Words Matter: 4 Simple Language Changes to Grow Your Employee Volunteer Program

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Updated 8/2/17

Crafting the perfect volunteer opportunity that fits with your company’s mission. Fighting for internal buy-in for your employee volunteer program. Letting the world know the good your employees are doing. And so on.

Running an employee volunteer program comes with many moving parts. That’s why it’s all too easy to overlook one important thing:

How you talk about your employee volunteer program to your employees impacts its success.

I’m not talking about mass, public communications. I’m talking about the simple, day-to-day communications you have with your employees about your program: That email you sent announcing your new program. That conversation you had with your colleague about your next event. The announcement in your internal newsletter.

In these communications, the words you use are important.

Why? They can make your message stand out from the hundreds of messages your employees receive daily. They can create a personal connection between your volunteer program and your employees. And in turn, they can increase excitement for and participation in your program.

But where do you start? Here are four tips for increasing employee engagement in your volunteer program, using simple language changes alone.

  1. Use Active Voice
    Your employees will be more interested in your program if they trust in its credibility. Credibility is implied when you speak or write confidently. And what’s the number one way to convey confidence when writing or speaking? Use an active voice.This means reducing your number of “to be” verbs such as “are”, “is”, “was” and “will be”. For example, “We will be cleaning up Renafi Park,” can change to, “We will make Renafi Park a cleaner space for our community to enjoy.”
  1. Involve Your Listener
    We all want to feel like we’re a part of something. Use the words “you” and “your” in your communication to make your employees feel like you’re talking to them directly. (i.e., “Renafi Park needs your help,” and “You can improve outdoor space in your community.”)
  1. Tell a Story
    You may think the facts will speak for themselves, but without a story to frame them in, people will forget them or overlook them all together. It’s in our nature as humans to enjoy and respond to stories. For example, instead of simply focusing on the number of students your employees tutored, talk about one employee who was particularly touched by one student.
  1. Keep it Short
    There’s nothing worse than an email that you have to scroll to find the bottom, or when a person talks for ten minutes about something that could have been said in two. Know the key points you want to convey, and stick to those. And rather than anticipating every, little, possible uncertainty, offer a format for people to reach you if they have questions.

Using these tips, you’ll decrease the amount of quick skims through your emails and zone-outs while you’re speaking. You’ll increase the number of times your message actually gets read and heard.

Before you know it, more and more people in your company will also be talking about your employee volunteer program.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson


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