Employee Volunteer Programs are one of the many ways for companies to be socially responsible while also involving their employees in social initiatives.
EVPs bring countless benefits to business, from an improved company image to more productive employees.
Chris Jarvis, co-founder and senior consultant for Realized Worth, describes benefits of EVPs in three main areas: consumers and community, employees, and social mission.
With the consumers and the community, organizations benefit of an increased customer loyalty, an improved customer satisfaction (due to happier employees), an enhanced public image, and stronger and better community relations.
Organizations with EVPs provide employees with opportunities to develop skills such as planning, budgeting, negotiating and leadership. This brings a better employee attitude, higher job satisfaction, and increased positive word of mouth among employees about their employer.
Companies may also benefit through direct savings. Jarvis states that organizations can save an average of $500 in employee training per employee, per year by providing professional development opportunities through EVPs which lower recruitment and turnover costs.
EVPs also turn out to be a very attractive recruitment tool, especially for Gen Y employees. These initiatives also increase employee morale and productivity, and differentiate the company culture as being more cooperative.
Through EVPs employees become a part of the company’s social mission and carry it out to the community.
Considerations when building an EVP
Jarvis highlights the following four elements to consider when putting together an Employee Volunteer Program:
- Structure. What does the program look like? How many hours will be volunteered? Over what time period? Will people volunteer as a group or individually? When will the program take place? Will there be dollars for doers?
- Movement. Companies should form partnerships with nonprofits and get very clear about what the program will accomplish and what resources it will require from the company and the nonprofit. Create milestones that will give you a sense of success. This message then needs to be communicated to employees of the business and the nonprofit.
- Motivation. How do employees personally benefit from volunteering? The business and the nonprofit have specific reasons, but the motivation for employees usually gets ignored. Take time to talk to your employees (interviews or an evaluation or survey) to find out what they’re already doing and what they’re interested in doing.
- Space. Don’t expect too much from the first-time volunteer. Give them the experience and let them move on if it’s not right. The less obligation you put on the person at the beginning, the more likely they’ll find space to own it themselves.
Step by step
Developing an Employee Volunteer Program isn’t easy. There is no one magic formula that will work for every organization, but there are some basic steps that can be followed.
The Points of Light Foundation offers the following guidelines for companies when launching an EVP:
- Acknowledge that the corporation’s community service involvement and its employee volunteer efforts contribute to the achievement of its business goals. Incorporate a social vision to the company’s culture and communicate it consistently to employees. Be clear on how the social policies impact business and helps achieve success.
- Commit to establish, support and promote an employee volunteer program that encourages the involvement of every employee and treat it like any other core business function. Allocate sufficient resources to develop, maintain, and sustain volunteer efforts.
- Target community service efforts at serious social problems in the community. Talk with employees and see which are their interests and which issues they would like to commit to.
A crucial element of any EVP is the recognition extended to volunteers. Companies can put together events, receptions with C-level executives, publish articles in company publications, nominate employees for external awards, and give away grants to nonprofits where employees volunteer.
Reinforcing the program is essential to its success. There must be ongoing endorsement and involvement by the CEO and other C-level executives, as leading with the example is the best way to get employees motivated.