Do your employee giving and volunteering programs truly engage your employees? Our recent workshop, Activating Purpose Through Employee Giving & Volunteering, featured two of our clients, UWorld and Fetch, who can each answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” Both have seen levels of employee engagement well above industry standards during the first year of their programs. In this dynamic workshop, these clients share the actionable insights they’ve learned building and running their programs and discuss how they connect employees to their company’s social impact purpose.
Keep reading for three client-tested ways to activate purpose through employee giving and volunteering programs. Watch the Workshop recording to learn more!
1. Build flexibility and choice into your employee programs
Creating alignment between your employee giving and volunteering programs and your company’s social impact mission or internal values can help you develop a solid program. If you want your programs to soar, however, you’ll need to expand the opportunities you provide so that your employees derive a true sense of meaning from participation.
How do you do this? By offering flexibility and choice. Flexibility means (1) removing barriers to involvement, as well as (2) allowing employees to opt for ways to engage that fit their lives. You can provide flexibility in volunteering by: providing in-person as well as virtual volunteering opportunities; offering PTO for volunteering; extending volunteer events to employee’s family; and presenting various ways to make an impact– from traditional to skills-based volunteering. On the giving side, you can allow for one-time or recurring donations; you can also offer payroll giving options.
Build choice into your program by providing a wide variety of charities so that employees can give their time or donations to causes that matter to them.
According to Jackie Johnson, who leads the UWorld Cares program, “removing restrictions” to volunteering and giving “encourages employees to be philanthropic and provides [for an] extension of themselves in the community that fits them most” and utilizes their core capabilities. The more varied your offerings, the more likely your employees are to find an organization they’re passionate about–and one that inspires them to invest their resources.
2. Leverage ERGs for deeper employee engagement
Involving Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Affinity Groups in your programming can help you choose opportunities that resonate more deeply with your employees. Emily Panasowich, Social Impact Lead at Fetch, notes that her company has the highest employee engagement “when the messaging and the story come from ERGs.”
Engaging ERGs in the planning process signals your investment in company culture, as well as your desire to be an active learner in what it is that your employees value. It also serves as a way to drive multilevel engagement by inviting employees to get involved not only with the activity of volunteering or giving but also with the planning and education around issue areas and opportunities. Emily says that ERGs “act as a megaphone in involving people. We get participation from people that might not normally participate.” Inviting employees into the planning phase of your programs affords them a larger stake in your volunteering and giving efforts. It also distributes the responsibility (and privilege) of curating social impact initiatives, which can contribute to a collaborative, engaged culture.
3. Embrace company culture
In polling the workshop attendees, we were surprised that many indicated their company did not have a stated corporate social impact purpose. However, as all companies have a built-in culture (intentional or not), the guidance shared by Emily can be applied to any company. She noted that “leaning into the DNA of the company, of who [you] are at the core and having that reflected in the people that [you’re] working with, the communities that [you’re] serving” helps to foster “a deeper connection to volunteers and staff.” Emily also mentioned that having “a champion from senior leadership” can motivate staff to engage, because they see that giving and volunteering are truly important to the company’s value system.
Jackie also touched on the positive impact leading by example can have on activating purpose and engaging employees: “having a great technology partner like Bright Funds allowed us to implement a crisis response protocol for our company so we were able to respond in crisis situations with a call-to-action to employees.” Because UWorld as founded on the philosophy of helping people and investing in communities, there was strong alignment between company culture and getting involved with urgent needs in communities around the world, from Ukraine, to Syria, to Turkey.
Identifying your company’s values and designing opportunities that align with those passions is an excellent way to stay on track, to drive employee engagement, and to keep your company culture focused on, and excited about, creating social impact.