For more details on the below steps, watch Roger's webinar "10 Steps to a Successful Corporate Volunteer Program" here.
Do have a goal to make your company or organization more socially conscious, but are having difficulty motivating employees to participate in volunteer programs? Getting employees motivated can be one of the hardest steps when building a successful CSR program. As the Volunteer Manager for CSAA Insurance Group, and someone with more than 30 years of experience managing corporate giving and volunteering programs, I’d like to offer some tips on how we built our program from the ground up, and engaged a workforce with a variety of job requirements and locations.
CSAA Insurance Group provides AAA-branded insurance in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and is also recognized by Points of Light as one of America's most community-minded “Civic 50” companies. At CSAA Insurance Group, we achieved a 98 percent employee volunteer participation rate in 2015, 2016, and 2017, all thanks to a dedicated organization and 15 key techniques. Here’s how we did it:
1. Make it a priority.
By prioritizing volunteerism, you communicate to employees that they have an opportunity to participate. Make volunteerism a company-wide goal with specific action plans, and put volunteerism on the company scorecard, signifying its importance to executives.
2. Start with new hires.
Integrate volunteerism in your orientation process. By making the company’s volunteer mission and goals clear, new employees will know that volunteering is both favored and expected, and feel included within the volunteering culture. This can help new hires exude the confidence, passion and motivation your company needs to get your volunteer program off the ground. At CSAA Insurance Group, all new hires participate in a volunteer project as part of their on-boarding experience.
3. Provide options.
Instead of limiting involvement to “one day of caring,” increase the number of projects available: go from two projects a year to ten! Many companies are limited in volunteer opportunities available to employees, but there is greater value in creating year-round volunteers and relationships. Last year, CSAA Insurance Group’s 3700 employees participated in 540 team-building volunteer projects.
4. Offer convenience.
Schedules are busy and getting out of the office to volunteer can be tough. By hosting volunteer projects on-site, you can increase attendance and hold more events. Bringing volunteer options on-site can also cut employee time out of the office, addressing staffing needs and increasing executive support.
5. Make it work.
Try incorporating a volunteer component into your all-hands meetings, and encourage individual departments and divisions to hold similar team-building meetings. It’s a great way to keep employees focused on the company and culture while giving back.
6. Sell it!
Want to get everyone on board? Travel to each office and promote the volunteer program. Talking to managers directly can assist in formulating goals and strategies that are office-specific. If your offices are spread regionally, appoint site leaders responsible for implementing each region’s volunteer program.
7. Establish a marquee event.
Your company should be known for a dedicated, well-branded annual volunteer event. Find the niche that distinguishes your company, use it to your fullest advantage, and promote it aggressively. At CSAA Insurance Group, our marquee events are weekend camping trips at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks in spring, summer, and fall, where employees assist the National Park Rangers with maintenance and park beautification projects. This longstanding commitment has earned us recognition from the National Parks.
8. Analyze and monitor.
Use a volunteer management software provider to keep a record of how your teams are doing. The software should have the ability to understand employee interests, manage event registration, deliver event alerts and reminders, record participation hours, and track how well your teams are doing.
9. Incentivize and reward.
By aligning your volunteer program with other employee benefits programs, you’ll get more hands raised. At CSAA Insurance Group, we combine CSR with a wellness program whereby employees receive $100 in wellness dollars for volunteering.
10. Let employees choose.
Listen to your team’s interests and diversify the pool of options available so employees can choose what they are genuinely passionate about.
11. Make it an executive decision.
Events led by senior leaders convey that volunteering efforts should be taken seriously, and is a great way to obtain middle management buy-in. Every executive leader at CSAA Insurance Group volunteers, and many volunteer in our team-volunteer program multiple times throughout the year. Having active leadership support (that goes beyond funding of the program) is critical for the success of a volunteer program.
12. Budget smart.
Some companies spend four times as much as CSAA Insurance Group on their corporate volunteer programs and achieve a fraction of the results. Corporate volunteer programs do not need to be expensive, but they do need to be strategically managed and aligned to business goals and the culture of the company.
13. Partner with Employee Resource Groups
Many companies have Employee Resource Groups or Diversity Networks such as “Asian Pacific Islander Association,” “Black Employees Association,” “PRIDE,” or “Military / Veterans Appreciation Group.” These internal groups often work with external community partners to highlight diversity in the workplace and in the company. Support and partner with these networks for greater community reach.
14. Don’t keep it a secret.
Employees are not going to participate in a program they don’t know about. Promote volunteerism on the home page of your company intranet, in office lobbies, on featured posters and bulletin boards dedicated to showcasing volunteer events. Then use targeted emails to recruit volunteers for future events.
15. Find the right fit.
There are many truly outstanding corporate volunteer program managers with the personality, energy, drive, passion, and training required to lead successful corporate volunteer programs. On the other hand, some folks simply don’t have the right combination of enthusiasm, interest, and people skills for the job. Hiring the right person to lead your program is key to success.
In many cases, a corporate volunteer program fails not because of issues with culture, budget, management support, or choice of vendor, but due to lack of planning. When it comes to positioning a volunteer program for success, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
However, give the proper consideration to your corporate volunteer program, and make the necessary adjustments as you learn from your experiences, and I can almost guarantee improved management buy-in, stronger employee engagement, increased event attendance, and more powerful business and community results. Best of luck with your employee volunteer program, and thanks for choosing to get involved!