It’s becoming less of a secret that workplace volunteer programs are a powerful tool for employee recruitment, retention and engagement. In fact, research from Deloitte found that 89% of U.S. employees believe these types of programs create a better working environment, and 74% think they strengthen everyone’s sense of purpose. Add those stats to the hard and soft skills employees can develop and grow while serving their communities and you’ve got a major business win.

But how do you make giving back a core part of your workplace culture?

1. Start from the top. Buy-in from leadership is key. Business leaders need to lead by example — participating in volunteer activities, communicating the benefits of employee volunteer programs and endorsing employee participation.

2. Provide the time. Deloitte’s study found that nearly 70% of U.S. employees are not volunteering as much as they would like to, with nearly two-thirds citing the reason as having too little time. Businesses can help employees make time for volunteering by allowing a few hours a week or month of paid time off to participate in volunteer activities. 

3. Align volunteer efforts with your company’s core values and mission. Find causes that align with your industry, draw upon your company’s core values and utilize employee strengths. For example, a health insurance company can find value and motivation in volunteering with an organization focused on nutrition education and reducing childhood obesity.

4. Build long-term partnerships rather than one-and-done service events. One-day, large-scale service events can be overwhelming, time consuming and costly to nonprofits. Consider "adopting" an organization for a year or longer to really build a sustainable partnership through encouraging employees to volunteer there individually, supporting major initiatives and providing pro-bono skills. This type of partnership provides long-term value for the nonprofit, which makes hosting your team-building service day more worthwhile.

5. Communicate about volunteer opportunities. It may be that employees don’t know where to start. If your business offers time off for volunteering, ensure that everyone knows about the policy and where to find local opportunities. Move beyond sending out emails about volunteer opportunities to making announcements during meetings, hosting "lunch and learns" with local nonprofits and passing around signup sheets when everyone is together. 

6. Celebrate achievements and share impact. Collect and share stories about employees who are making significant contributions to their community. Recognize employee impact and commitment to their community both internally and externally through newsletters, company blogs and social media.

7. Recognize that it's okay to start small. You don’t have to have a formal employee volunteer program to do good in your community. Look for ways to expand partnerships with organizations or causes your business already donates to. Encourage the reluctant staff member to volunteer with their child’s school. Collaborate with other business partners on volunteer projects. There’s always room to grow as a culture of giving becomes a norm at your workplace. 


Ashley Brooke Moses is a certified volunteer manager with VolunteerAR, the state office for volunteerism. She has nearly a decade of experience volunteering, managing volunteers and helping community organizations build their volunteer management capacity. Visit the VolunteerAR website for statewide volunteer opportunities and service resources.