How to introduce employee volunteering in a way that works

3 March 2021

Last week one of the newer companies on board our platform told us: ‘we were excited about introducing employee volunteering to our company but it’s not quite working, barely anyone has signed up’. 

So, we had a little look at their figures. Since they had joined Social Good Connect in January, about 12% of their workforce had signed up to get involved with volunteering. And most of that 12% are regularly volunteering, making a huge difference to charities and communities in need.

It takes time and patience to effectively introduce employee volunteering into an organisation, so we’re going to share some of our tried and tested top tips.

Measuring success with employee volunteering

When you look at stats like these on paper, they might not initially seem like a roaring success. But when it comes to skilled volunteering, impact is not only a numbers game, but a human one. Our charity and non-profit partners appreciate every single volunteer, whether they help for one hour a week or ten.

For Linda at Tayside Cancer Support, having a few extra volunteer befrienders means that their beneficiaries are getting the quality of care that they deserve.

‘When a client is first referred to us, we spend time getting to the heart of what they’d want to from a befriender. We need to take great care over the ‘matches’ we create. Our new volunteers through Social Good Connect helped us to meet the needs of more clients without asking current befrienders to work with two or three clients.’

Some may even argue the real impact of volunteering cannot be captured in stats. Writing for Pioneers Post, Kelly Brewers points out that ‘if we’re talking about social impact, we’re talking about the quality of someone’s life. On a day-to-day basis, most people don’t calculate how many jobs they applied for this year compared with the year before; how many miles they have to travel to get to a GP… That’s not how we determine our social and economic wellbeing.’

Our clients were worried that only a small percentage of their team were getting stuck into employee volunteering straight away, but in just one month, this small group of committed volunteers were already improving the lives of the people they were supporting, creating rippling waves of positive impact every time they contributed.

How to get more employees involved in volunteering

That’s not to say that leader introducing employee volunteering to their team shouldn’t do everything they can to encourage colleagues to sign up and get involved.

On average, when we bring on a new business to Social Good Connect, we expect between 5-15% of their workforce to join the platform in the first few weeks. The buzz of a new initiative, and a chance for employees to support the community on their own terms drives engagement in the first few weeks, but this number will plateau over time. It’s to be expected.

However, there are some things you can do to boost engagement:

It’s important to understand that effectively introducing an employee volunteering programme requires time, effort, and patience. Especially if this is the first time you’re being proactive with corporate responsibility in your company.

Buy-in from the top

We’ve found that when it comes to introducing employee volunteering into an organisation, nothing is more important that company-wide buy-in. This starts with senior management.

One of our clients, Grant Thornton, recognises the importance of this. Senior manager, Lindsay Robertson, told us: ‘we will be leading by example. As well as our younger workforce, who are keen to be a part of a culture that gives back, we have partners with over 30 years’ experience and a wide range of skills that could have a huge impact on charities.’

A commitment to employee volunteering from all levels of management helps to show that the company is serious about volunteering impact and doesn’t view it as a glorified PR exercise.

Communication, communication, communication

Our second top tip is something we shout about all the time – regular communication! In fact, this is something we prioritise so highly that we support any business that joins our platform to create a plan for internal comms.

Every organisation is different, but when it comes to fostering a culture of giving, the most important thing is clarity. It’s important to help employees understand exactly how they can get involved, how many hours they have to volunteer, for example, and where to go to look for opportunities.

Not everyone will sign up after the first announcement so it’s a good idea to follow a plan which includes regular internal and external communication, space to ask questions and provide feedback in a webinar perhaps, and above all, consistent messaging.

Remember the company who was disappointed with their early 12% sign-up rate? We suggested they send out another email reminder with some great resources attached and off the back of that one email, their sign-up rate went up to 14% and another application to volunteer came through.

From one single email!

Big impact from employee volunteering doesn’t happen overnight

Introducing a successful employee volunteering strategy and getting the team on board won’t happen overnight. And it’s not going to be for everyone.

But we believe that every single volunteer is a success worth celebrating. Beyond the numbers, the human impact of volunteering is value that can almost never be measured.

Getting your team to sign up to volunteering activities on top of their already busy schedules is not always easy, but if you ever feel disheartened by the numbers, ask the team members who do volunteer how they feel afterwards.. (And share those messages with your wider team – it’s guaranteed to get a few more people interested!)

At Social Good Connect we’re passionate about sharing the ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling that volunteering inspires. We believe in setting our business partners up for success and big social impact.

Get in touch to find out how we can help your team introduce an employee volunteering programme that really works.

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