7 Steps to Creating a Powerful Employee Volunteer Program

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Getting serious about CSR entails truly committing resources to it. But remember, "resources" doesn't just mean "money": People are your most valuable resource, and when it comes to CSR, their commitment is most meaningful. Cutting a big check is nice, but it does a lot of good (and a lot of good for your image) to have the brand's people out there in the community making a difference.

Lisa Manley, executive vice president, sustainability and social impact at Cone Communications, addresses starting a volunteer program within her article on employee engagement in PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 7. She emphasizes that even setting a small number of paid hours for volunteer time sends a signal that your company embraces the CSR agenda you've set forth. Her checklist, excerpted here:

  1. Ensure that your program is targeted, with specific goals and a clear game plan.
  2. Figure out up front how you will measure impact: How you define success is something you want to know ahead of time rather than halfway through a program you’ve invested in heavily.
  3. Build in volunteer time to paid hours: Leading companies create companywide volunteer days or give employees a certain amount of hours to volunteer per year on company time.
  4. Give them choices: Employees appreciate being able to have a say in what charities or causes they spend their volunteer hours on.
  5. Communicate volunteer efforts and social impact to employees on a regular basis: Companies can do this through an employee Intranet site or internal blog that provides regular updates. Show that leadership cares. Get the C-suite or managerial champion involved to demonstrate that the company really cares about making a difference in the community.
  6. Support causes that leverage the company’s talent base and corresponding skill set (i.e., employee volunteers from a tech or telecommunications company would be a logical fit to volunteer for an organization working to bridge the digital divide or offer tech support to a struggling school district with few digital resources).
  7. Align your employee volunteer program with your business’ CSR objectives and material issues (i.e., if a food company has a goal to promote childhood health and nutrition, having employees volunteer to build community gardens would be a natural employee volunteer activity).

Read the full article and many more in PR News’ Corporate Social Responsibility & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 7, which includes chapters on philanthropy and human rights communications, sustainability initiatives and reporting, and employee and stakeholder communications.

Follow Ian Wright: @ianwright0101