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Practical Strategies to Solve Low Participation in Corporate Volunteering


Are you trying to figure out why uptake to your corporate volunteering program is lagging? 

You’re not alone. Many social impact and HR leaders experience the same frustration. Like you, they wonder why employees aren’t engaging in the range of volunteering opportunities they’ve put together. 

The numbers back this up. Despite an estimated 78% of companies having a volunteering program, only around 15% of employees end up participating in volunteering every year. 

So what can you do to solve low participation levels in corporate volunteering?

This article highlights several useful strategies you can use to encourage and support your employees to get involved. We’ll highlight some of the most common problems companies experience with workplace volunteering programs, and suggest practical solutions for you to try out.

Problem #1: It’s Challenging to Engage Employees in a Virtual Environment

To say that COVID-19 has disrupted the way we work would be an understatement. Fortunately, most workplaces have managed to effectively adapt to the changed nature of work. 

However, there is one consideration that has been largely forgotten about: corporate volunteering. Given that corporate volunteering is traditionally done face-to-face, it’s understandable that companies have found it challenging to keep it up during the pandemic. 

So, how can companies maintain momentum and engagement for corporate volunteering when face-to-face opportunities are out of the question?

Solution #1: Take Your Corporate Volunteering Online

Employees engaging in virtual corporate volunteering

The good news is that corporate volunteering can be done virtually. There are countless opportunities for employees to volunteer online with organisations. 

Here are a few examples of how your company can lend a hand virtually:

  • Your marketing, PR, and social media departments can assist charities with managing their marketing and comms initiatives. 
  • Your business and legal departments can provide charities with pro bono advice. 
  • Your design team can make image and video assets for NGOs.
  • Your tech department can update charities’ websites and fix technical issues.
  • Your executive team can offer coaching hours to NGO leaders.

In order to take your workplace volunteering program online, reach out to your existing charity partners. They may already have a virtual volunteering program set up for your company to get involved with. If they don’t, discuss different ways your employees may be able to lend their time and expertise virtually. 

You can also explore new virtual volunteering opportunities. Many charities are keen to form corporate partnerships, so you won’t have trouble finding some that align with your goals and needs. Which brings us to our next point...  

Problem #2: Your Employees Aren’t Connecting With the Causes You Offer

Let’s start off with a simple question: Why did your company partner with your chosen charity partners or causes in the first place? 

If your answer sounds 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.

In order to establish a thriving corporate volunteering program, your company needs to partner with charities and causes it has a genuine connection to or concern with. Your employees will have little impetus to take up corporate volunteering if they don’t see the value in it.

Solution #2: Make Your “Why” Clearer

Creating care packages as part of a workplace volunteering program

In his book, ‘Start With Why’, Simon Sinek highlights that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. This gets to the heart of how to better engage your employees in corporate volunteering—or any CSR initiative at that.

Each charity partner or cause you support should align with your company’s core business and values in some way. You need to be able to clearly communicate to your employees not only how working volunteering contributes to your company’s mission, but also why their participation matters. If you can’t, you will find it difficult to justify to employees why they should engage in your corporate volunteering program. 

To this end, you will need to reflect on whether your existing charity partners and causes align with your company. If you find a misalignment, you will need to work out which partnerships could offer a better alignment. 

One way to go about this is to survey your employees about which charities or foundations they support to find the common themes. By doing so, you’ll also be able to create more meaningful pro bono work or skilled volunteering opportunities which capitalise on your employees' skills. 

If you’re after some inspiration, look to Google and their partnerships with the non-for-profit Girls Who Code. 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. 

Problem #3: Time Constraints are Impeding Participation Rates

So, you’ve drafted an amazing volunteering proposal that aligns with the company’s overarching goals, but no one seems to have the time to sign up? 

One of the biggest barriers to low participation in corporate volunteering is that employees lack the time to do so. With deadlines to meet and other pressing tasks to take care of, they usually don’t have the hours in their days to dedicate to workplace volunteer initiatives. 

However, the issue often runs deeper than time commitments. In many companies, there is a stigma associated with taking time off for volunteering or doing anything outside of the scope of what is considered ‘work’.
This is perhaps why a survey by Volunteering Australia found that of the theoretically available volunteering time companies have, only half ends up being utilised.

Solution #3: Provide Employees With Adequate Time and Support to Volunteer

Two employees sorting clothes for corporate volunteering

The fact of the matter is that if employees aren’t given adequate time and support to volunteer, most won’t. After all, it’s not fair to expect employees to squeeze in corporate volunteering into their already packed schedules, if there’s little in the way of managerial support.

The solution, therefore, is to focus on creating a culture of normalising corporate volunteering and social responsibility. 

There are various ways you can make this materialise. For example:

  • Offering a designated day per quarter that employees can take off to volunteer.
  • Making it visible that your company's leadership team also participates in corporate volunteering. This is a key way to model desirable behaviour to employees and show that corporate volunteering is genuinely valued company-wide.
  • Integrating volunteering opportunities with required training and development sessions.
  • Celebrating stories from employees that have volunteered so that their positive experiences in turn motivate others to participate.
  • Ensuring that management actively supports, encourages, and provides explicit permission for employees to take the time to volunteer.
  • Scheduling a company-wide volunteering day.
  • Setting up skills-based volunteering opportunities and pro bono projects.
  • Providing employees with set amounts of time to engage in virtual volunteering. 
  • Encouraging, recognising, and rewarding employees for engaging in your corporate volunteering program.

By providing employees with the time, support, and encouragement they need, you’ll be giving them both a personal and professional incentive to act. 

Problem #4: Too Much Paperwork

You now have partnerships that align with your company’s mission and know how to entice employees to participate. So how do you start implementing all of this?

The final major challenge that most companies face is the cost of managing and monitoring their CSR programs, including corporate volunteering. It’s not simply financial costs that need to be considered, but also the intangibles which limit growth and opportunity.

Many companies rely on outdated ways of running their corporate volunteering programs, such as emails and spreadsheets. However, as you may have already experienced yourself, this quickly proves to be unsustainable. 

It’s a logistical and administrative nightmare trying to keep track of different corporate volunteering opportunities, sending out invites, keeping track of numbers, and staying on top of who’s doing what without a central database to keep everything organised. That’s not to mention all of the hundreds of emails from employees RSVPing to become a workplace volunteer, asking questions, and making suggestions. 

If this is ringing true for you, it’s not hard to see why your participation numbers are dwindling. Perhaps employees are still waiting to hear back about their questions. Or maybe they simply want to know the next steps to take, but can’t find the information anywhere. Remember, even the most eager of employees will eventually lose patience and motivation to participate in corporate volunteering if it seems overly cumbersome to do so.  

Solution #4: Streamline Your Corporate Volunteering Processes

Catalyser Community Impact Hub Module

Running an effective CSR program is simply not possible without the right tools and resources. That’s why when you start using the right giving platform, you’ll see a marked difference in your participation numbers.

The Catalyser giving platform significantly reduces the amount of time, money, and effort it takes to run your corporate volunteering program. Catalyser empowers you to seamlessly manage, track, and report on all of your company’s giving activities from a single platform.

So how exactly does our solution have a positive impact on employee participation levels? For starters, Catalyser offers your employees the means to easily explore and sign up to the latest corporate volunteering opportunities, as well as any other CSR activities your company is running. Plus, having an enterprise-grade platform in place not only allows your employees to see that your company takes CSR seriously, but also makes participating simpler and more enticing.  

If you need further proof, take a read of our client case studies. You’ll see how companies and organisations like King & Wood Mallesons, Deloitte, UNSW Innovations have leveraged Catalyser to improve operational efficiency and automate grunt work.

It all comes down to ease of use and lowering the friction between employee sign up, volunteering, and tracking their progress and activity. Having a one-stop-shop solution like Catalyser helps to facilitate this.

What's Next for Me and My Company?

Corporate volunteering is one of the most impactful ways your company can give back to the community. If you’re finding it challenging to increase participation levels, give our tips above a go. You can also book a personal demo with our team to see how Catalyser can boost your corporate volunteering and help you achieve your CSR goals. 

Happy volunteering!