programs Teams Can Do In-Person
Group volunteering events are a fun and effective way to engage employees in volunteering. Here are 10 ideas for in-person group volunteering events:
- Food Bank: Volunteer at a local food bank to sort and distribute food to those in need.
- Park Clean-Up: Organize a park clean-up day to help beautify and maintain local parks and green spaces.
- Animal Shelter: Volunteer at a local animal shelter to walk dogs, play with cats, and assist with animal care.
- Beach Clean-Up: Organize a beach clean-up day to help keep beaches and waterways clean and free of litter.
- Senior Center: Volunteer at a senior center to assist with activities, serve meals, or simply spend time with seniors.
- School Tutoring: Offer tutoring services to local schools to help students succeed in their studies.
- Hospital Visitations: Visit and spend time with patients at a local hospital or hospice.
- Community Garden: Help maintain a local community garden, assisting with planting, weeding, and harvesting.
- Homeless Shelter: Volunteer at a homeless shelter to serve meals, provide clothing, and offer support to those in need.
- Giving Drives: Organize a drive to collect donations and/or items for a cause (ex: Toys for Tots, Food Banks, etc.) while not necessarily what we think of when we say volunteering, this is still a great way to give back.
Nine Nonprofit Suggestions that Companies Can Work with to Organize a Volunteering Day
- Habitat for Humanity helps build and renovate homes for families in need.
- Feeding America works to alleviate hunger in the United States.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters provides mentorship to children.
- American Red Cross provides disaster relief and emergency assistance to those in need.
- Special Olympics provides sports training and competition to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
- Boys and Girls Club provides after-school programs and mentorship to children.
- National Parks Conservation Association works to protect and preserve America's national parks.
- Save the Children works to improve the lives of children around the world.
- The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
Ideas for Workplace Volunteering Programs Teams Can Do Remotely
When it comes to volunteering, most people immediately jump to in-person options. But when you have a geographically dispersed or completely remote team or company, one of the biggest challenges of organizing remote volunteering is finding opportunities that can be done from anywhere. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Distributed Proofreaders is dedicated to creating free ebooks for the public domain by proofreading digitized texts. Volunteers can sign up to help proofread books from anywhere in the world.
Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind or visually impaired people with sighted volunteers for assistance with tasks such as reading labels, matching colors, and navigating unfamiliar places.
DOROT is a nonprofit that works to alleviate social isolation among older adults. They offer a variety of remote volunteering opportunities, including phone companionship, letter writing, and virtual visits.
Catchafire is a platform that connects nonprofits with skilled volunteers who can help with specific projects such as website design, social media strategy, and grant writing.
Crisis Text Line is an organization that provides free, 24/7 support for people in crisis via text message. Volunteers can sign up to be trained as crisis counselors and help provide support to those in need.
Zooniverse is a platform that allows volunteers to help with scientific research by categorizing images, transcribing handwritten notes, and more.
Amnesty Decoders is a platform that allows volunteers to help with human rights research by analyzing documents and identifying patterns.
Project Gutenberg is a digital library that offers over 60,000 free ebooks that can be downloaded or read online. Volunteers can help proofread or format books to improve their quality.
Be the Match is a nonprofit that facilitates bone marrow transplants for patients with blood cancers. Volunteers can sign up to help recruit potential donors or support patients and their families.
Translators Without Borders is a nonprofit organization that provides translation services for humanitarian organizations. Volunteers can help translate documents from anywhere in the world.
More general ideas you could take to your local United Way or other federated nonprofit to build a program together:
- Virtual mentoring: Your team can mentor students or young professionals virtually by providing guidance on career development, job search strategies, and more.
- Virtual skills-based volunteering: Your team can use their skills and expertise to help nonprofit organizations with their projects remotely, such as website design, social media strategy, or grant writing.
- Virtual community service: Your team can participate in virtual community service activities such as organizing online food drives or making virtual care packages for those in need.
- Virtual environmental initiatives: Your team can organize virtual environmental initiatives such as virtual cleanups or planting virtual gardens.
Questions to Ask Nonprofits While Looking for the Right Opportunity(ies) for Your Company
When trying to find the right volunteer opportunity for your company, it's important to ask the right questions to ensure that the nonprofit and volunteer work aligns with your company's goals and values. Here are 10 questions to consider when reaching out to nonprofits:
- What is the nonprofit's mission statement and how does it align with our company's values?
- What kind of volunteer work can our employees do to support the nonprofit's mission?
- How will our volunteer work benefit the nonprofit and the community it serves?
- What is the expected timeframe for the volunteer work?
- What supplies or resources are needed for the volunteer work?
- What kind of training or orientation is needed for the volunteer work?
- How will the nonprofit ensure the safety of our volunteers while they're on-site?
- How will the nonprofit recognize and appreciate our employees' volunteer efforts?
- How will the impact of our volunteer work be measured and communicated to stakeholders?
- What is the best way for us to communicate with the nonprofit's staff and coordinate our volunteer day?
Measuring the Impact of Your Workplace Volunteering Programs
Measuring the impact of your volunteer program is an important step in demonstrating its value and effectiveness, as well as external reporting (annual CSR and Sustainability reports). Some ways to measure impact include:
- Tracking the number of volunteer hours and the number of employees who participate in the program
- Surveying employees to gauge their satisfaction with the program and its impact on their engagement and job satisfaction
- Collecting feedback from the nonprofits you partner with to determine the impact of your volunteers on their programs and services
- Measuring the financial value of your volunteer program by estimating the monetary value of the volunteer hours contributed by your employees
- Incorporating your volunteer program into CSR reporting – in addition to including the number of hours volunteered and, potentially calculating the potential economic impact, highlighting specific volunteer initiatives or partnerships is a good way to bring your impact to life. A great way to do this is through pictures and individual quotes or stories.
Final Thoughts: Three Points to Keep in Mind When Planning a Workplace Volunteering Program
- Make sure your program is inclusive and accessible to all employees, regardless of their location or work arrangements.
- Consider partnering with nonprofits that align with your company's mission and values, and that provide meaningful opportunities for employee engagement.
- Integrate your volunteer program with payroll giving to make it easy for employees to support their favorite causes financially.
Kickstart Your Company's Volunteering Program with Workplace by FrontStream
Our all-in-one corporate giving, matching, and volunteering solution helps CRS programs of all sizes elevate their impact by connecting employees to causes they care about. Chat with one of our experts to learn more about our volunteer management and other workplace-giving offerings today!