Have you ever been “voluntold” to participate in a corporate volunteer initiative? This could be explicit or implicit? Maybe volunteer participation comes up in your annual review or maybe you just receive an email stating “We have pledged 10,000 volunteer hours this year, and hope to see 100% employee participation” (read: “so you better participate!”).

In our last newsletter we talked about the long list of benefits earned by organizations with volunteer initiatives (https://www.illuminatepmc.com/blog-post/corporate-volunteering-when-ice-cream-is-more-than-just-ice-cream/). These benefits lead many organizations, with great intentions, to implement a volunteer initiative. However, often these organizations are just checking a box without fully understanding or investing in this valuable initiative. These organizations are then shocked when only 10% of their workforce participates, and even more shocked when their employees sometimes become less engaged through the process!

If you want a volunteer initiative to work for you; not against you, you must avoid these 3 common practices:

DO NOT require your employees to participate. DO NOT do this explicitly, DO NOT do this implicitly, DO NOT even suggest that nonparticipation might negatively affect their job!
Instead – involve them in the process of developing the initiative, get their input, and educate people on the impact they can have on the charity partner as well as the personal benefits the employees can reap by volunteering.

DO NOT overexploit this thing! Way too many companies launch their volunteer initiatives from their Marketing Department – if that doesn’t send a message to employees regarding the ulterior motive of the employer, I don’t know what does!
Instead – these initiatives should be about giving back – the benefits for your employees, for management, and even for your PR department will materialize, but only if your employees (and customers) believe in your altruistic intent.

DO NOT choose a random charity partner! If your employees can’t connect the dots between your company values and volunteer partner, they will struggle to make sense of the initiative. A defining characteristic of meaningfulness is completeness or wholeness – we seek alignment between different areas of our lives in order to make sense of this crazy journey of life.
Instead – align the volunteer initiative with your core values! Illustrate the connection for your employees! Solicit employee assistance in choosing appropriate charity initiatives that make sense to them!

If you avoid these three common corporate volunteering mistakes, you should see greater employee participation, greater organizational benefits, greater employee benefits, and greater benefits for your charity partner and broader community.

If you represent an organization looking to implement / improve a volunteer initiative or a non-profit looking to help business partners maximize their impact, and would like to learn more about implementing and maximizing the impact of a corporate volunteer initiative please reach out to me here: David@IlluminatePMC.com

*** We are well on our way toward helping our employees discover meaning in their work. But what if you get too good at this? What if your employees are completely bought in to your mission and values, and truly passionate about their work? Mission accomplished, right? Weeeeell… next time we will explore The Darkside of Meaningful Work.