What works to increase company volunteer engagement?

How to increase participation in your CSR program

What works to increase company volunteer engagement?

In a previous article, I described why it is important to understand how an employee decides to volunteer. For example, it turned out that it can be demotivating to frame volunteering as an obligation or chore, and that it is actually an activity that can lead to more satisfaction and purpose.

Do you want to steer your company volunteering programme in the right direction? Then go beyond simply referring employees to an online overview of volunteer activities. With these four tips you will work towards a structural mindset shift!

1. Stimulate thinking along with charities

One thing is certain: companies are true hubs for volunteers with professional skills. Within a company, people with years of experience work in various roles, from project managers to software developers.

The sense of ownership over a project or task is one of the things that is so stimulating in the workplace. Numerous employee engagement techniques, such as Google's famous '20% rule', are based on exactly this principle. As with daily work tasks, it is just as important for volunteers as it is for employees to be able to think along and contribute to progress.

So encourage them to think about how they can contribute their skills to social organisations. This could be in the form of a fundraising workshop or help developing a social media calendar. Encouraging conversations between charities and volunteers opens up a whole new world of volunteer activities.

 2. 'Be the change you want to see', yes really!

To make an impact as a company in the community, a collective shift in mindset is necessary.

Within large organisations and companies, internal and external communication undoubtedly plays an important role. We also noticed that our partner companies with the highest number of registrations experimented a lot with internal communication on social impact.

The most successful strategy turned out to be to set a good example from the upper echelons of the company. At several companies, for example, the management teams and department managers were the first to start a volunteer activity.

Wondering why this works so well? Within teams - also when it comes to company volunteering - employees need an inspiring leader.

3. Create a 'social impact culture

Australian software company Atlassian has been building its own social impact culture for years, and eventually established the Atlassian Foundation. Partly because of this, Atlassian has won Great Place to Work awards several times in recent years.  

What can we imagine by a "social impact culture"?" says Jan Kaan, former Benelux Channel Manager at Atlassian. According to him, company volunteering "has everything to do with employee engagement. From an employee's point of view, we know that everyone is looking for purpose - especially millennials. They find it very inspiring when you provide them with purpose that complements their daily tasks. It helps employees go the extra mile for their work - it's as simple as that.'

So incorporate the focus of purpose into other business activities by, for example, putting it on the agenda at meetings with your team or by setting KPIs for each team around social impact.

 4. New colleagues? Be quick

In its most basic form, regular volunteering is a habit. The good news is that a new employee is generally open to learning new habits. Think about company etiquette, work hours and meeting styles.

At Atlassian, they "encourage new employees, as part of the onboarding process, to engage in a volunteer activity within 60 days," says Jan Kaan. "When volunteers engage in volunteer activities within the first few days, they are subsequently more likely to continue doing so."

This has a lot to do with the fact that not only does it take a clear signal to adopt a habit, but it is all the more important that the volunteer experiences the 'do good' feeling as a reward for his or her behaviour.

5. Don't make it better than it is

This may sound somewhat counterintuitive. After all, isn't the goal to make the company volunteering programme as successful as possible?

It certainly is! But there are different ways to achieve this. For example, it requires guidance in the right direction by regularly sharing success stories, tips or ideas. But there is no point in trying to convince employees that this is going to be the most impactful experience of the year.

Instead, it can work to focus on what else the volunteering day offers. For example, we heard from employees who volunteered for a day through Deedmob's company volunteering programme that the following things were very much appreciated:

It is a way to get to know colleagues (from other departments) better

Doing something different and valuable for a day is relaxing

There is often a good laugh

You get to know people with whom you normally do not come into contact very often

As with most employee engagement strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and it takes regular experimentation to discover how a company volunteering programme suits your employees. With the above techniques, we encourage you to get started or brainstorm on what communication or social mission fits your employees.

Lioba Visser

Partnership Manager

Lioba Visser is one of the Partnership Managers at Deedmob