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7 min read

Stop Dictating How Your Employees Volunteer

January 16, 2020


What if I told you that I know the reason a full 33% of your employees don’t participate in your giving and volunteering program?

You’d act quickly to remedy that barrier right?

Well, thanks to America’s Charities Snapshot 2017 Report, we do know the reason. And for many companies, it’s not that hard to remedy.

According to the report, 1/3 of employees won’t give through their workplace because they’re not able to choose the causes that matter to them.

The report elaborates further:

“Workers don’t want to have their giving choices dictated by their employers. In fact, more than three-quarters of respondents said that having the ability to choose causes they care about is imperative or very important to a positive donation experience.”

And further:

“One of the most resonant messages from the Snapshot 2017 survey is that employees highly value programs that offer them choices — and that they are turned off by employers who offer them limited choices.”

Anonymous survey respondents also weigh in:

“As a company that values and champions diversity, I like the fact that everyone can donate to the charity of their choice.”

“Some charities are listed each year and none of them are mine.”

It ultimately advises:

“Give employees the tools and resources for them to give how, when, and where they want.”

These sentiments aren’t limited to just one report. Mark Horoszowski and Ty Walrod note the adoption gap in employee volunteerism in their article How To Create A Human-Centered Approach To Corporate Giving:

“Research shows that employees consistently ask for opportunities to give back, yet they are not taking advantage of donation and volunteer opportunities when offered. So what is going on?”

They conclude that many volunteer and giving programs are designed to serve the company, rather than the employees:

“Employees donate for deeply personal, often subconscious, reasons. On the other side, their employers are likely participating for largely commercial reasons.”

By standardizing giving, you’re taking the personalization out of it. The article summarizes:

“Simply put, employees are more likely to give even more when they decide how and when their time and dollars are given. As such, if companies want to engage their employees with giving campaigns, the best thing to do is let employees decide where they volunteer and where they give their money.”


As a solution to this lack of engagement, both America’s Charities Snapshot Report and Horoszowski and Walrod’s article emphasize the benefit of offering employees paid time off to volunteer (VTO).

In fact, America’s Charities discovered that this is the number one motivating factor in workplace giving:


According to the report, volunteering with other colleagues is less of a motivator for employees than exploring their individual passions through VTO. I’ve argued in the past that companies tend to put too much focus on team-building as a reason for a volunteer program. It shouldn’t be discounted, as 40% of employees still see it as a motivating factor. However, we need to understand that volunteerism is personal.

Sherifah Munis, chief social responsibility officer at NewWave Telecom and Technologies Inc., says:

“The heart of what we are doing is engaging with something that is very personal to people. We are not giving a piece of paper. Volunteering is about something very personal that touches you. That’s why people are doing it.”

So, if your company doesn’t already offer VTO as a way for employees to explore their personal reasons for giving, it’s time to get on board. But don’t stop there. Take your efforts one step further by offering an easy way for employees to discover meaningful volunteer opportunities by plugging in the VolunteerMatch network.

In addition to VTO, empower employees to suggest and organize their own volunteer opportunities for your company. By handing over the reigns on some of the planning, you’ll be creating more meaningful experiences for your employees.

Employee volunteering thought leader Chris Jarvis explains:

“Ask employees to give and you’ll see a handful of one-off transactions, but empower employees to learn about, connect with and give to the causes that interest them, and you’ll have yourself a team of employees championing your company’s community involvement and cause initiatives.”

In summary, employee choice in volunteer and giving programs is more important than we previously thought. Empower your employees to give in ways that are personally meaningful to them, and you’ll begin to see more engagement with your program.

Tess Srebro

Written by Tess Srebro

Tess loves her role as VolunteerMatch's Senior Marketing Manager because she gets to put words to work for social good! When not reading and writing, Tess spends her time obsessing over her cat and getting excited about food. She holds a Master’s of Nonprofit Leadership and a B.A. in Public Relations.