If you’re searching for ways to ratchet up employee engagement, start with this truth: people aren’t looking for a job, they’re looking for a purpose.

When you make volunteering an integral part of your employee engagement strategy, your company is one step closer to creating an irresistible workplace. Corporate cultures that are irresistible motivate top candidates to apply, inspire loyalty and high performance levels from employees, and build trust with customers, local community and stakeholders.

No two successful employee volunteering programs are the same. Success is dependent on connecting employees with the causes they care about and the organizations that can truly benefit from their skills and expertise.

If you’re just starting a volunteer program, begin by sending out a company-wide survey that gauges what causes and nonprofits employees are most passionate about as well as what skills they’re most interested in contributing. For example, while some employees might be well-suited to provide web design services for a local animal shelter, they might be more engaged in a volunteer activity that requires them to do physical work in the outdoors such as a beach cleanup.


When you’ve chosen a few nonprofits and volunteer opportunities that align with your company mission and employees’ interests, structure your volunteering program to engage different groups and keep these five tips in mind:

  1. Tailor volunteering to your company. Company-wide volunteering events set the precedent that your company uses the power of business for social good. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for employees across all professional levels and departments connect. If your business is not suited for a day of volunteering, consider choosing a week or a month where every employee is assigned to a project.
  2. Structure volunteering around departments. Coordinating events for specific departments is one key to enhancing internal collaboration and creative problem solving. Our client Marketo identified childhood education as their company’s main cause and found a local school district to partner with for volunteer opportunities. In order to engage the engineering department (one that is frequently strapped for time) they invited a 3rd grade class from their partner school to the office for “Hour of Code.” Not only did the developers involved get to spend an hour as a team doing something fun and meaningful, but the rest of the office was also buzzing with excitement seeing the fruits of their labor in real time as the children left the offices with smiles and their “Certificates of Achievement.”
  3. Customize volunteering around individuals. Sometimes the greatest contribution you can offer a nonprofit is highly specialized pro bono service. Our client Optimizely offers its A/B testing and personalization platform to nonprofits for free, but oftentimes the beneficiaries do not have the bandwidth to use the technology efficiently. In order to offer their highest level of support to nonprofits while simultaneously amplifying employee engagement, Optimizely encourages employees in every department to take on an individual project with one of the nonprofit partners they are passionate about. Since everyone at Optimizely is thoroughly trained on the platform, employees on every level and in any department can contribute their skills to the nonprofits that request their help.
  4. Make volunteering mobile. Long gone are the days of water cooler chats; all of your employees (not just Millennials) communicate via mobile and social media. So your corporate philanthropy program absolutely needs to be there with them. At Causecast, we provide all of our clients with a highly interactive, mobile and social platform that empowers employees to create individual profiles, invite their colleagues to give back, invite their external network to contribute to giving campaigns, organize philanthropic opportunities within the office, and give real-time feedback for volunteer opportunities.
  5. Tell a story with your volunteering. While annual impact reports are crucial to the growth of corporate social responsibility programs, storytelling still takes precedence as the most impactful. Who did you help? What was at stake? How did you make a difference? All of these questions must be answered by your employees, not a PR or executive leadership team, in order to boost your triple bottom line.

Increasing employee engagement isn’t always easy, but employee volunteer programs are one of the most effective ways to enrich your corporate culture and build a legacy of giving back that employees find rewarding – and which they reward in turn.