How to Build a Strong Volunteer Program in Your Company

Thu Apr 13 00:00:00 EDT 2017

Developing a volunteer program from scratch requires a great deal of effort and dedication. How do you create a program that excites your employees and effectively gives back to the communities you serve? How can you show the benefits of such an effort for corporate buy-in?  

Improving our communities has long served as a foundational pillar of Jabil's cultural values. Last year, Jabil set forth on a transformative journey to realign and reinvigorate its community outreach and volunteerism platform, Jabil Cares. This new approach focused our efforts around specific causes related to Education, Empowerment and the Environment. 

Here are the lessons we learned and recommend you apply at your company as you take on the task of building your own volunteer program:  

STEP 1: Listen to Your Employees 

Involving employees at the outset by choosing the causes that are most important positively impacts their level of zeal and participation. Encourage them to submit detailed proposals on why your company should partner with a particular organization to maximize impact, charitable giving and employee volunteer opportunities. At Jabil, we administered a campus-wide survey at our global headquarters to finalize the charitable organizations to support over the next fiscal year. As we roll out our Jabil Cares platform to our sites across the world, we encourage them to use similar methods to determine which organizations to support in their local communities. 

STEP 2: Develop a Vetting Process 

If you're building a program for a large company, you'll likely have more proposals than you can handle. Develop a vetting process to determine which causes the program should focus on. As part of that process, a cross-functional selection committee can should be created to review requests from employees or outside organizations each quarter. The committee will determine which proposals align with your company's objectives and define the impact of the donated funds.  

STEP 3: Build Enthusiasm 

As with many internal participation initiatives, identifying an internal sponsor for the employee volunteer program is a an effective way to build program momentum. Executive sponsors play an important role in building credibility and getting employees excited.  

Once you've decided what organizations you'd like your program to focus on, there are numerous ways to spark your workforce's community outreach and volunteerism spirit. Employee onboarding is a great place to start. Equip your HR team with the right materials and presentations so they can get employees excited about volunteering during orientation.  

Another way to raise awareness is to provide frequent communications for employees about volunteering opportunities. This can be done via company-wide emails, a dedicated webpage on your Intranet or well-designed posters around the office. Make sure you're offering a variety of opportunities to get involved across the volunteer spectrum. They will have different interests and engagement levels when it comes to your volunteer program.  

At Jabil, our employees jumped at the opportunity to represent the company as ambassadors, mentors or stewards of the community. At our corporate office, we partnered with our selected organizations to provide meaningful ways for employees to get involved, offering a broad dynamic of time commitment, frequency, physical vs non-physical work activities and whether family and friends could join in the fun.   

The Benefits of a Corporate Volunteer Program 

According to a Boston Center of Corporate Citizenship Community Involvement Study, the top three benefits for employee volunteer programs are improving employee engagement, creating positive brand image association within the community and demonstrating organizational values in action.  

If your employees are volunteering, chances are that they will be more satisfied and will have higher morale, resulting in increased productivity. Enhancing your company's reputation and brand should always be a top priority. With the right media coverage, volunteer programs can greatly increase corporate visibility in the community.   

At Jabil St. Petersburg, we developed a more robust program in the last year, building upon the foundation created with our past efforts. Since its launch, the program has proved to be quite successful. At our global headquarters alone, we've held more than 50 volunteer events with an impressive 1,300 total participants. We have ensured 650 under-privileged children had gifts for the holiday season, collected nearly a 1,000 pounds of litter and donated several barrels of school supplies for those in need to name a few of the program outcomes.  

Sticking to your corporate values is a great way show your company's leadership in social and environmental responsibility. And as an added benefit, you might attract new talent for less recruitment effort. Recent graduates are willing to forgo 14% of their expected income to work at socially responsibly companies, according to a Stanford Graduate School of Business study

Don't Delay the Foundation 

U.S. National Volunteer Week (April 23-29) is the perfect opportunity to kick-start your program, while there's already public interest. Check out their website for marketing resources to help you generate some buzz. Post on social media with the hashtags #NVW and #ivolunteer to join the conversation. 

At Jabil St. Petersburg, we're celebrating the occasion with a variety of activities and events from our Education, Empowerment and Environment platform. This week-long event is a culmination of our efforts from the past year and gives us a chance to show appreciation for the value employees can bring to volunteer programs. By simply listening and providing opportunities, we have instilled a sense of pride in employees that their company is interwoven within the fabric of their community.  

How are you engaging your employees through volunteerism and community outreach?