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Volunteer Programs: How to Offer BIG Incentives on a Small Budget

Feb 10, 2016

Fortune 100 released their 2015 Best Companies to Work For list, and it’s full of philanthropic companies that love giving back to their communities through volunteerism. From offering employees paid time off to volunteer or hosting company-wide volunteer events, these major companies use some unique incentives to increase participation amongst employees.

Did you know a company-wide day of service is the most successful volunteer program according to 2015 Giving in Numbers study? That’s why this program has grown in popularity with companies by 10% in just two years! So how are more companies adopting this program and others like it and finding success? Let’s take a look.

We’re going to share information on some of the top companies to work for and how they are fostering corporate volunteer initiatives. Then we’ll give you some practical and actionable steps smaller to medium sized businesses can start on a dime to bring in similar results from their own volunteer programs. Here’s how your company can get the most bang for its buck in increasing employee participation in volunteer programs.

Nominate Like Novo Nordisk

A study shows that 53% of employees say a job where they can make an impact is important to their happiness. It’s great to see that the majority of employees are happy to give back selflessly without recognition, but what about those employees who are driven by recognition? No, it doesn’t make them narcissistic, but you’re missing an untapped segment of your workforce if you don’t tailor incentives to personally benefit employees who want to be recognized.

This is why Novo Nordisk’s (@novonordisk), number #66 on the list, “Changing Our Communities” program is genius. It was launched in 2015 to track and help employees find volunteer opportunities, but the interesting part is that for every project submitted by an employee, Novo Nordisk will make a monetary donation to the organization in honor of the employee or department that submitted the project.

SMB-Sized Budget: Any business can do something similar! Instead of shelling out big bucks to donate to every organization submitted, host a company-wide contest that invites anyone to submit ideas for a company-wide volunteer day! Set a monetary amount for project submissions like $5 or $10 or more if you want (depending on the size of your company). Then, take all submissions and stack them against each other to get all of your employees to vote for the best one.

To vote, you must submit $1 (or more if you want) and all of the money goes into a big pot to be divided amongst the project submissions. This way, you’re still able to provide a monetary donation to all projects (like Novo Nordisk) in the employee or department’s name AND you end up with a winning project most people want to participate in for the company-wide volunteer event. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Praise like PCL Construction

PCL Construction (@PCLConstruction), #67 on the top Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list, feels it’s important to let individual districts organize events that are meaningful in their respective locations. This engages each location because they have more control in deciding how volunteer work is distributed. PCL then praises districts in a luncheon where employees have a chance to win a $200 check for the charity of their choice. Employees who volunteer over 250 hours also receive a Presidential Service Award plaque.

SMB-Sized Budget: While small to medium-sized businesses may only have one or a few locations, the way PCL Construction lets districts organize events based on their needs can bring value to the smallest of companies. Encourage teams or departments to focus on what matters to them in a volunteer project instead of forcing your entire workforce to participate in the same thing (we know this is different than mentioned above, but hey! we’re giving you options here). What brings all of these different teams or departments together under one umbrella is when it’s time for your very own award ceremony.

If you’re on a tight budget this can be hosted as an office potluck (who doesn’t love a potluck?), but if you have more money to spare bring in lunch and hold a ceremony to look back on the year of employee volunteering. Either way, you can create a slideshow with pictures submitted by employees, recognize employees or teams who completed a certain amount of hours with a donation in their name or a plaque or get creative and put your own spin on things! The purpose is to build a culture of volunteering, and it starts from the top. Did you know 39% of managers would be more willing to participate in cause work if the CEO also participated?

Collaborate like Cadence

Cadence (@Cadence) rings in at #71 on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Places to Work list and their efforts to promote volunteering put them at the top of our list! They’ve hosted global fundraising festivals and turned their team building activities into ones that are for the greater good. The company allows employees to use paid volunteering time to do volunteering or philanthropic projects of their choice.

SMB-Sized Budget: You don’t have to go global to make a difference, but we love the idea of combining two activities into one. Team building activities are a must for growing workforces, so why not make your next team building activity one that supports your local community? To collaborate best, select a volunteering project that relates to your employees’ skills and workload. Did you know skills-based volunteers are 142% more likely to gain job-related skills than traditional volunteers? This applies to your business no matter the size, and with a limited budget – this three for one deal of team building, improving employee skills and giving back is a no brainer!

So there you have it. Three applicable ways to bring some big benefits of volunteering to your small to medium sized business.

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