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Tis The Season to Give Back: 4 Steps to A Meaningful Employee Volunteer Program
Monday, Oct 10, 2016

As the holidays quickly approach, is your company prepared with a game plan to encourage employees to give back? If not, October is the perfect time to implement a volunteer program, or further develop an existing initiative to strengthen your employer brand. Leading a company-wide effort to make a difference in the community provides employees with a feeling of belonging to a larger purpose and showcases that when it comes to attracting new talent.

Whether you are looking for some quick improvements or aiming for a spot on Fortune’s 2016 list of best companies for giving back, find out how you can create a meaningful volunteer program with these four steps.

Step 1: Start with The Basics 

Participation rates in a company’s volunteer program are dependent on whether it supports a cause employees feel connected to. Selecting a volunteer organization that aligns with your mission and values will be the driver behind a strong program. There is a lot to think about, but you can get a head start by determining how many hours will be devoted to the program, if the initiatives will be year-round or during peak-times, and if employees will be provided with incentives or even compensated for getting involved. A little motivation through goals and objectives can ensure your company establishes a long-lasting relationship with the volunteer organization. The right choice will empower employees to come together while making an enormous difference in the community.

Step 2: Get Creative

Establishing a unique company-wide volunteer program is important. Several innovative companies are setting the bar high and gaining recognition. Amazon encourages employees to think outside of the box and does not limit them to one single volunteer effort. Through AmazonSmile, the company has initiatives to donate to thousands of nonprofits, but it is allowing employees to help out close to home through clothing collections, little league coaching, toy drives and more that makes the real impact. Similarly, Enterprise focuses on their local community to provide employees a direct impact on its growth. The team in Michigan recently geared up in light of the current water crisis by distributing clean bottled water to those affected in Flint. By having these opportunities, employees are able to see what their organization stands for and cares about. It is all about knowing your employees, your company’s goals, and reaching those goals together in a new and exciting way.

Step 3: Consider Additional Benefits

Today, philanthropic involvement goes far beyond just monetary donations and a purposeful program is one that connects employees with hands-on activities. To ensure employees are getting the most out of their experience, identify transferable skills that can be applied to volunteer efforts. An effective program design can leverage employee talent and increase enthusiasm while fostering the adoption of soft skills, often missing in candidates. A lot of times, individuals are able to improve in areas such as empathy, communication, teamwork, and collaboration as a result.

Many companies will designate a committee of employees to oversee volunteer efforts throughout the organization. By having everyone take part in volunteer initiatives, from interns all the way up to executive leadership, the program is sure to boost employee morale and improve day to day office culture. If an employee feels as if they are a part of something larger, and that their company truly acts upon the values that it is held to, that passion and purpose will be reflected.

Step 4: Don’t Forget to Showcase Your Efforts

Building a culture of giving back simultaneously improves an employer’s brand image and influences recruitment marketing efforts. Employers are realizing that there is more to do than just place great benefits in front of candidates to attract them to a company. Job seekers want to see that they are entering a workplace that supports their growth and establishes a sense of community through volunteer initiatives. Recruitment marketing is evolving around culture, and volunteer efforts play a huge role in that. Ninety-two percent of executives said they believed improving their firm’s corporate culture would improve the value of the company, and 44 percent of college seniors believe social media posts demonstrating culture would entice them to apply for the job. Gone are the days of working purely to earn an income. The employee experience is now seen in a whole new light and the attractiveness of a company relies on its efforts to provide more to employees through programs like this.

The key is to bridge the gap between work and a sense of purpose for individuals. Your approach to volunteering should be as unique as the values your company holds, and a successful program boils down to offering a meaningful experience to both current and future employees. To learn how to further build out your employer brand, check out our article, Recruitment Marketing Takes the Runway.