Is your strategy around volunteering in place? Is your policy perfectly formulated? If so, congratulations – you’re ready to get your employees involved! No matter how brilliant your plans are, if nobody knows about them then your engagement levels aren’t going to be where you want them. In our experience, ~10% of your staff will be ready and raring to go without any encouragement, another ~10% will never get involved unless forced, so your efforts here are to get that middle ~80% to take part and to love it.
Here are our top tips on how to engage your employees in volunteering:
1. Make best use of internal comms
First things first, people need to actually know that your programme exists and the basic facts about how they can get involved.
There are three main points to get across:
- the existence of the programme and the reasons why you’re running it
- the benefits of volunteering in general
- which specific projects and initiatives are available to them and how they can get involved.
Make best use of all channels available to you:
Send an introductory email around with the basics, then every month or so send a little reminder with some interesting stats or info about a new project you’re running.
- Intranet pages
Make sure all the necessary links are readily available, as well as signposts to the key info points. You can also put up the odd ad about a particularly exciting initiative.
- Communal spaces
Think beyond the humble noticeboard and get posters up advertising specific volunteering opportunities in places where people can’t help but see it – we favour next to the kettle and on the inside of toilet doors!
Ask department heads or team leaders to remind their teams about the importance of getting involved when they have catch ups.
Use internal newsletters to show off case studies of people who’ve really enjoyed their volunteering experience, or to advertise any events you might be hosting.
Get your enthusiastic employees to write blogs about how much they love volunteering. You can also ask external partners to write guest blogs about their work or about relevant topics they’re experts in.
- Social media
Get some pretty pics of your employees looking happy while volunteering on your social media – you’ll kill two birds with one stone by making the rest of your staff jealous and also showcasing your efforts to the wider world.
- Brown bag lunches
Organise short lunchtime or breakfast events on relevant topics – this could be volunteer case studies, talks from external speakers about the psychology of volunteering, presentations from local charities who do interesting work, etc.
On average, people need to hear a piece of information seven times in seven different ways in order to properly retain it, so you’d better get creative!
2. Recruit internal champions
Tap into that ~10% of super enthusiastic ambassadors that you have at your fingertips and establish a group of employees who really care about volunteering to help you spread the word. Their natural enthusiasm will make it easy for them to help you promote it across the organisation. Make sure they’re right across the company so their reach is significant.
You can make this as formal or as informal as you like. Will this be an official role where they have actual accountability? Will they be required to take someone who has never volunteered before with them at least once? Will they host talks to let people know about their experiences and the benefits they’ve felt? Will they be incentivised?
3. Get some competition going
Everyone loves winning! Capitalise on that by creating volunteering leaderboards within teams and between teams. These could simply be based on hours volunteered or you could make it more complex depending on your specific aims and objectives. Make use of your volunteering champions to stoke the fire and get people into the competitive spirit!
Obviously the rewards of volunteering are a gift in themselves, but sometimes a little something extra helps people get into things! You could give a prize once a quarter for the best volunteer, or perhaps consider a more democratic prize draw for everyone who has volunteered that quarter.
5. Charity donations
As people start to get passionate about the causes they’ve chosen, some additional support from their employer is very motivating. There are several ways to approach this:
- matched donations for employees who have done some fundraising for their charity of choice
- grants that employees who have volunteered can apply for on behalf of their chosen charity
- a quarterly prize draw for a fixed donation to the charity of choice of the employee that wins.
6. Focus on development opportunities
This is more of a long-term goal but definitely worth keeping in mind from the start. Volunteering, particularly when skills-based, is a more effective way of developing an employee’s professional skills than traditional class based training. With HR’s support, it’s possible to map volunteering activity to employee performance and learning & development objectives that are discussed in reviews. This could include credit for saving the company money by promoting environmental initiatives, increasing sales by improving the company’s reputation through stellar local community engagement, improving their own productivity by practicing their skills in a new environment, etc.
Hopefully that’s plenty to get you started! We’d love to hear about any other methods you might be trying internally, success stories, or learning curves you might have experienced. Let’s share ideas and get more and more people out there making a difference. Good luck!
If you have any questions about engaging your employees in volunteering, would like to discuss how thirdbridge could help you with this, or would like to share any of your experiences, then we’d love to hear from you! Just drop Rose a line on firstname.lastname@example.org!