How To Bring Your Employee Volunteer Program Into The Digital Age

Danielle Beurteaux

You know the drill: Don a brightly colored t-shirt decorated with the corporate logo, join a group 23 Jan 2013, San Diego, California, USA --- Smiling volunteers cleaning up park --- Image by © Hero Images/Hero Images/Corbisof  similarly attired coworkers, and spend a Saturday painting a wall or planting a tree.

Corporate volunteer programs have been around for a while, and are touted as good for community building and good works. But just as the workplace is changing, so is volunteering. Have you updated your corporate volunteer program to match the realities of digital age?

Part of the attraction for employers of instituting employee volunteer programs is that volunteering helps employee engagement (which remains, according to Gallup, around 30 percent). There are have been plenty of studies backing this up, including this recent one that found that the predominant motivation for volunteering was that it “makes work more meaningful.” And since employee turnover costs money, promoting volunteering, and thereby increasing employee engagement, makes financial sense.

That same report also found that more employees would volunteer through corporate programs if they found the right match.

Ironically, many nonprofits aren’t a fan of corporate programs. They can’t accommodate large groups of people, or there’s a serious gap between what volunteers can or want to do and the actual work that needs to be done. Volunteers sometimes feel the same—that they’re not making valuable contributions, and only doing work for work’s sake.

One way to solve this problem is with skills-specific volunteering.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its Tech Talent for Good program, which pairs workers with a nonprofit that needs tech help (i.e., most of them). On top of that, the company is also sending some money in the same direction—for each hour volunteered, Microsoft will donate $25 to the same foundation.

Soon after, Apple launched its Apple Global Volunteer Program to help its employees find the right volunteer match. Apple also offers matching donations, similar to Microsoft’s program.

The Taproot Foundation and VolunteerMatch both aim to connect willing volunteers with organizations that need their skills. A newer entrant, Catchafire, uses technology to make that match with “unprecedented scale and efficiency,” according to its site. It also has a functionality specifically for enterprises to help tailor a program for corporations that are interested in skill-based volunteering. Hashtagcharity also has a corporate arm, aiming to match engineers with opportunities based on their “SmartMatch algorithm.” They also have an “impact dashboard” where nonprofit hours and impact can be tracked—good for those who live and breathe the heady air of metrics.

With the increase in the remote workforce, volunteering can actually be a valuable way to make offsite workers feel more a part of the company. For those who aren’t close to HQ, virtual volunteering offers a way to be involved in corporate volunteering.

But for some employees, finding time to volunteer is difficult, so more companies are starting to build in volunteering as part of the work day. The bank profiled in this piece allows workers up to 16 hours of paid time annually for volunteering.

Lastly, an employee who is retiring can still put his or her skills to use and maintain a link with their former employer, with programs like Intel’s Encore Career Fellowships for U.S. workers approaching retirement.

For more strategies to motivate your workforce, see How Empowering Employees Creates a More Engaged Workforce.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.