Top tips for a successful employee – volunteering scheme

Getting employees involved and motivated can be one of the hardest steps when starting out and building a successful employee volunteer program.

Here are some of my top tips.

1. Make it a goal.

Don’t just think about it or have a fleeting conversation with board or senior managers.  Make it a key business goal.  By making volunteering a priority, you communicate to employees that they have an opportunity to get involved at all levels from across the business.

2. Start with new employees.

Build volunteering into your recruitment and induction programme. Offer at one or two paid days per year to volunteer.  By demonstrating the company commitment to volunteering, new employees will know that volunteering is both supported and expected.  This can help new employees get involved from the start and ensures your volunteer program will constantly evolve.

3. Provide options.

Don’t just offer time off to volunteer, provide opportunities. When you’re starting off a scheme, it can be difficult for staff to think where to go or who to approach.  Invest a little time finding out about local charities and community groups.  Take an hour to visit them and chat to them about their needs. Develop mutually beneficial opportunities that will involve your staff.

4. Keep it local and convenient.

Keep it local, it has bigger impact and provides a better story to tell.  Not everyone has a car, if they can get to work, then they can probably get to a nearby charity.  Consider volunteer projects on site.  Perhaps invite in local students where staff conduct mock job interviews.  By hosting volunteer projects on-site, you increase attendance, make volunteering visible and increase senior support.

5. Make it work.

Try doing a volunteer team activity and chatting about business at the same time.  The best ideas often come when doing something different in a new environment.  Take a long post- it notes to capture ideas or ask each member to focus on one idea and share their thoughts at lunch and the end of the day. It’s a great way to keep employees focused on the company and culture while giving something back.

6. Sell it!

The best people to sell your scheme are the people who take part.  Help them to tell and share their story.  Make them volunteer champions, invite them to talk to large groups, do a press release, design posters with their quotes, put them on the front page of your intranet. If your offices are spread regionally, appoint volunteer champions and leaders responsible for managing each region’s volunteer program.

7. Develop a large annual event.

Consider an all company annual volunteer event. Find the niche that distinguishes your company, use it to your fullest advantage, and promote it to all staff.  It could be a weekend where you all do a community litter pick, decorate a school or host a summer fete for disadvantaged families.

8. Analyse and monitor.

Use software to keep a record of how your teams are doing. The software should have the ability to capture and understand employee interests, manage event registration, deliver event alerts and reminders, record participation hours, and track how well your teams are doing.

9. Incentivise and reward.

By aligning your volunteer program with other employee benefits programs, you’ll get more hands raised. For example, you could offer a free healthy packed lunch as part of your wellbeing programme for people who volunteer.

10. Let employees choose.

Listen and encourage your employees to share their charitable interests and passions.  They may have local knowledge or already volunteer for charities that need additional help.

11. Make it an executive decision.

Volunteering events lead by senior leaders send out a clear message that volunteering is taken seriously and is a great way to obtain middle management buy-in. Having active leadership support (that goes beyond funding of the program) is critical for the success of any volunteer program.

12. Budget.

Employee volunteer programs do not need to be expensive, but they do need to be strategically managed and aligned to business goals and the culture of the company.  They can take up time, especially researching opportunities and managing activity.  This is where employee-volunteering brokers can be a worthwhile investment.

13. Partner with other internal employee groups

Many companies have employee groups such BAME, disability or Pride.  These internal groups often work with external community partners to highlight diversity in the workplace and in the company. Support and partner with these networks for greater community reach.

14. Don’t keep it a secret.

Employees are not going to participate in a program they don’t know about. Promote volunteerism on the home page of your company intranet, in office lobbies, on featured posters and bulletin boards dedicated to showcasing volunteer events. Then use targeted emails to recruit volunteers for future events.

15. Find the right fit.

There are many brilliant people managing employee volunteer schemes with the personality, energy, drive, passion and training required to a lead successful scheme. On the other hand, some people simply don’t have the right combination of enthusiasm, interest, and people skills for the job. Getting the right person is key to the success and often falls into over stretched people working in HR or CSR teams.

In many cases, am employee volunteer program fails not because of issues with culture, budget or management support but due to lack of planning. When it comes to positioning a volunteer program for success, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

However, give the proper attention to your employee volunteer program, and make changes as you learn from your experiences, and I can almost guarantee improved management buy-in, stronger employee engagement, increased event attendance, and more powerful business and community results.

If this all sounds exciting but too much to handle internally, we’d be delighted to help you.

Contact the experts at Business Volunteers and we can arrange to call you or visit.

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