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Looking to Engage Employee Volunteers? Lead with Program Impact

For many corporate social responsibility (CSR) practitioners, engaging employees is a key responsibility. In particular, employee awareness of – and participation in – volunteer programs are often KPIs used to gauge overall workforce engagement and employee satisfaction. While such stats are important for measuring volunteer program success, an over-emphasis on participation can overshadow the community impact brought about by volunteer work and miss a key opportunity to inspire employee involvement.  

Our decades of experience working with national and global companies on their volunteerism programs has taught us that employees feel most connected when they can see the positive impact their company and their personal involvement is having in the community. With this in mind, impact should be front and center in your volunteer programs, both in the design of volunteer opportunities and the way they are communicated. To ensure you are using an impact-first approach to engage employee volunteers, consider the following actionable steps:


  • Leverage passionate voices to demonstrate impact. Hearing from people who are passionate about an organization or cause, such as nonprofit leaders or colleagues, is the best way to capture employees’ attention and interest. Having nonprofit partners speak directly to employees about how volunteers are utilized to drive their organization’s mission forward, or showing a nonprofit partner video highlighting volunteers’ impact, is memorable for employees and allows for authentic connection building. Giving passionate colleagues an avenue to share their volunteer experiences with coworkers who are less familiar with the company’s volunteer opportunities is also effective and can go a long way to inspire them. Once these nonprofit and volunteer champions have been identified, consider key opportunities to connect them with company leadership and the broader employee base, such as through company town halls or other well-attended meetings for real-time awareness building.  


  • Include small nonprofits in your volunteer program outreach. Because of their ability to host high numbers of volunteers and/or to plan volunteer opportunities across multiple locations or offices, many companies look to bigger national or global nonprofits for their volunteer days/months. However, we have seen firsthand that in-person opportunities with small, local nonprofits can foster a deep connection and sense of pride in a company’s volunteer efforts – both for employees and community members. Smaller nonprofits often rely heavily on volunteers to help execute their day-to-day operations. As a result, volunteers can clearly see the value of their role and the immediate, tangible impact of their work on the organization. Community organizations can put faces to the company name and feel supported by its efforts, strengthening the company’s reputation. The extra time it may take to research and reach out to lesser-known organizations is well-worth the potential benefits, including unique volunteer opportunities that support close-to-home causes and foster meaningful relationships between local employees and organizations, as well as employees who feel inspired by the company’s commitment to making an impact where they live. 


  • Visualize program impact beyond participation numbers. Remember, the average employee participation rate is just 19.8%¹. Most of your workforce, especially for larger companies, is not likely to volunteer, and higher participation numbers are not necessarily indicative of effective programming. Along with measuring participation, it is important to peel back the onion on program impact to understand if your programming is truly resonating with employees. Do employees feel like they are making a difference in the community? Do your company’s volunteerism programs make them proud? Are program participants more likely to recommend your company to others as a great place to work? Have the programs resulted in positive interactions with the community? Asking these questions through an employee survey, informal interviews, or focus groups will help you better understand barriers to achieving your overall employee engagement goals. 


  • Demonstrate your authentic commitment to volunteerism.  A true commitment to volunteerism goes beyond encouraging participation and sharing inspiring volunteer stories – it involves investing in the programs and policies that make volunteering both feasible and attractive to employees. Offering flexible scheduling, a paid time-off policy, volunteer grants and/or a Doller-for- Doers program can be powerful incentives that showcase how much your company values employees’ time and contributions. These incentives not only encourage participation but also send a strong message about your company’s dedication to making a real impact. When employees see their company investing resources to support their volunteer efforts, they feel prouder and more motivated to get involved. This commitment fosters a culture of engagement and amplifies the positive impact your organization can make in the community.   


Building an engaged workforce takes time and continuous relationship building, but meeting the challenge with an impact-first approach will ensure that employees view your programming as authentic and meaningful, laying the groundwork to inspire a culture in which employees are excited to volunteer year after year. The more employees believe in the value of these programs, the better they can advocate for your work and help organically grow engagement beyond what a community impact team can do alone.


Changing Our World’s social impact experts have experience in the design, implementation and communication of employee engagement and volunteerism programs. If seeking counsel in these areas, please reach out to our team at [email protected]. If you are attending ACCP’s pre-conference on September 8th, look out for our session on incorporating stakeholders in the design of corporate volunteer programs.

¹ Giving in Numbers Report, 2023, CECP




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Brady Press,
Senior Director