How to Create a Stellar Employee Volunteer Program

VolunteerMatch Employees Greg Baldwin and Laura Ellis volunteering at the SF Marin Food BankIf your company currently has an employee volunteer program (EVP), that’s amazing! EVPs increase employee satisfaction and retention, and can be a key tool for recruiting top talent. A formal EVP also allows you to track results, so you can easily show the world your company’s impact. And our favorite part: implementing EVP tools simplifies your tasks, so you have more time to spend out in your community.

If you don’t have a formal program set up, you may be wondering, “Is now the right time?” To find out, ask yourself the following:

  • Are our consumers or business contacts asking what we are doing for our community?
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number of employees asking each other to support a charity?
  • Are we seeing an increase in the number of employees asking to volunteer?
  • Are we losing talented employees to the job market or having trouble retaining employees?
  • Am I or my coworkers spending a lot of time on volunteer event coordination?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, it’s time to consider a formal EVP program. We put together 5 easy steps to building a successful EVP to guide you through the process. Even if you already run a great EVP, you may find some new ideas.

Download the PDF: 5 Steps to Building a Successful Employee Volunteer Program.

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How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Tessa Srebro, Content Marketing Associate

At VolunteerMatch, we’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). In this series of posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and how they benefit from VTO.

VolunteerMatch's Content Marketing Associate, Tessa SrebroSo, who are you?
I’m the newest member to VolunteerMatch’s Engagement Team. As content marketing associate, I make sure nonprofits, volunteers and companies know about us and how easy we make it for good causes and good people to connect.

Where do you volunteer and what do you do?
I’m a digitizer at the Internet Archive. Right now, my focus is CDs. I transfer audio files and artwork from the CDs to preserve them in the Internet Archive’s online collection.

What drew you to that particular organization and/ or type of volunteering?
Access to information for everyone is one of my core beliefs. When I met some of the Internet Archive team upon moving to San Francisco, their mission of building an all-encompassing, free virtual library was immediately appealing.

Many people see volunteering as a social activity – a way to meet people or bond with friends. And it certainly can be! However, as an introvert, I’m drawn to solitary volunteer activities, too. It’s a way for me to unwind while still making an impact. In the past, I re-shelved books at the small, quiet library in the Seattle Art Museum. At the Internet Archive, I can go into my own little world while archiving information. (This isn’t to say the people at the Internet Archive aren’t fun and amazing, because they truly are!)

What’s the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
I love feeling like I’m a part of Internet Archive. I donate money to other nonprofits, but don’t feel very connected to those organizations, no matter how many thank you emails, program updates, or event invites I receive. Volunteering at the Internet Archive regularly makes me truly feel like I’m part of their organization. I get excited at their successes, and I’m a vocal advocate for their mission… or should I say “our successes” and “our mission”?

Internet Archive's headquarters, a former church.

Internet Archive’s headquarters, a former church.

Can you share a story from your time volunteering with Internet Archive?
In alignment with their mission of open-access to information, the Internet Archive opens their doors to the public every Friday for lunch. Each employee (and volunteer!) shares what they’re working on that week, and also any off-topic updates they want to offer the team. I try to coordinate my volunteer schedule to be there on Fridays so I can be part of this fun event. If you’re in the San Francisco area, you should stop by!


Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
When I moved to San Francisco, before I started working with VolunteerMatch, I assumed I would have to stop volunteering once I found employment. (The Internet Archive is generally only open weekdays from 9-5). When I learned about VolunteerMatch’s generous VTO, I was ecstatic.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
VTO, in my opinion, is a huge draw for employee recruitment and retention. Would I still be working for VolunteerMatch if they didn’t offer VTO? Yes. But it certainly adds to both the pride and the gratitude I feel for my organization.

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How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Susan Briggs, VP of Product Management

We’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). Now we want to show you. In this series of blog posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and why they love VTO.

Photo of Susan BriggsSo, who are you?
I’m Susan Briggs, and I recently joined VolunteerMatch as the Vice President of Product Management. As a committed volunteer, it’s fitting to work for something which allows everyone to find a volunteer opportunity and to give back to their communities. Working here allows me to focus my professional skills of managing product and design teams on a cause near and dear to my heart.

Where do you volunteer?
I have been volunteering regularly for the last 17 years. Currently, I sit on two boards: one for the education foundation at my daughters’ public high school and the other for the nonprofit One Millions Lights.

In my most recent volunteer activity, I participated in a trail day for Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation in the San Francisco Bay Area, an opportunity I found out about through VolunteerMatch!

Do you have any stories to share from your volunteer day?
The day I chose to volunteer with Santa Clara County Parks happened to be in the middle of several weeks of torrential rain that the Bay Area received. My task was to dig channels on the trail to remove puddles of standing water. Because of the rain, there were so many puddles, and it was exhausting! But that made it even more rewarding to complete.

What drew you to that particular organization and/or type of volunteering?
I wanted a push to get me outside on a Saturday. This type of activity is something I always thought about trying, and finally did it!

Photo of Susan volunteering at her son's school.

Susan volunteering at her son’s school.

What is the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
Volunteering allows me to have new experiences while doing something to help out a good cause. I also enjoy the people I meet while volunteering.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Because I enjoy volunteering so much, I would do so even without the added benefit of volunteer time off (VTO). However, I do greatly enjoy having VTO and regularly use it to help out at local schools and with community projects.

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Forget Candy – How to Show Your Employees You Really Care

Heart outline made from red candies.It’s that time of year – love is in the air. Many cringe at the thought of Valentine’s Day, calling it an over-commercialized, high-pressure holiday for couples.

But I choose to look at it differently. I choose to celebrate love in all forms, including the love I have for the organization I work for, VolunteerMatch. And the love it has for me.

What better time than now to take a close look at what you’re doing to show your employees you love them? (Again, I don’t mean you should be in love with your employees. Chances are, your Human Resources department has some policies around that.) But your employees should feel important, appreciated, respected, and cared for.

Why? The phrase “employees are a company’s greatest asset” is so widely used, it’s basically a cliché. So, to use another cliché, why not “put your money where your mouth is?” Employee appreciation goes beyond candy bowls, birthday cards, and an occasional free lunch (although those are nice, too!) Here’s how to spread long-term TLC to your employees, not only on Valentine’s Day, but throughout the year, with your employee volunteer program (EVP).

Listen to Them
EVP doesn’t stand for executive volunteer program; it stands for employee volunteer program. So, why would you want executives making all the decisions? Ask your employees what they would like to see in your EVP. Fewer group volunteer activities? More skill-building volunteer options? How about a method for recognizing stand-out employee volunteers?

Also, continue to get feedback on how you’re doing at all stages of your EVP. Honest critique will help your program grow. When your employees are happy with your program, they’ll engage more.

Honor What’s Important to Them
Your company probably has some cause focus areas that align with your mission. For example, ConAgra Foods aims to end child hunger, and 1st Source Bank teaches financial literacy. But that doesn’t mean your company can’t help in other ways with causes that are important to individual employees. Offering volunteer time off (VTO) lets employees choose the causes they donate their time to. But don’t stop there. Encourage employees to share their volunteer stories at company meetings, events, or even on your company blog. Show them that their time is important, and you care about how they’re spending it.

Thank Them
Candy heart that reads, "You're Fab."From increased productivity to attracting more customers and talented new employees, your company sees many benefits from your EVP. Even though you’re managing the program, you can’t take all the credit. Your employees are out there making positive change in their communities (while giving positive publicity to your company). Don’t forget to say thank you, and say it often.

Which reminds me: Thank you for the work you do with your CSR program. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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How VolunteerMatch Employees Volunteer: Laura Ellis, Client Relations Manager

We’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). Now we want to show you. In this series of blog posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and why they love VTO.

Meet Laura Ellis, Client Relations Manager at VolunteerMatchSo – who are you?
My name is Laura Ellis, and I’ve been at VolunteerMatch for three years. I’m a Client Relations Manager, which means that I consult our corporations on how to best engage their employee volunteers!

Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer for the Golden Gate National Park Service (GGNPS) as a wildlife photographer. Since photographers and graphic designers can be expensive, GGNPS asks us to capture different activities at the parks for brochures, promotional material, etc. It can be anything from a trail maintenance event to an awards banquet. Even weddings!

What drew you to that particular organization and/ or type of volunteering?
I spend a lot of time hiking around the San Francisco Bay Area and wanted to find an opportunity that allowed me to explore more of the area while also giving back to a place that had given me so much. I had also recently taken up photography and was looking for a way to develop those skills.

Flowers in Jars at Golden Gate National Park

One of Laura’s Photos

What’s the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
The most fun part is getting to explore new trails and meeting people from all over the world. The most valuable part is knowing that I’m playing a part in promoting the parks that I love so much!

Can you share a story from your time volunteering with GGNPS?
I remember the first time GGNPS posted one of my photos on their social media accounts. It was a picture of a secret path I had found on a popular trail. A woman commented that this picture inspired her to get off the couch and go find that secluded spot. It is now her favorite trail! This made me realize how something so small can inspire adventure in others.

Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Most of the wildlife photographers can only work weekends, so there are usually a lot of open spots for weekday activities. VolunteerMatch VTO allows me to pick up those shifts and make sure the parks get the shots they need!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
VTO is one of those things that some people might say is less important than a gym membership, free lunch or some of the other fancy stuff some tech startups offer. And yes, it is less glamorous. But I would take VTO over all of those perks because it’s good for my soul. It allows me to give back and make connections with people and organizations that I care about.

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A VTO Success Story: What One VolunteerMatch Employee Learned in Chile

At VolunteerMatch, we like to practice what we preach, which is one of the many reasons I feel lucky to work here. Last month, I was able to take a week off from my normal duties supporting our nonprofit community and join 11 other volunteers from around the U.S. on a week-long trip to Santiago, Chile with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program.

Shannon David ready to shovel cement.

Me in my cement-shoveling look.

When I started at VolunteerMatch just over a year ago and learned about the paidvolunteer time off (VTO) benefit offered to employees, I knew I had to make the most of it. A friend recommended Global Village, and before I knew it, I had completed a phone interview with the volunteer team leader and signed up for the trip. That was in early 2014, so I had nearly a full year to fundraise for Habitat Chile, learn a little Spanish, and talk up the trip to anyone who would listen.

We worked on a program called Nuestros Hijos Vuelven a Casa (Our Children Return Home), which supports families with children who have catastrophic illnesses or serious disabilities. Habitat Chile gets referrals from the hospital and screens the families to make sure they comply with program requirements. Then, they develop a plan to improve their existing home to better meet the physical and medical needs of the child. My team spent a week at the home of Patricia, a 17-year-old suffering from cancer. She lives with her parents and two little sisters in a very small apartment…

Read the rest of Shannon’s story.

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Mobilize Employee Champions for #GivingTuesday

It may come right after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but #GivingTuesday is all about giving back to the causes we care about most. And volunteering can be a great way to do that. And engaging employees in #GivingTuesday initiatives is a great project to add to your company’s calendar.

Building on the buzz and energy of #GivingTuesday can help your company increase impact and support for the causes you support. This webinar discusses ways for you to do exactly that.

Join speakers from #GivingTuesday, Salesforce Foundation and VolunteerMatch for this special webinar to talk about ways you can organize your networks of family, friends, or coworkers to make a big difference for your cause on #GivingTuesday.

You are more powerful than you realize – and by mobilizing your employees to be volunteer champions, you can harness that power to help the causes your company supports, and that you care about.

Watch the webinar on YouTube.

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