Give to Get | May 11, 2023

Employee Volunteer Expectations Have Changed, and They’re Not Going Back

The past three years have accelerated trends and created new opportunities for employee engagement. In the years leading up to 2020, employee volunteering was largely a binary choice. Companies offered their employees the opportunity to participate in either skills-based or traditional, hands-on volunteering. Each method had its own pros and cons, which were well known, and the recipe needed to host a successful volunteer event in each format was clear.

When workplaces cleared out in 2020, though, the formula was completely turned on its head at the exact same time that volunteer engagements became more needed than ever before.

Corporate social responsibility teams saw overwhelming need throughout their communities. More individuals faced food insecurity. Essential workers were unable to get access to life-saving masks. Children were forced to complete classwork at home, despite the all-too-common digital divide. And, of course, seniors who were living in assisted living centers and already struggling with loneliness were more isolated than ever before.

Human resource teams also realized the massive benefit their colleagues working in CSR could provide at this moment.  Corporate volunteer events — whether held virtually or not — could assist employees who were struggling with feelings of helplessness (and hopelessness) as well as feelings of disconnection.

A January 2023 report shows that 124.7 million people — nearly 51% of the U.S. population over age 16 — informally helped their neighbors between September 2020 and 2021, which was the height of the pandemic. More than 60 million people formally volunteered during that time period as well.

We know that to be true. We saw more people use online resources to assist others than ever before by offering free yoga, dance, and music classes. Some filled the trunks of cars with food boxes being distributed by local food banks. Others had friends and family members sponsor them to run a self-made 5K to benefit a local nonprofit partner.

Corporate volunteers also had the opportunity to take advantage of virtual programs such as partnering with CareerVillage, which allows professionals to answer questions about their careers in the hopes of mentoring those who are interested in similar fields. Many also learned about apps like Be My Eyes, which connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers through a live video call. The sighted volunteers then help those that are blind complete tasks like reading labels on containers at grocery stores for expiration dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions, and more.

During this time, Give To Get also launched its virtual volunteer events that supported a variety of causes and nonprofits, including education initiatives, environmental programming, individuals in transitions (homelessness or career), and more. For these events to be successful, Give To Get would send all of the items needed to assemble donations — as well as instructions — to volunteers’ homes. The volunteers would then gather on a video call with an internal program manager, nonprofit representative, and Give To Get project lead. It was a wonderful way to bring people together safely, according to our clients. Many even turned it into a family event.

“The Virtual Employee Volunteer Programs from Give To Get have been the best thing to happen to our employee engagement program during the pandemic,” said a Community & Engagement Lead from a Fortune 10 company that Give To Get works with regularly.

Now that we have reached the backend of the pandemic (we hope!), the methods that companies are using to engage employees around purpose and community are evolving as well. Those who have returned to the office full time are able to take advantage of in-person events whether those are full-day, half-day, or even short activities at the beginning of all-hands meetings. Some who had not previously chosen to weave volunteering into their regular programming have now chosen to do so having seen what a lifeline it was to employees during an unstable time.

For those who have chosen not to return to the office full time, a myriad of opportunities have opened up including Give To Get’s virtual volunteer events (explained above), hybrid volunteer events (like the one we hosted for Subaru of America); and at-office programs for small groups.

The hybrid option allows those who are working remotely during a scheduled corporate volunteer event to participate similarly to the way they would have during a virtual volunteer experience. Their in-office team, however, is able to volunteer together as a small group.

Give To Get sends each office kit, designed for up to 25 participants for events lasting 60 to 90 minutes, to a local leader. Give To Get also secures a nonprofit partner. Additionally, office leads receive support from the Give To Get team via a dedicated project coordinator who will be available to meet before the event to ensure that all materials have arrived, that the in-market lead understands how to set up the event space, and more. In our opinion, it really is the best of both worlds!

While we would never venture to guess what the future holds, we do believe that by being nimble and creating more ways for people to give back, we have done them, their companies, and their communities a great service.

Would you like to learn more about Give To Get, our team, and our programs? Contact us, today! We generally plan programs six to eight weeks in advance.

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