What It Is
Employee volunteering is when employees perform work in the community with some form of support and/or encouragement from their employer. There could be several variations on this theme including:
- Employee Volunteering: Employees take part in volunteer activities through their workplace. Employers value, encourage, and support these activities, but the activities are employee-driven and conducted on the employee’s personal time.
- Corporate Volunteering: Volunteering is conducted through a formal and organized process by the employer, and takes place during work hours.
- Employer-Supported Volunteering: a range of employer support for employee volunteerism, but generally, volunteer activities are incorporated into the workplace and employers are involved.
Why It Matters
Many employers find that nurturing volunteerism in their organizations leads to improved corporate environments, as well as increased employee satisfaction.
Employee volunteerism can also help your organization to:
- Create opportunities for team-building
- Strengthen loyalty to the organization
- Improve company bottom line. This is achieved through higher retention rates seen among employees who volunteer.
- Advertise and strengthen relationship within the community
- Become more involved in overcoming social problems
Employee volunteerism is a critical part of corporate citizenship. In 2003, 33% of companies and 85% of large corporations had an employee volunteer program implemented.
Employee volunteerism can also help employees to:
- Improve employee skills, morale, and productivity
- Increase interaction of employees to other sections and levels of the company
- Increase fulfillment and add variety to an employee’s day-to-day routine
- Gain experience working with different constituencies
- Help relieve stress-related symptoms
- Increase knowledge of social problems
First, identify what obstacles could be in the way to starting an employee volunteer program. Lack of resources has been cited by 46% of companies surveyed as the primary obstacle to corporate citizenship.
Consider offering release time or flex time to your employees, so they can volunteer with organizations in need. Release time provides employees paid time off to volunteer. Release time policies vary from company to company, ranging from 10 paid hours each month to one paid day per year. For more information on release time policies see this sample: Volunteer Time Off Policy. Flex time allows employees to adjust their schedules to accommodate volunteering. However, unlike release time, it does not financially cover employees’ volunteer time. An additional option is to provide a company-wide volunteer day, which can provide team building and employee interaction. Volunteer days are also a great opportunity for improving public image.
Make sure to recognize employees who volunteer so that they stay motivated and excited to continue to volunteer. This is an aspect of employee volunteers programs that is often forgotten. For ideas on how to recognize volunteers see: Volunteer Recognition.
To go further, try implementing a dollars-for-doers grant program in your organization. Dollars-for-Doers (DFD) supports employee volunteerism, matching employee volunteer hours with corporate cash contributions Your organization can add a DFD policy in addition to or instead of a matching gift policy. Please see Dollars for Doers Program Description and Benefits for a sample template of the program.
In 2009, Burt’s Bees, a natural personal-care company based in Durham, North Carolina, launched their “Live the Greater Good” program. This program required all of Burt’s Bees employees to volunteer between 8 and 30 hours per year. After the first year of the program, 97% of employees had participated in the program. Corporate social responsibility is a core value to the company, and through their practices they attempt to be accountable and responsible to a range of stakeholders, including the community. Burt’s Bees has partnered with Teach for America, the Triangle Land Conservancy, and Habitat for Humanity, among others. Burt’s Bees also holds a yearly “Culture Day” in which company-wide employees participate in a special project, such as building a neighborhood playground.
Resources for More Information
Volunteer Match is a non-profit online service that helps people find local volunteer opportunities by location, interest area, or keyword.
The London Benchmarking Group Model (LBGM) is a tool that measures and reports employee volunteering using a comprehensive input/output matrix. The matrix consists of a list of employee volunteer activities and inputs or resources, including in-kind, cash, and volunteer time. It also includes outputs like community and organizational impact.
The HandsOn Network helps companies to volunteer within their community by providing the design, development, and management of employee engagement projects.
Inc.com delivers advice, tools, and services to help business owners run their businesses more successfully. This article looks into how some companies are using volunteer programs to strengthen their corporate cultures.
Measuring the Value of Volunteerism: Practical Techniques and ROI Benchmarking Results, a webinar presentation by Volunteer Match.
Employee volunteerism can have tangible benefits for your company, the employees, and the community. You should examine whether your company should provide a set block of volunteer hours per year or a dedicated company-wide volunteer day.
Glossary of Related Terms
Dollars-for-Doers: Matches employee volunteer hours with corporate monetary donations.
Employer-Supported Volunteering: Volunteering in which an employer has some kind of involvement.
Flex Time: Allowing employees to alter their work schedule to accommodate their volunteering.
Release Time: A policy that provides employees paid time off to volunteer.
 Marilyn K. Lesmeister and Anne Romero, “Community Connections: Managing an Employee Volunteer Program,” IFAS Extension University of Florida (July 2006): 2-3. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY77900.pdf. Accessed 3 July 2013.
 Junior Achievement, The Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs (2009): 3. http://www.jany.org/docs/BenefitsofEmployeeVolunteerPrograms.pdf. Accessed 3 July 2013.
 Chris Hahn, “Best Practices in Employee Volunteerism,” Service Leader, December 2003. http://www.serviceleader.org/instructors/studentpaper1. Accessed 3 July 2013.
 “Dollars for Doers Policies,” Entrepreneur’s Foundation of SVCF. http://efcsr.org/resources-tools/employee-volunteerism.aspx. Accessed 3 July 2013.
 Todd Cohen, “Burt’s Bees aims for ‘greater good’,” Philanthropy Journal, 16 August 2010. http://www.philanthropyjournal.org/nc/ncnews/burt%E2%80%99s-bees-aims-%E2%80%98greater-good%E2%80%99. Accessed 3 July 2013.