How Your Business Can Create An Employee Volunteer Program

Corporate social responsibility programs are essential to businesses not only from the perspective of their customers but also because of today's workers. Workers are pushing multi-national corporations and smaller mom and pop shops toward CSR.

One of the best things you can do for your team is to create an employee volunteer program, which will help you hire and retain the best talent. It's also a way to demonstrate that your business understands how it's vital for all types of organizations to be involved in making a social impact. In turn, this will enhance morale within your company and broaden your brand and the base of people and groups that interact with it.

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Many years ago, I had dinner with a high-powered and wealthy finance professional. The financier told me that after spending a weekend painting a hospital wing with his corporate team in a facility that operated in an area that was less affluent than where he lived, he understood the value of "rolling up your sleeves" in the community.

In other words, what he was telling me was that he was used to writing the big checks, which was great for the organizations he supported. But it was in spending a weekend at the hospital doing the painting with his work team that he also understood the importance of getting involved in the community at a more fundamental level.

First Question for a Volunteer Program
When you consider creating a volunteer program within your business, the first thing you want to do is to check the pulse of your team. By including them in your thought process early, you're empowering them to become part of the creation of something from which they will benefit. Speaking soon is an opportunity to obtain critical engagement and support for your idea from the outset.

When you're talking to your team about creating a volunteer program, you want to ask them if anyone has experience and background with these types of programs. Don't be surprised if one or two people on your team tell you that they've participated in a volunteer effort. This type of discovery aims to have the chance to frame the ideas in ways that resonate with them, perhaps because of past successes or interests.

Think About Company Culture
When you've started the conversation with your team about developing a volunteer program, you also want to take company culture into account. You have to make sure that the program aligns with your company's culture. For instance, if some of the values of your company include being fun and cutting edge, you will like to mirror that in whatever volunteer program you begin to create.

Another element that you want to take into account is structure. If you're a hierarchical organization, as you embark on this journey, you'll probably want to recruit a person or two to spearhead the effort. However, if your business structure is flat and the decision-making process is more collaborative, then you might want to get several team leaders involved to move the process forward. Regardless of the approach, you'll want to have updates and ways include the rest of the team, so there's full buy-in and to build momentum and excitement.

Obtaining Buy-In from Everyone
As mentioned earlier, when you're looking to implement a volunteer program you want to get buy-in from your team, and one of the best ways to do this is to start the discussions early. Get them involved from the beginning of the process. Be transparent about how everything will evolve and how decisions will be made. For instance, will it be made by you as the business leader, or collectively?

And, depending on who is leading the charge, make it a point to provide your team with updates and milestones as things progress. As you set up your program goals, communicate them and make it a point to ask for feedback from the broader group. Don't forget that your team members, with their different responsibilities, know your business and how the program might impact the company from marketing, operational or even business development perspectives.

Critical aspects of creating a volunteer program are to build morale, increase productivity, enhance your brand within the community and support teamwork. Ask for their input into how your volunteer program will also achieve overall business objectives.

Once you've created a program and have it running, you'll want to measure and see the positive impact it has on your community, but also within your company.