Storytime in the libraryAll-expense-paid family trips to Hawaii, no bosses and the opportunity to work on any project you like?  Yeah, that’s the amazing atmosphere fostered by Washington-based gaming company Valve, according to its leaked employee handbook.  Who wouldn’t want to work there?!

With a rare focus on work-life balance, and with profitability per employee higher than Google, Amazon or Microsoft, it’s easy for Valve to attract and retain talent.  But leafing through its employee-centric handbook, one notices a glaring omission: any mention of an employee volunteer program. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of chances for corporate volunteerism, as I’m sure a company as large as Valve offers many philanthropic opportunities for employee participation.  But without explicitly outlining this in the corporate handbook, Valve would seem to mostly leave community service up to its employees to figure out on their own.

Maybe this makes sense for Valve’s hands-off culture, but this lack of volunteer structure is more common than you’d think even in the parts of corporate America that don’t exactly follow Valve’s free-to-be-you-and-me business model.  When I spoke recently at the HRO Today Forum, I connected with numerous human resources professionals who shared how they’re playing catch-up to their philanthropic-minded employees.  In my experience, when employees are the ones begging for corporate volunteer programs, their companies often struggle to make sure those efforts are properly supported and tracked.  Overlooking a structured volunteer and giving program not only translates into lost opportunities for maximum community impact; companies also miss out on an excellent tool for employee retention and engagement.

This got me thinking about businesses that do not specifically spell out the ways that they will support corporate volunteerism.  If you’re an employee looking to change the world, how can you change your company enough to get the support you need?

Well, it starts with making sure your company doesn’t already have volunteering opportunities available.  Sometimes an organization just forgets to outline this perk in its handbook or employee materials but actually does offer support, like employee fundraising matches or days off to volunteer. If an infrastructure of support is already in place, alert your company about your plans (e.g., hosting a fundraiser or building a house with Habitat for Humanity).  That way the human resources department can tell you if your effort fits within the company’s volunteer program, and they can possibly even promote what you’re doing to the organization at large.

If your company does not offer an official employee volunteer program, however, then there are five steps to keep in mind if you want to jumpstart one yourself:

1. Build an Army  

To get started, talk to fellow coworkers. Let them know about the cause you’re raising money for or where you’d like to volunteer.  Encourage other employees to commit, particularly disengaged employees who need more incentives to stay.  The more employees are on your side, the more likely your company will agree that your community service goals are a great idea.

2. Stay Relevant  

In order to encourage your employer to help, at least at the beginning, make sure that what you want to do fits within the realm of philanthropy and, if possible, relates in some way to the core business of the organization.  As an example of this sort of skills-based volunteering, if you work at a software company, teaching kids math might be a great way to galvanize more volunteers while enticing your company to help.

3.  Develop A Plan

Offer a way for the company to implement your volunteer idea quickly and pain-free.  Will employees need to take time off?  Then come up with ideas on how the business can still operate if employees are out for the day.  Will employees donate?  Offer a solution such as Causecast’s Community Impact Platform, which can process donations and send funds to the right nonprofit while automatically tracking and reporting all of your volunteer and giving activity. The easier you make it on your company, the more likely they’ll support your proposal.

4.  Come Prepared

Make sure you have materials to give to your boss, head of HR or the CEO on the benefits of corporate volunteering.  Having facts at your disposal and highlighting how much a company can gain from providing these programs will help convince your higher-ups that you get back as much as you give back.  For example, consider showing how volunteering increases employee engagement, employee recruitment and employee retention.  Just come prepared to explain the benefits.

5.  Be Passionate

Donating or volunteering is a great thing for your community and for every aspect of your company.  So why not have your company benefit from your philanthropy by supporting you instead of sitting on the sidelines while you help your community on your own?  Demonstrate your passion to your boss and there’s a good chance that your company will back your ideas to promote their corporate goodwill.

Who knows, your persistence could mean that corporate volunteering finally becomes an important part of your company’s handbook.


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Remember the 3 Fs of Workplace Giving

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What now?

COMPANIES: Take a tour of Causecast to see how managing your volunteer program can be a piece of cake.

NONPROFITS:  Sign up for the free Causecast for Nonprofits platform to attract corporate volunteers.

Download Causecast's Case Study  on Corporate Storytelling