So many of us experience the same frustration - we work with our charity partners to create and offer a diverse range of volunteering opportunities for our employees, but take up can often be disappointing.
Yet, we know our employees have good intentions and on the other side, we know that our charity partners derive invaluable support from our corporate volunteers. So why is there often a gap? What strategies can we use to encourage and support our employees to get involved?
Despite the growing popularity in corporate volunteering, the numbers, unfortunately, do not reflect this. With participation growing from 3.7% in 2006 to 15% in 2018, the increase still shows an 85% discrepancy. So, what are the challenges of closing this gap and what are possible suggestions you can implement in your company? We will look at these challenges from three levels.
1. Aligning your company’s WHY with business culture and employee development
2. Employee time constraints and commitment
3. Costs of managing and monitoring a volunteering program
Why did your company partner with this charity or cause? If your answer includes anything like, “we have been with them for x years” or “our management supports the cause”, you may have a clue as to why employees are not running at the chance to volunteer.
Effective employee giving programmes that include corporate volunteering and events like charity runs prove that companies have a genuine concern with social responsibility. Peter Baines, founder of Hands Across the Water, in his book Doing Good by Doing Good contends that these programmes are valuable because of their ability to cultivate shared experiences among your employees.
As Simon Sinek explains in his book, ‘Start With Why’, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”. Is there a genuine interest and personal resonance as to why your organisation is taking up this initiative? A challenge we all face in our companies is how to better communicate why volunteering is an important part of our business culture and why we, as companies, support our people to get involved.
How can we better communicate that volunteering not only supports important causes, but also offers value for both our employees as individuals, and for our company culture as a whole. Keep in mind why your company is partnering with a cause or charity. How does establishing a partnership mutually help each party grow
“Why do you want to work here?” You asked your employees this in their employment interview or annual survey. Now, how can you transform this into practice
Let’s use the example of Google and their partnerships with the non-for profit, Girls Who Code. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs in the computer field with only 3% of them being filled by females. As a leader in the technology and innovation space, Google’s commitment to “expanding opportunities” and “including all voices” matches with the overarching goals of Girls Who Code. This is an example of a technology company helping the community by leveraging its employees' technical abilities whilst building skills in leadership and communication.
The takeaway - conveying the why to your employees about how volunteering contributes to the company’s mission and personal development is key. Perhaps even survey your employees about which charity or foundation they support and find the common themes. By doing so, you can create pro bono work or skilled volunteering which capitalises on your employees' skills.
So you have drafted an amazing volunteering proposal which aligns with the company’s overarching goals, but no one seems to be interested in signing up.
You are not definitely not alone! The biggest challenge according to a 2018 survey by Volunteering Australia is the time constraints employees have. However, the issue is often deeper than simply time commitments.
Often stigmas associated with taking time off for volunteering or doing anything outside of the scope of what is considered ‘work’ still exist.
As mentioned, underlying this is creating a culture of permission and normalising corporate volunteering and social responsibility. Whether this is initiated from top-down, such as having a designated day per quarter for volunteering, teams volunteering together or senior leaders taking timeout to volunteer, there are various ways this can materialise.
Two birds with one stone. Why not integrate the volunteering opportunity with the ‘training and development’ that is required within your company? This extends beyond the intrinsic and moral appeal of volunteering and gives employees a professional incentive to act. Skill-based volunteering and pro-bono projects are excellent examples which you can implement.
Fantastic, you now have partnerships which align with your company’s mission and strategic goals. In addition, you can make it desirable for employees to participate. Now, it is a matter of implementing all of this.
The final challenge which most company’s experience is the cost of managing and monitoring their CSR programs, including corporate volunteering. It is not simply financial cost, but the intangibles which limit growth and opportunity.
It is all fine when you post the volunteering opportunity via email. However, when you receive hundreds of questions regarding the time slots still available, whether scheduling can be done for the employee or what training and development module this will fulfil, it begins to transform into a logistical and administrative nightmare. The success of a corporate volunteering program should not be tied down by the administrative capabilities of the CSR department. We understand your pain all too well.
What do you want? We want to log onto your company’s portal, be able to communicate and post all the information about volunteering opportunities? Yes, please! How do we achieve this? Bringing it all together into a single platform that will improve operational efficiency and automate grunt work.
It comes down to ease of use and lowering the friction between an employee signing up, volunteering and afterwards tracking their progress and activity. Having a one-stop-shop solution helps to facilitate this.
Corporate volunteering is an emerging trend because of the benefits we all recognise. It is up to us, the individuals who know this and are responsible for turning this into a reality recognise the challenges and what solutions you can implement.
As Peter Baines, founder of Hands Across the Water and CSR consultant explains, “desire doesn’t necessarily equal competence”. It is often the case, not the lack of knowledge or desire to see such programs succeed, but the tools and strategies we have at our disposal.