How to Organize a Successful Company Volunteer Day

Kayla Naab
February 6, 2020

On a particularly long week or after a tough company-wide project, you might be dreaming up ways to get your stagnant workplace energized again. You might be brainstorming ways to reignite the spark in your colleagues. You might just be fantasizing about getting out of the office to be anywhere else. There’s no shame -- everybody craves a break. 

In lieu of taking everybody to Cabo on the company’s dime, there is one excellent way you can disrupt the blah and support the company: A company volunteer day.

The Case for Mixing Volunteering and Work 

An office volunteer day isn’t just about getting everyone happy and excited again. In fact, volunteer days are about far more than escaping the office. Here are a few benefits of volunteering at work:

Prolonged Employee Satisfaction

Volunteer days are so much more than just a fun incentive for employees to get away from work. More than 53% of one study’s participants under 35 and 40% of employees 35 and over cite a desire to volunteer more. If that can happen while they’re getting paid? Even better.

Employee Retention

Employees stay with companies where they are paid well, challenged, and where their values and lifestyles feel seen and compatible. A volunteer day can serve as a reminder of that compatibility.

Employer Brand Recognition

Your employer brand serves as your perception in the industry for any candidate who might apply for a job with you, and any employee choosing to stay or go. Aligning to a cause can help your company attract and keep those workers, a majority of whom center social purpose as a priority.

Consumer Brand Recognition

If you think employees and job seekers care about a company’s causes and contributions, think of the customers - especially the 88% who name social responsibility as a driver of their purchases.

Teamwork and Collaboration

A volunteer day is a great way to bring teams together. Congruent teams working on something other than work may experience collaborative breakthroughs. Meanwhile, cross-functional and even cross-locational teams can bond.

Skill Development and Replanting

Volunteering, especially outside of your industry and business functions, can stretch your employees’ minds, help them build and polish different skills, and replant their existing skills into new functions. This is good for business and your team’s satisfaction.

Power Shifts

You might see different team members show up, show off, and exude more confidence than those who do in the boardroom.

Perspective Shifts

It’s always the right time to help your team see things differently, open their minds to new possibilities, and to think proportionately about business vs. community. We’re all human, after all.

The Cause Itself

Perhaps the most important and sustaining benefit of a volunteer day is the work you’ll do. Beyond that, the rest is just a bonus. 

Why Choose a Volunteer Day vs Volunteer Programs or VTO?

There are a lot of ways you can manifest your cause-based goals for 2020. Here’s the breakdown: 

Volunteer Time Off (VTO)

VTO happens when a company offers paid time away from the office to every individual employee for the purpose of volunteering. Usually, an employee will get a VTO day approved by presenting their plans and getting sign-off to be absent, volunteer for the cause of their choice, and return to work the following day. This is less about providing a volunteer service as a team and more about encouraging your employees to do it independently. One benefit is that you don’t have to organize anything as a team, but that’s a drawback as well. You’ll miss out on the team-building and brand-building aspects that a volunteer day can offer. 

Volunteer Programs

Volunteer programs may vary. Some volunteer programs are offered by specific Non-profit Organizations to encourage corporate contribution and support. Other volunteer programs are developed by your company or by third-party agencies on behalf of your company. These can be costly, intensive, and are better suited for enterprise-level corporations who can devote resources and team members to full-time program organization and upkeep. This may be something to graduate to when budget and benefits align

Volunteer Day 

A volunteer day is the best of both worlds. You can choose how to arrange and allot the time, who’s eligible to participate, what cause you hope to align with, and how often they’re held. While you will lose most or all of your employee productivity on that day, the return on your investment will more than make up the difference.  

Planning Your Volunteer Day in 7 Steps

Once you decide your team and company could use a volunteer day, start planning one. You’ll have no trouble if you stick to these 7 steps in the process: 

1. Choose a Cause to Support

Who needs you and what can you provide to them? These are the first questions to address in planning your volunteer day. Explore local organizations who might benefit from more hands on deck or partner with a global organization. Even if you don’t volunteer on-site, you can provide remote assistance such as phone support, digital work, activism, organization, and outreach. 

Consider organizations that work on timely problems such as disaster relief groups as well as those that work ‘round the clock like those that benefit children, people with disabilities, animals, and the environment. 

While there’s no wrong answer to who or what you want to help (helping is always good!) there are organizations that are fake, predatory, or less-ethical. It’s important to choose an accredited NPO or find one you trust. 

Don’t hesitate to poll the team for organizations they already support and have connections with or those that benefit something they care deeply about. 

2. Decide on Parameters for Participation

Will you treat this volunteer day as a group VTO opportunity where everyone gets a paid day away from the office? Or will you set your volunteer day for a weekend and incentivize participation another way? There’s plenty of ways to organize, incentivize, and account for your volunteer day but make sure you check the plan with accounting and HR. 

3. Pick a Date

Determine the best time for your volunteer day to take place. A few key considerations include: 

  • Your work: Volunteer days are super important - and great for business - but they don’t need to happen at the detriment of your projects and customers.
  • The nature of your volunteer work: What you plan to provide to your chosen organization might dictate when it’s done. For example, if you plan to plant trees or work in a school, for example, participation may be seasonal.
  • What works: Scheduling with your designated organization or partner will dictate scheduling, especially if your team plans to volunteer at a facility or on-location. Some organizations keep limited hours and have waitlists for volunteers so take heed.
  • The weather: If you plan to be working outdoors, consider a time to volunteer when the weather is generally supposed to be agreeable to the task. Then, build in a contingency plan in case inclement weather does happen.
  • The time of year: Holidays, special days, and seasons of life can have your employees feeling more frustrated than elated that volunteer day is coming up. Make sure it’s not sandwiched between too many other *big* moments or times when half the office is clocked out. 

4. Set the Activities 

Discuss with the organization’s owners and your own team to determine who can do what to help. The best volunteer day will probably include a variety of activities to involve multiple types of skill or interest. Otherwise, you may want to choose an activity that’s universal and simple enough for everyone to do equally. 

5. Activate Your Team 

Want to reap all the benefits of a volunteer day? Get your people involved -- not just day-of, but every day along the way. Build up a committee of your most enthusiastic volunteer day supporters and recruit the enthusiasm of the whole staff. Make sure people are fully aware of volunteer day, bought into how beneficial it will be, and excited to partake. If you feel that you need to provide an opt-out option for employees just make sure it’s not the way better deal. 

6. Offer Recognition 

You want your employees to be incentivized by the feeling of helping someone else and nothing more. They will be. However, it doesn’t hurt to erect a plaque or poster that celebrates the day to remind your people of what they’ve accomplished. 

7. Review the Outcomes 

Get the team back in the office after volunteer day and survey the room. What was everyone’s volunteer day experience and core takeaway? How did the day make your employees feel as humans, and as workers? Once you get feedback, watch how your people work after volunteer day. A lot of the best volunteer day outcomes will show up in the weeks to follow as the workplace is more energized, colleagues are communicating better, and everyone feels empowered. 

8. Tell Your Story

To score consumer recognition and further promote your partner organization at the same time, write a blog post, make a video, or share a newsletter detailing your big day of volunteering. It’s a marketing and branding move, but it’s also key to getting your team excited about the next one. Encourage them to share snapshots of the day on their own social media, too.   

More Workplace Volunteering Resources 

If you’re interested in making this the Year of the Volunteer, consider getting everyone together for a volunteer day. You’ll earn brand recognition, build team spirit, and bolster a good cause all at the same time.

Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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