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Best Practices


Gather data and information by answering these questions:

  • What are your overall goals for employee engagement and volunteerism?

  • How does volunteerism tie to your social responsibility goals?

  • How are your employees currently volunteering?

  • What causes are you connected with?

  • What is your calendar of volunteerism/causes?

  • Where are gaps in what you are trying to do?

  • Who coordinates volunteerism – formal volunteer coordinator? Others throughout the company? Do you have a volunteer committee?

  • Is leadership supportive? Do they volunteer as well?

  • Is there paid time off for volunteering?

  • Are there other incentives to volunteer – Dollars for Doers, for example?

  • How do you promote volunteerism?

  • How do you show appreciation to your volunteers?

  • How do you share outcomes of volunteer efforts – community outcomes as well as volunteer stories?

  • Can Volunteer United be linked on your intranet so that staff can use it as a resource for more than just work efforts?

  • How do you track volunteers, hours and outcomes?

  • How can volunteers receive the Volunteer United e-newsletter to be kept up-to-date on upcoming events and projects?


Ensure company support

  • Ensure visible and authentic support from senior leadership: Get leadership buy-in before developing a volunteer council, engage leadership throughout the planning and ensure that leadership participates in the volunteering and shares their stories, or at a minimum visibly supports the activities.

  • Communicate benefits to employees: Use social media and other tools such as company intranet so staff, leadership and volunteer council can share stories and experiences. Use communications to enlist volunteer champions who will share their stories on their own social channels.

  • Motivate your employees to volunteer: Offer PTO hours for volunteering; provide Dollars For Doers—a matching company gift made to a nonprofit where an employee has volunteered;  and/or hold a contest for the most hours volunteered or a drawing for all who volunteer.


Establish a volunteer council and plan of action

  • Volunteer councils can be volunteer-led or appointed. Be sure to engage leadership in planning and secure their visible support throughout the process. Establish a purpose, goals, objectives and a plan of action based on employee needs.

  • Watch for examples of council structures

  • Volunteer United Project Plan Template.docx


Understand staff needs

  • Surveying employees will help direct causes and volunteer projects to pursue, as well as build engagement and awareness of volunteerism as a company benefit. Your survey should ask employees about the causes and projects that interest them, plus the times and days of the week that work best.  

  • Sample Employee Survey.docx


  Support a year-round volunteer plan

  • Focus on causes rather than specific nonprofits. This builds awareness around the broader topic and you can offer a more robust variety of volunteer opportunities that work on those cause areas.

  • Plan events for the year, if possible, by establishing a calendar. Planning ahead streamlines work and makes it easier to promote and build awareness of how people can get involved. Share the calendar throughout your company.

  • Provide variety. There are many types of volunteer opportunities you can coordinate.  People like a mix of projects—those they are familiar with and new projects.  Some ideas include:

    • At your office: assemble snack packs for kids or laundry kits for homeless shelters, etc. These are easy projects that can take as little as 15 minutes to complete.  When planning, make sure you have budget for purchasing the materials needed. United Way can help you with ideas, quantities of product needed, pricing and where to purchase items, what agencies need these items, and talking points about how many people will be helped that you can share with volunteers at your project.

    • At a nonprofit: elevate the experience by finding volunteer opportunities at various organizations. United Way can provide key points to help volunteers understand United Way's role with these organizations.

    • Signature events: choose an annual company day of action and work with United Way to set up opportunities around the Twin Cities so that teams can choose a location at which to volunteer. Reconvene later in the day to celebrate and share experiences.

    • Drives: hold a food, clothing, book or backpack drive. United Way can help you with ideas, provide bins to collect products, and tell you where to bring products.  We can also provide talking points about community needs and the impact your donations make.  

    • Ongoing: organize repeat volunteering opportunities over a specified timeframe – examples include mentoring, tutoring, caregiver respite, etc.

  • Focus on quality versus quantity. Make sure activities are meaningful, and always optional, never required. View volunteerism as an employee benefit.

  • Build and leverage relationships/partnerships. United Way can connect you with a broad variety of volunteer opportunities. You can also consider organizations your company is already working with or supporting.  

    • Connect with causes that align with your industry. If you are a food company, you may want to explore the hunger cause. If you are in the financial sector, you may choose a financial stability cause.

    • Think about what other partnerships could be leveraged. Is this a good strategy to further engage clients? Would it build morale to include families of staff? Do you work with contract employees?

    • Are you in an industry where it would be of interest to partner with other firms within that industry? For example, would it be of interest for a group of advertising firms to take on a cause together?


Manage volunteer data

  • Tracking volunteer efforts can be a challenge. A few things to consider: what type of tracking tool do you use? What staff members are currently coordinating formal and informal volunteer efforts (it may be more than one person)? Will you count volunteerism only if done as part of the company, or will you include volunteer efforts done outside of work?

  • Many companies use a simple spreadsheet to track number of volunteers, hours, types of projects, percentage of employees engaged. When you use Volunteer United to coordinate volunteer projects, we will do the tracking for you and can provide reports as you need them.

  • There are a number of volunteer tracking and matching platforms available. Volunteer United uses Volunteer Match. If you are looking for a tracking platform, United Way can help you understand some of the options and what the pros and cons are of each.

  • Getting employees to track their volunteer efforts can also be challenging. Many companies provide incentives by offering PTO hours for volunteering or having a drawing for gift certificates or other prizes.


Measure results

  • Benchmark and evaluate your efforts: United Way can help you determine how your volunteer strategies and results compare to other companies in your industry

  • People want to understand the difference they are making. Measure the impact of your volunteer efforts and share outcomes with staff. Volunteer United and the nonprofit itself can help you determine how you have helped. For projects that are harder to quantify—such as painting a nursery at a childcare center—stories of people who have been helped are effective. You can also track the dollar value by multiplying the total number of hours volunteered x $24.14—this is the economic value of volunteerism.

Develop a communications plan

  • Share your volunteer program efforts with internal and external stakeholders. Tell your volunteer stories on your intranet, website, in social media, in your blogs, and even with the media.

    • Promote volunteering and the outcomes – how many people were helped, impact to the agency and community.

    • Ensure you have stories from leadership as well as your volunteer council

    • Ask informal company volunteer champions to share their stories on their own social channels

    • Ask agencies to promote your volunteerism on their channels

    • Show how volunteerism extends your company or foundation's social responsibility work

    • Apply to be one of the Twin Cities Best Places to Work, etc.

  • Use stories and impact as a recruitment tool. Millennials especially are looking for companies that have social impact strategies in place. Studies show Millennials are more likely to select a company with a social impact strategy over a company without one.  

  • Recognize and reward employees who exemplify employee engagement.

  • Watch for examples volunteer stories, volunteer recognition ideas