I often hear CSR and HR leaders fret about a nagging worry: their low employee volunteer participation rates. Few business leaders have captured the lightning in the bottle required to achieve total participation in their corporate volunteer opportunities. Most companies aren’t even close.
And there’s a good reason for this. Actually, several.
But let’s start with the most basic: people volunteer for many different reasons.
Points of Light helpfully laid out research from CEB on this point. There are different kinds of employees, who all have different motivations to volunteer. Engagement in your volunteer program quite simply depends on the kind of employees you have. So get interested in learning who they are.
Social-oriented volunteers are driven by social opportunities and care about the mission of the nonprofits they serve. Career-oriented volunteers are drawn to professional opportunities for advancement. Understanding these motivations is the first step towards designing a program that yields high participation rates.
If you’re ready to learn more, download our free guide on how to engage more volunteers based on their interests.
CEB’s research shows that there are far more social-oriented volunteers (49%) out there than career-oriented (26%). And about 24.2% of employees are not interested either way.
But whatever your employees’ vantage point, most of them want to be given the opportunity to give back. A study by America’s Charities revealed that 68% of employers report that their employees expect them to support volunteerism and 50% of employers are moving to year-round engagement with their workplace giving programs.
There are some key ways that companies can help ensure that their program is as enticing as possible for employees. For one thing, spend time on the front-end explaining why your company is participating in this event and why it matters. As Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth puts it, “A lot of folks spend so much time making sure the event is well organized that they shortchange the why. We value ourselves on our productivity, so clearly outlining the why is essential.”
Aside from making sure you engage in a pre-brief beforehand, be sure to follow up with a debrief afterwards, gathering information about what employees thought of the experience so you can fine-tune your efforts for the future. When you engage in an ongoing process of reflection you create tools to design your program so that it maximizes your chances for high participation and impact.
Another common key to success is “deputizing” your employees so that they’re the most passionate champions of your volunteer program. Peer-to-peer advocacy is more trusted and effective than any other kind. While it’s also important that you get everyone from the C-suite on down to walk the talk, there’s nothing like the contagious excitement from a colleague who’s rallying the troops to volunteer alongside her.
And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the mantra I repeat everywhere: storytelling. The better you are at capturing and communicating personal stories of employee volunteering, the more ammo you’ll have for inspiring other employees to get involved. Stories are the secret to giving your program the kind of authenticity that unlocks the true power of your employee-led giving and volunteering efforts.
Above all, let’s keep in mind that the bottom line is giving your employees a sense of meaning. The more that what you’re offering your employees is actually translating in the real world, the more enthusiastic they’ll become about getting involved.
The best way to engage your employees is to understand them. For some quick tips on how to tap into the interests of both your social and career-oriented employees, download our free and fast guide, Using Employee Interests to Activate More Volunteers.