Digging into the Unexpected Benefits of Effective Employee Volunteer Programs
Employee Volunteer programs are great ways to engage your people and the community. The impacts they make go well beyond the hours spent and projects completed.
Our friends at True Impact specialize in tracking the social and business impacts of employee volunteerism. They have a wealth of helpful articles available on their research blog that dig deep into the measurable outcomes of employee volunteer programs (we know you love measurable outcomes!) We want to focus on a few key points that can provide you with a good starting point for thinking about what makes a volunteer program effective.
Different Ways to Make a Difference
A key focus of True Impact’s research is looking into the difference between skills-based volunteerism – management of operations, market research support, accounting – and ‘traditional’ activities – food preparation, construction, handy work. You can learn more about the measurements they used and see two years’ worth of findings in their Volunteer ROI Tracker here. We wanted to extract a few key points to share with you:
Team-Building: Where Traditional is still Tops
Where more traditional volunteer activities – construction projects, food preparation – really shine is team building. Getting to know your coworkers in new situations and seeing them in a different environment can be a key part of team building, and group volunteer projects provide ample opportunities for new relationships.
Skills-Based Volunteerism – Valuable Help
When your employees volunteer not just their time but also their professional talent, they provide unique services that make a real impact. Think about the dollar-value of the skill being provided. Software systems development or accounting is very costly for nonprofits on an hourly rate. Receiving free help with a tax audit or having an outdated software system reconfigured means a vital service that would have put the organization seriously out of pocket is now taken care of.
Skills-based volunteerism provides additional benefit beyond cost-savings. Volunteer consultants can provide long-term benefits to a non-profit by improving their organizational capacity. True Impact have identified 3 ways corporate volunteers build non-profit capacity. Skilled volunteers can help make an organization better able to accomplish its goals by expanding their reach, increasing their efficiency, and building programmatic effectiveness.
All of those outcomes are great for the organizations receiving the skilled help of your eager volunteers. There is more good news for you – skills based volunteerism is also great for employee engagement. People love to do what they’re good at, and volunteering skills (and not just time) provides benefits to the volunteers themselves. These volunteers reported that they felt the highest personal skill gains, and the highest satisfaction with the event. The takeaway is that the kinds of volunteer activities that do the most good for nonprofits generally leave your employees the most satisfied, engaged, and enriched afterwards.
Encouraging your employees to volunteer their skills engages and develops them – and keeps on giving to the nonprofit receiving the help in the form of long-term organizational gains. More traditional group volunteer activities are great for your team, letting them grow together while they get their hands dirty. Seeing beyond the hours-spent total will help you realize real benefits from your employee volunteer program in the form of greater employee engagement.