How Most People Prefer to Volunteer (It Might Surprise You)

VolunteerMatch staff getting dirty while volunteering in San Francisco.
VolunteerMatch staff getting dirty while volunteering in San Francisco.

What kinds of volunteer opportunities do your employees prefer? Not sure? You’re not alone.

Recently we launched a little survey asking people for information about their employers’ volunteer programs, and the types of volunteer opportunities to which each individual prefers to give his or her time. We were curious whether people would rather volunteer using their professional skills, or step outside their career box when giving back.

We figured most people would want to volunteer using professional skills. After all, it’s a great way to build additional experience, to build networks, and to increase the impact you can have on an organization.

We were wrong. Check out the results below:

We asked our network in what way they prefer to give their time as volunteers.
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Apparently, people see volunteering as an opportunity to do something¬†different from their everyday jobs (as opposed to sticking solely with professional skills-based opportunities). Understanding the “why” behind this will help you design volunteer programs that your employees are excited to participate in. Here are some ideas:

  • Burnout – No matter what industry you work in, sometimes you need a break from it all. Volunteering can provide your employees a way to unplug from whatever is stressing them out at work, have fun, make a difference, and get re-energized.
  • Exploration – Your employees are complex, multi-faceted beings, so your volunteer programs shouldn’t be one-dimensional. Volunteering can be an opportunity to try and learn new things, or indulge a hobby. Give people a range of volunteering options and they’ll suddenly be much more interested in actually making a choice.
  • Socializing – Even if your employees like their coworkers (and that’s “if,”) it’s fun to have an excuse to hang with colleagues from other departments. When volunteering doesn’t involve professional skills, your employees aren’t limited to working in traditional teams. And your company culture will become more cohesive and friendly.
  • Leadership – There might be a future leader of the company working in your mail room, who hasn’t yet gotten a chance to showcase his or her stellar organizational capabilities. A volunteer activity outside the normal realm of the company’s skill set means the normal hierarchy doesn’t necessarily apply, and people can lead and succeed based on merit.

Of course, most people by far prefer to mix it up with a little professional skills-based volunteering, and some of a different variety. Bottom line: It’s critical for successful employee engagement to provide your employees with choices for how to get involved.

What types of volunteer activities do your employees prefer? Do you agree with the assessment in this post? Comment below!


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