Inspire Employees to Volunteer With These 4 Strategies


Inspire Employees to Volunteer With These 4 Strategies

Katelind Hosie, Volunteer Center Director


Working and volunteering remotely is the new normal, creating a paradigm shift in the way people think about their personal and their business’ philanthropic purpose. When offered opportunities that align with values and beliefs, people are eager to contribute their time. They want to make a difference in their community. According to a study by America’s Charities, almost three-quarters of employees say it is imperative or very important to work where the culture supports giving and volunteering. Simply put, if you build it, they will come.


Here are four actionable strategies for building a purpose-driven, scalable corporate volunteer program that will inspire employees.


Align the volunteer program with business objectives.

One of the biggest hurdles companies face when developing and implementing their employee volunteer program is striking a balance between reinforcing the corporate impact areas while still creating space for employee voice and choice. Companies that take a multi-tiered approach have been more successful in creating purposeful volunteer programs with a corporate mission alignment.


So how can you do this? Incentive programs, such as volunteer time off (VTO) and Dollars for Doers, are great options to honor employee voice.


A 2017 Glassdoor study found that more than half of employees surveyed expected their employers to offer VTO for give-back opportunities. But it’s important to be transparent and clear that the policy aligns with your company’s mission. Craft a structured volunteer strategy by getting buy-in from mid-level to senior leaders. Align the strategy with policies that reflect your mission to help employees understand the program’s value and how it can help the business and their local community.


You can also implement a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative like Dollars for Doers. Dollars for Doers encourages employees to volunteer with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations of their choosing. In turn, the company will provide a grant to these nonprofits based on the number of volunteer hours contributed. Philanthropy Cloud, United Way’s online giving platform, can be a platform for a Dollars for Doers campaign, where people can sign up for virtual volunteer opportunities and log their hours all in one place.


Create relatable volunteer opportunities.

It is no longer enough for businesses to remain neutral or provide a “one size fits all” approach to issues employees consider important. The America’s Charities Snapshot 2017 Report shows that one-third of employees won’t give (time or dollars) through their workplace because they cannot choose the causes that matter to them. Getting employees of all levels of the organization engaged in the work is key to buy-in and success. The following three suggestions are a good place to start: 


Pre and Post Surveys

Use surveys to find out what interests your employees have and where they are currently volunteering. Additionally, after each volunteer opportunity, conduct a post-opportunity survey to see what aspects of the volunteer opportunity resonated. Utilize your findings to create future volunteer opportunities for your team. Need help? Partner with United Way for a tailored approach.


Highlight Impact

Showcase to your employees the social impact their volunteer project will have on the community. Partner with a nonprofit that can measure outputs and outcomes from the project; this will help build volunteer enthusiasm and commitment to the project.


Volunteer Leaders/Champions

Identify employees who can help champion the message of why participating in volunteer opportunities is important. Studies have found that 80% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend or family. Relating the opportunity to your employees will humanize the experience and make opportunities more engaging and approachable.


Be transparent about the program.

Research from Cone Communications shows that 82% of respondents will hold a company accountable for claims about philanthropic efforts and expect that results – good or bad – will be shared. The key here is authenticity. Even if your volunteer opportunity gets less than perfect results, use that as a chance to reshare your company mission and encourage employees to join you in achieving that vision. 


Consider the Kellogg Company, a multinational food manufacturing company, which partnered with United Way and Philanthropy Cloud to focus on their company’s volunteerism. Kellogg uses this platform to provide one source where employees can see both the results of their volunteering and monetary giving alongside the total amount of giving and volunteering from the company. To date, their program has generated over 11,111 volunteer hours – a community investment of over $302,000.


Make volunteering easy.

55% of employees say it is imperative or very important to have an easy-to-find platform where you can register, participate, and track hours online. So, let’s make it easy for them. Did you know that Philanthropy Cloud is available for both iOS and Android? Users can customize their profiles to view content about the causes they care about, plus keep track of their giving and volunteering from any location, on their schedule.


Another way to make volunteering easy is through programs like United Way’s Service2Go. Service2Go brings teammates together with volunteer projects, either virtually or practicing social distancing. Companies can choose a volunteer project that aligns with their values and corporate citizenship goals. From Reading Buddy kits to Smile kits, on-the-go volunteer opportunities allow employees to take a break and connect with your company’s mission in a different way.



When it comes to executing a successful volunteer program, the challenge is to focus on purpose and authenticity, not just brand awareness. If the unintended result of your program grabs a few headlines, great! But the goals of improving the community you serve and providing opportunities for the personal and professional development of your employees should be the main driver.


Remember, companies make the most impact through a creative, purpose-driven approach to volunteerism that unifies the organization in both mission and strategic vision. Learn how you can start making an impact today with Philanthropy Cloud.


And with people facing the effects of COVID-19, volunteers are needed now more than ever as communities reopen and rebuild.



Katelind Hosie is Volunteer Center Director at United Way of Greater St. Louis.