Decades ago, corporations across the world used to plan a one-day volunteering event, typically once a quarter, where the interested employees would visit an orphanage, conduct a cleaning drive, plant a tree, etc. Although organizations were and are driven by a purpose of corporate citizenship, corporate volunteering and philanthropy have only been a check-in-the-box activity. In 2002, American academics, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer in an article published by the Harvard Business Review argued that “There is a more strategic way to think about philanthropy. Corporations can use their charitable efforts to improve their competitive context —the quality of the business environment in the location or locations where they operate. Using philanthropy to enhance context aligns social and economic goals and improves a company’s long-term business.”
Today, organizations across the globe are adopting various strategies to address the impact they can create on the key stakeholders of their CSR program — Employees, Community, and Business:
Employees: There’s a strong link between volunteering and employee development. Volunteers are benefited from accelerated growth by gaining alternative experience and new skills, and are instilled with a strong sense of purpose that further helps in effectively recruit potential talent and engage employees.
Community: Volunteering enhances the social connections, builds the bridges for governments, enterprises, and employees alike. Employee volunteering can make a significant contribution to the global economy and can further help in creating cohesive, safer, stronger communities.
Business: Employee volunteering and corporate social responsibility affect a company’s reputation. The most important way that environmental, social, and governance programs create value is by maintaining an excellent corporate reputation or brand equity.
Employee volunteering programs are a unique way of corporate giving that constructs a direct bridge between employees and community, encourages employees to put their interests, skill-sets, and time to solve community challenges
Employee volunteering programs offer a sense of purpose and pride in work for employees. It is a unique approach of corporate giving that constructs a direct bridge between employees and the community, encourages employees to put their interests, skill-sets, and time to solve community challenges. Such programs create real impact in the communities and foster a purpose-driven workforce that stays inspired and professionally engaged.
However, one of the major roadblocks that most organizations face is in effectively aligning the interests of the business, employees, and the community, the failure of which results in the failure of employee volunteer programs. Here are the key approaches to transform your volunteering programs:
Offer a strong purpose
Employees are increasingly looking out for purpose-driven work and making an impact on the business, people, and the society at large. However, according to a research, only 46 percent of executives indicate that their firm has a strong sense of purpose, while a paltry 50 percent state the organization’s strategy reflects its sense of purpose. A strong sense of purpose enables an organization’s employees to connect the work they are doing to the impact that they want to make. While strategizing your next employee volunteering event, focus on strengthening the meaningful impact your organization can create on the community.
Offer incentives and listen to employees’ stories
Employees who are driven to contribute to the society don’t require an external stimulus. However, rewarding and recognizing their efforts act as a hack to improve the current programs. Recognizing the accomplishments of the volunteering efforts of employees will act as a catalyst to motivate other employees to participate in such events.
Strengthen community relationship
Organizations are reliant on the communities in which they live. Communities form the foundational blocks of companies. Hence, investing back by serving the same community strengthens the corporate-community relationship and in achieving customer trust and loyalty.
Create awareness about community issues
Through formal employee volunteering programs, employees act as the ambassadors between the company and community. Such programs help in building relationships between employees and the community and also enable company leaders to make informed decisions while navigating the current social and political landscape.
There are many technologies available in the markets that provide automation and intelligence across monitoring and evaluation, impact measurement, and employee volunteering. One of the interesting features that such technologies provide is that they match the distinctive strengths and skills of employees with volunteer opportunities available, which not only connects the right volunteer to the right NGO-partner or volunteering events but offers ways to try things and figure out the opportunities that fit their expectations.
Measuring the impact
Employee volunteering can act as a dominant force in improving the lives of those in need, promoting community wellbeing, and supporting critical social initiatives. At the same time, such programs can also advance core business interests like employee engagement and development, sales, recruiting, and stakeholder relations. A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) found that 88 percent of millennials gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and 86 percent considered quitting if their employer’s CSR no longer met their expectations. Volunteer programs help companies ingratiate themselves to their customers. A McKinsey study of CSR highlighted “CFOs, investment professionals, and corporate social responsibility professionals agree that maintaining a good corporate reputation or brand equity is the most important way to create value.”
But firms often do not follow up as to whether their particular volunteer activities are generating results. Measuring the impact of such programs can enable organizations to identify the elements that are not working well so that organizations can intervene and improve on them. Additionally, measuring the ROI of the employee volunteering program also eases attracting and retaining support for the program.
There is a need to move beyond the sole motive of profit-making and start investing in employees and community actively.
The purpose of an organization should be to provide benefits to all intended stakeholders in order to drive long-term benefits. Ideally, companies should define a company-wide strategy with objectives and causes that address corporate goals, community goals, and the employee goals.