Having a volunteer program is an investment, and it comes with an array of benefits. In many cases, volunteering and community investment programs are employee generated initiatives that grow organically. For these programs to have the impact that they are capable of generating, they need to be managed properly. There are a handful of challenges associated with managing volunteer programs, but they can be overcome through a combination of technology and strategy.
Chances are if you have a program in place, there are a number of employees at all levels who either don’t know it exists, or have forgotten about it. In many cases volunteerism is a benefit that is communicated to employees when they are first on-boarded, hidden under a tab on your website, and at best mentioned periodically via email and company intranet. For a program to be successful it has to be communicated to employees that not only is it available to them, but encouraged that they take advantage of the opportunity.
There are two main reasons employees don’t participate in volunteering programs. The first is awareness, which we already touched on. Second, it’s important to recognize that different people want to support different cause areas, during times that are convenient for them. For engagement to reach levels higher than 20 or 30%, rather than supporting the same handful of charities each year, it is beneficial to discover the causes your employees care about and to make an effort to support them as well. In summary, if you’re seeing low engagement levels, it means awareness is low, the volunteering program itself is lacking in quality, or a combination of the two.
Reporting is by far the greatest challenge for successful volunteering programs, but it’s also extremely valuable. Too often companies are using spreadsheets, surveys, email, and several other tools to keep track of their impact metrics. The complexity of this type of data management means that when it comes time to analyze the data and compile a report, it becomes a cramming exercise that results in inaccurate data. Without data, you can’t develop a proper benchmark for the impact your workforce is responsible for, and you won’t know what to improve upon. But remember, for your data to be meaningful you need to start with awareness and engagement. The more you invest in the quality of your program, the higher the quality of your data.
If you don’t know what people are doing, you won’t know who to recognize. One of the best ways to increase engagement is through recognition. It doesn’t have to be a tangible reward, a simple “well done” can go a long way.
Between administrative tasks like raising program awareness, engaging employees, collecting data, compiling reports, and recognizing people’s contributions, program managers are spread too thin. In many cases volunteer programs are managed by one person, and often times these employees take on these projects on top of their positions.
For companies to realize the full potential of their volunteering programs, the implementation of a platform to automate these administrative tasks will pay off in spades by freeing up precious time and improving program efficiency. Volunteer programs should be treated like other programs that your organization is running in that they should always be improving. If your company has a volunteer program in place, what are you doing to take it to the next level?