If you’re looking to shake things up in the New Year, and particularly if the changes you want to make involve company culture and employee moral, creating a volunteer program is a great option. An employee volunteer program, sometimes called an EVP, is a newer option that companies are using as a way to create more of a well-rounded business.
At first look, it may seem like a volunteer program is really for the individuals in your company, and while this is wonderful and usually enough of an incentive for a business, it’s also worth understanding that your company will also benefit as a whole for several reasons.
- It boosts employee moral. Knowing that you get a day off in the future to do something for the community or for a good cause can help keeping employees motivated at work and feel pride in their company.
- It helps you create local connections. Making these connections can help get your company name out there to not only local organizations but also other members of the community who see the good you’re doing or also work with the same organization.
- You become a more desirable place to work. This is a big selling point for many employees who are looking for work-life balance. If your company offers this program, it shows that you value that, and you’re a company with a well-rounded mission.
- It can help build your reputation. You should never volunteer just to make yourself look good, but it’s a definite side effect that doesn’t hurt from a company perspective. Building your reputation both online and offline is only becoming more important in the New Year.
- Employees can develop new skills. Depending on the opportunity, employees may be put in teamwork positions or be asked to problem solve, design or run events, work with children, etc., all of which may help develop new skills for the employee.
So incorporating a social mission into your company is great, but how do you get started? It’s important to find the right volunteer opportunities, because one size doesn’t fit all, so consider some of the tips and tactics below first before jumping into any programs.
1. Choose the right cause.
Before you even begin looking for opportunities, think about what types of organizations you may want to get involved with. Consider the interests of your employees, and consider what might compliment your type of business -- for example, if you sell reading software to schools, you may want to volunteer somewhere in the school system. It’s also important to consider the size of your business, because in some cases, splitting up your time into two organizations or having several choices may make the most sense.
Of course thinking of these stipulations isn’t mandatory, and in fact what you think you want may change once you get out there and start talking to people, but it’s good to give it some thought beforehand. This will help you be better prepared to ask questions as you look for opportunities.
2. Create objectives for the program.
Before you talk with organizations, you should have an idea of what you want out of a partnership so that you can get right down to business. Think about what your objectives are for your program by asking several questions
- Do you want employees to complete a certain amount of hours or days, do you want them to finish a project, or is there another goal you have in mind?
- How long are you hoping to commit to a volunteer program?
- Will you give days off to employees who volunteer?
- Will it be mandatory for your staff to participate? If not, are you going to offer an incentive for participation?
- Do you want all of your employees volunteering together (for team-building purposes), or are you more interested in them finding opportunities that matter to them at a time that is convenient for them?
- Do you have a budget to spend on the right volunteer program or are you looking for something completely free?
I highly recommend creating a committee to run the volunteer program in your business so that everything stays in order. Again, as you start looking, this may change, but it’s good to have these questions answered as soon as possible so you can find the right fit.
3. Go out and find opportunities.
This is probably the most time-consuming part of creating a program, because you really have to go out of your way to talk with your community and find the right cause. There are three ways that seem to be the most popular for companies who are just getting started with a program
- Ask your employees if they have ideas. You’ll likely find that someone on your staff is already working with a charity and can help give you that connection to the right people.
- Use an online volunteer website. There are lots of websites out there to help you find openings. A few include Idealist.org, VolunteerMatch.org and UnitedWay.org.
- Attend community events. Simply getting out there and going to events, even as an individual and not as a company representative, can help you find new causes. You can also ask those you meet at networking events about their experiences.
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to have to try working with a few different organizations to find the right fit. For example, some companies will have a project you can sign up for once per year, and then the next year the project is with a different organization. In other instances, the company lets the employee choose their activity and then approves or disapproves their choice.
To get even more advanced, there are tools out there that can help you manage your program and keep track of whether or not you’re meeting your goals, who is getting involved, etc. You can learn more about a detailed program like this here.
Do you have a volunteer program setup for your staff? What was your process in getting started, and have you seen any changes in your staff’s motivation or culture? Let us know your thoughts and your experience in the comment section below.