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Lucy Hayim


Charity Partnerships and Volunteer Co- ordinator

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How to implement a volunteering strategy


When implemented effectively, an employee volunteering programme will enhance your brand reputation locally, allow your staff to build relationships both in and outside the workplace, develop the skills of your workforce and create a positive impact on the community. 

Implemented badly, employee volunteering schemes lack engagement with staff, consume time better spent in the office and can be a drain on their time and resources of the charities you work with.

The following steps will provide a guideline to creating a successful employee volunteering strategy.

1) Get your stakeholders bought-in

Even the best laid plans are destined to fail if they’re not executed properly. In order to do this you’ll need to achieve buy-in from key stakeholders:

The leadership:  The impetus for an employee volunteering scheme is often from the leadership – who recognise the ‘business case’ for having their staff volunteering in the community. The trick is making sure they are visibly supportive of the scheme post-Launch.

Identify a sympathetic member of your leadership to be a ‘senior champion’ of the idea – you’ll still find yourself executing the scheme, but their involvement will help convince others of the value of the initiative.

The middle management: Would-be volunteers only feel as though they can take time out to volunteer if they are properly supported by their line-managers. Middle-management are always a tough group to crack because they are the ones who lose staff for the day.

Use your senior champion to lament (in an official or unofficial context) the benefits of volunteering and the value the company. For some of our clients we’ve introduced ‘Volunteering by Department’ leader-board to inspire competition with the volunteers and accountability with the middle-managers.

Employee buy in: If employees aren’t enthusiastic about the causes they can support, they’re unlikely to want to volunteer.

Before you decide on the causes or themes for your volunteering, canvas the opinion of your colleagues to find out what they want and make sure this feedback is reflected in the scheme when you launch it.

2) Choose who you will support

The best employee volunteering programmes I’ve seen provide the right balance between a strategic fit with the business (i.e. supporting causes relevant to your industry, or utilising skills relevant to your workforce) and providing a wide enough choice of volunteering options to inspire your staff.

Create a ‘menu’ of options of causes volunteers can support and the capacities in which staff can help out – whether that is through volunteering in teams, helping out on their own or completing pro-bono work remotely.

If you’re struggling to identify volunteering opportunities, don’t be afraid to seek out external help –we’ve found other corporates are frequently very happy to discuss what works well for them and share ideas.

You can also work with employee volunteering brokers which often have existing relationships with lots of local organisations and can help you identify potential causes to support and structure your interactions with them to ensure maximum benefit. 

3) Make it easy

We live in the Digital Age, don’t we? Take-away pizza and mini-cabs can be booked at the click of the button and you can pay for your coffee without even having to plug in your PIN number.

Even more than before there is an expectation – particularly among business professionals – that things should be easy, including sorting out volunteering!

Devise a process for your employees to organise volunteering – preferably devoid of bureaucracy and back-and-forth via email. Where possible allow them to sign up via an internet-based system and even at short notice.

Once you’ve done this – you need to communicate it, see below.

4) Get people involved

Every time I present to internal teams on the subject of volunteering, the first thing I ask is how many people know how much paid time they get off to volunteer. Even in companies with established employee volunteering programmes, not once has there been a full show of hands.

This just demonstrates how hard it is to get the message across. In order to get people engaged with your scheme you are going to need to be pro-active and creative to ensure your communications stand out from the plethora of other internal comms.

Vary the message: You’ll always get a proportion of the workforce who will volunteer no matter what, but the vast majority are waiting to be converted. When you’re building your comms campaigns try and include and vary the following messages to keep it interesting

  • How much time they’re given to volunteer
  • How easy it is to get involved
  • The skills they’ll gain
  • How much they’ll enjoy it
  • The difference they’ll make
  • The value they’ll add to the company they work for

Change the channel: Apparently the average corporate email user receives 84 emails a day. That means stiff competition and in our experience, fewer than 25% of employee volunteering emails are opened.

As an alternative, we’d recommend posters, desk-drops, videos played on TV screens and frequent posts on social media. In our experience so far, the most effective method to get people involved is by creating a physical presence – ask to present at team meetings or run regular volunteering stands in your canteen. A pro-active nature and chocolate bribes help get the conversation started.

5) Collect feedback and use it as a promotional tool

Feedback is often collected with the purpose of improving employee volunteering for future events or schemes, but it is often under-used as a vehicle to ensure the long-term engagement of your stakeholder groups.

When I pick a hotel I ignore the blurb written on the website and go straight to the TripAdvisor reviews. Peer-to-peer feedback is an incredibly valuable tool and you should encourage your volunteers to share their views – get them to write blog posts, contribute to internal newsletters or even just drop a quick email to their teams.

Finally, feedback enables you re-approach senior staff to show the impact and influence it has made to both the corporate and charity. If successful, this will only help support the long-term case for your employee volunteering scheme. 

One Response

  1. What a crock. I’ve been a
    What a crock. I’ve been a volunteer paramedic for 12 years, unemployed half that period. In interview, referencing this resulted in responses including “But have you had any real work?”. Getting an infarct into hospital for a couple of stents clearly wasn’t real enough. Furthering education is also worthless unless there’s placements: a Clinical Research Prof tells me he’s knocked back Masters level postgrad offering to work pro bono. HR advised against it.

Author Profile Picture
Lucy Hayim

Charity Partnerships and Volunteer Co- ordinator

Read more from Lucy Hayim