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How to best implement company volunteer programs, according to this Houston expert

Ultimately, volunteer programs provide a platform for employees to make a positive impact in the community. Photo via Getty Images

Businesses continue to find new and innovative ways to promote volunteerism in alignment with efforts around corporate social responsibility. While larger corporations may have the resources to implement extensive volunteer programs, smaller corporations seek resourceful and cost-effective ways to give back to the community.

In addition to giving back to the communities' businesses serve, volunteerism is a great opportunity to support organizations that align with a company’s goals and further support or positively impact their industry. Similarly, prioritizing opportunities that are relevant to employee’s passions and interests can help boost participation from the organization.

Expanding one’s social responsibility doesn’t have to break the bank. Smaller companies trying to make an impact should start by establishing initiatives that lay the foundation for a successful volunteer program. To further build out a volunteer program, leaders should look to their employees to define what organizations or causes they are passionate about. In addition to surveying employees, identifying social concerns and personal cases such as a family member who is battling an illness within the organization, is another opportunity to build upon altruistic efforts.

While the demands of managing a philanthropic project may be a lot for one person to carry, establishing an internal council or team to help coordinate volunteer opportunities can help streamline efforts. Beyond a hands-on approach to volunteerism, companies can help multiply efforts by providing paid volunteer hours, matching gift programs and designating community service days.

Paid bolunteer hours

One cost-effective way for companies to give back through volunteerism is investing in paid volunteer hours for employees. Paid volunteer hours allow employees to commit a set number of hours each month or quarter to take paid time out of their workday to volunteer. Establishing a couple of hours of paid volunteer time can reap positive benefits for companies, their employees and the non-profit organizations they serve.

For many non-profits and charities, donating time to volunteer can be just as valuable as donating funds. Establishing a system where the team identifies a new volunteer opportunity every quarter can motivate employees to give back and continuously contribute to the volunteer program. In addition, providing paid volunteer hours is often seen as an employee perk and can be a great way to attract and retain top talent. Finally, coordinating volunteer opportunities does not have to be a burden, companies should lean on volunteer coordinators from organizations they are interested in partnering with to set up shifts and learn about how they can continue to give back.

Matching gift programs

In parallel to donating time, donating funds is another effective way to support non-profits and charities. Companies who are looking to make a bigger impact through financial support can organize matching gift programs. Matching gift programs are a philanthropic approach where companies financially match donations their employees make to non-profit organizations.

Deciding how much money to set aside annually for social investment is the first step to budgeting appropriately for matching gift programs. After setting aside a budget, determine what portion of funds will be allocated for monetary versus goods and services such as meals, gifts, etc. Following prioritization of the budget and how funds will be allocated, determine how much money the company is able to match employees. Most importantly, establishing ground rules for gift matching ensures the company supports its employees' philanthropic efforts while aligning with its own realistic expectations. Matching gift programs are considered a great opportunity to make a positive impact and help employees maximize their donations.

Community service days

Donating time and or money on a consistent basis may not be an ideal option for every company, especially those who are beginning their corporate volunteer efforts from the ground up. Community service days are a practical alternative to paid volunteer time and matching gift programs.

Community service days offer more flexibility as they can be sporadic and align with times when an organization is most available. Community service days are established days to choose projects or offer services free of charge which in return give back to the community. These services could include planting trees at a local park, working with the local animal shelter, hosting blood drives or delivering food to homebound residents. Companies should look for opportunities to support the community especially in times of crisis or natural disasters. Identifying how a business can support a community in need after major events like hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes can have a huge impact on a business’s corporate social responsibility.

Ultimately, volunteer programs provide a platform for employees to make a positive impact in the community. The effects of volunteer efforts through financial or in-kind donations expand beyond employee engagement. These opportunities further build relationships within the communities they serve and position participating businesses as a supportive partner.


Jill Chapman is a director of early talent programs with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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