News & Insights

Employee - Volunteer Programs Brighten Communities and Workplaces

President George H.W. Bush inspired a national service movement in his 1989 inaugural address when he compared America’s many clubs and volunteer organizations to “a thousand points of light." He did not specifically mention employee-volunteer programs then, but three decades later, those company-sponsored initiatives are clearly sparklers in the nation’s firmament of generosity. 

Under the aegis of companies large and small, employees across the country regularly donate their time and money to helping people who need a hand and to many organizations dedicated to serving a greater good. Employees who volunteer to mentor young people provide companionship to older people and support veterans. Some companies’ workers brighten rundown public areas with landscaping and hand-painted murals, they organize community cleanups and they sponsor youth sports teams. 

Companies’ rules for these programs are as diverse as the beneficiaries of all this service-oriented activity. Some companies – only senior leadership – select the charitable activities. Elsewhere, an employee committee does it. Other places allow individual employees to select a charity or community activity on their own. 

Some companies, possibly larger ones mainly, grant paid time-off or stipends to employees to pursue charitable work or to serve on a nonprofit organization’s board. 

Research indicates companies adopt these programs to promote workforce engagement, broaden employees’ on-the-job skills (such as leadership and human relations) and because younger employees especially expect their employers to participate in social and environmental issues. 

Some research also suggests employee volunteer programs can be a qualified success at best. Chief Executive reported statistics have shown that “employees who participate in employer-sponsored volunteering are five times more engaged at work.” On the other hand, a 2022 study by Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP) found that the average rate of employee participation across organizations was only 17%. 

How can those numbers be improved? Great Place to Work, which is considered a global authority on workplace culture, provides a wealth of ideas that are working at other companies in this article on its website. Here are three suggestions: 

  • Get started during on-boarding. 
  • Take away the pressure of organizing volunteer activities. 
  • Find ways to support what employees are already doing. 

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